It was recently brought to my attention that Detroit is now “cool.” The poster child for come back cities, Detroit is going through a renaissance. Money is literally being pumped into the city at mind blowing rates and it is nearly impossible to keep up with all the new projects, restaurants and retail locations popping up on a daily basis.
But it wasn’t always “cool” to be from Detroit. For most of my life I watched people cringe whenever they talked about Detroit. Many suburban residents were terrified to go anywhere near the city and most of them, when asked where they were from when visiting other places, would give their suburban town name rather than just saying they were from Detroit- even though they lived within 10 miles of the city. They were too embarrassed to say they were from Detroit even though it would have clarified things geographically to people they would most likely never see again.
I’ve always known that Detroit was cool. My first blog, Little Miss Detroit, was dedicated to promoting the parts of Detroit that lived on despite what the rest of the world thought of our city. Detroit is and always has been a place of grit, vision and hope. It is not being reborn, regardless of what some might say, because it was never dead. I know this because I have been a part of Detroit my entire life. I was born in 1967, the year of the 12th Street riots and the beginning of white flight from the city; My parents packed up our house on Joy Rd and Southfield and moved to the suburbs when I was four-years-old; I watched as buildings were boarded up and vandalized and trash blew down the streets like tumbleweeds. And I volunteered in soup kitchens and shopping programs for elderly Detroit residents and blogged about people starting businesses and gardens and art projects while other suburbanites would repeatedly check the locks on their car doors anytime they were forced to cross the border into Detroit.
One of the things that I have always loved about Detroit is that it seems to breed creativity. At first the creativity was born from necessity- people started gardens and bakeries because all of the major grocery chains pulled their stores out of the city. They started schools and food banks and art installations because the government failed to provided adequate services for the people. Now that things are changing, creative people are coming to Detroit for different reasons. Detroit is one of the only large cities that is still affordable and creative types are coming in droves to set up shop. They are starting community letterpress studios and distilleries and non-profits. They are opening restaurants and retail stores and chocolate shops. I meet these creative entrepreneurs all the time and it nearly makes me cry to see what they are doing and the impact they are having on others and their communities. These are the people that make and have always made Detroit cool. Everyone should be able to live in a place that lets them have a chance to live their purpose and succeed-not just people with money. If you have and idea and a dream you should be able to make that happen. We all need to support these people and places-whether they are in Detroit or Honolulu or anywhere else- and in doing so make the world a better place.
Here are some places worth supporting in Detroit…
Detroit Food Academy
A non-profit that works to give young entrepreneurs (ages 13-24) self-directed experiences and skills in the food industry. From learning how to cook to taking their artisanal products to market, they are growing and educating our next generation of community leaders. Samira Ray is a student at DFA. She was excited and proud to talk about all that’s going on at her school. She told me that The Detroit Pop Shop is a brand that was given over to DFA when the owners left the state. Now it’s run by students such as Samira. Learn more at http://detroitfoodacademy.com
Keep Growing Detroit
A non-profit concerned with food sovereignty, KGD has programs ranging from gardening classes to free seeds to their Grown in Detroit market program. This is one of the most comprehensive, versatile and down right amazing social justice agencies that I have ever come across. I have some serious love in my heart for this place. Learn more at http://detroitagriculture.net
Avalon International Breads
This bakery opened its doors in Detroit when others were fleeing. When many saw only ruins and despair, they saw an opportunity to fill a need and be a proponent for change. Not to mention their breads are amazingly delicious! You can find them at Eastern Market on Saturday mornings or at their brick and mortar location on Willis St. in the Cass Corridor. Website: avalonbreads.net
Support places like these in Detroit, your home town, or wherever you may roam. Or better yet, live your purpose and change your own community by starting a business, non-profit or restaurant of your own. Be cool… Like Detroit.