Cool Like Detroit

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The Detroit River Walk was once lost but now is found.

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…

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Samira Ray is a student at Detroit Food Academy.

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

 

 

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Local growers sell their produce at the Grown in Detroit stand at Eastern Market

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

 

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Just pick one…they are all delicious.

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.

 

 

Back in The D

Sometimes you don’t realize how much you’ve missed something until you have it back. That is the thought that has struck me these past few days.

Mike and I arrived in Detroit this past weekend. We’re here for about a week to do some business. As we prepared for our trip, I found myself not wanting to leave Hawaii. I’m beginning to find my way there and I’m afraid to lose momentum. I finally made my first friend outside of Mike’s circle of friends and family. I found my way to a coffee shop without getting lost. I actually had a suggestion when Mike asked me where I wanted to go eat lunch. Not to mention the weather! I knew it would be cold in Detroit, maybe rainy. We’re leaving sunny and 82 degrees for that? I missed the people in my hometown but not the place.

But now we’re back. I drive down the streets I’ve known my whole life and I feel at home. I know where I’m going without having to keep the mountain in perspective to help me navigate (good thing too because there are no mountains here). Ask me where I want to go eat lunch and a dozen places pop into my mind; none of which serve plate lunches. The leaves turning yellow and red and bronze remind me that it is indeed fall. So different from my new home. This is what I’m used to. This feels like home.

But Hawaii feels like home now too. I wake up in the morning here in Detroit and look around for our dogs. It takes me a few moments before I remember they’re far away… in our other home. I wonder how Mike’s mom is feeling today but I can’t call her now because it’s 4am there. I ask someone, “You’re all pau?” They look at me strangely. I rephrase, “I mean, you’re all done?” My  Detroit “home” has been taken over by my adult daughter. She’s removed pictures, changed things around, made it her home. I feel like a visitor in my own house. It’s all so strange.

So I ask myself, “What’s the lesson here?” That’s what I do anytime something feels off. Whenever I’m annoyed at a friend, or unsettled, or just feel like something isn’t right, I think, What is it that God is trying to teach me now? Maybe it’s that there is always something to miss when you move from an old home to a new one. Maybe it’s because Mike and I have work to do in Hawaii and we are being called to be there. Or possibly it’s just that my heart needs to grow big enough to call the whole world my home and just be at home wherever I find myself. It could be any of these things and more.

For now, I will just enjoy being where I am. I’ll treasure this moment in this place. I’ll savor today and everyday wherever I find myself.

Lesson learned.