Opportunity for All: The Question Every City Should Ask, and Answer
My entire time in Detroit highlights and underscores my favorite quotation by the illustrious poet, Tupac Shakur. He once said, “Reality is wrong, dreams are for real.” I could not agree more with this quotation as it represents the desire all of us have to create a better reality for ourselves and the ones around us. I think that in Detroit this is especially prevalent as many of the young entrepreneurs are dreaming of a better future and this article shows us that. Not only do people want to revive Detroit, but they want to revive it in a way that there is a better sense of opportunity for everyone, no matter if you moved to Detroit, or grew up here.
The article talks interviews five different entrepreneurs living here in Detroit and their takes on how to create better opportunity for all. First, Delphia Simmons calls for resident engagement. While she does not come out and say it, I feel the most important thing about this idea is that you have to empower the residents so that it is not a one sided fight, and instead everyone is on the same team trying to tackle the challenges that are holding them, and the city back. Secondly, Sarida Montgomery calls for small steps to be taken each and every day. She references the public transportation issue and rains truth down when she says that people don’t want to hear how many years it will take to fix it, they want small concrete steps each and everyday. While I wholeheartedly agree, I don’t think that this can be done without Delphia’s ideas about empowering people because no one is willing to do the small things without feeling included in the conversation and empowered. Both of these plans need the soundings of Wayne Ramocan when he talks about effective communication. In any industry, firm, or business, it cannot run with out communication connecting all of their moving parts, and I don’t believe that a city would be able to either. Jessica Williams and Bradford Frost chime in with ideas of Arts-Infused Planning and Inclusive Transformation. While this article lays a great foundation for what needs to happen to create opportunity I feel as if one of the most basic tools to opportunity has been overlooked: Education.
Every idea presented has been great, and can happen while education efforts are going on simultaneously, but all of them rely upon education to work and thrive. I don’t believe it is realistic to expect a city to change, and opportunity to be inclusive if there is a still an education gap among a population’s citizens. The article specifically asks about economic opportunity, and if you have a school system that is failing its citizens, the jobs are always going to go to those who have been better served by their education. There is a reason that each of us in this program are going to Duke, and its not to have a good time. Its to have the backing of a respected institution to add to your creditability. Many would argue that we all had better opportunities than our peers, and in many ways they are right. We all had the opportunity of a good education, and most of us had parents that pushed us to succeed. Along with better education there needs to be an emphasis on education. You cannot expect a teenager, someone who is still figuring out life to know to sit at a desk for 7-8 hours a day and do something they don’t want to do. They need guidance from their elders along with a better education system. The effects of education are astounding. Personally, I have worked with an orphanage in India called Operation Shanti that brings in homeless children and provides them with an education. A particularly telling story is the one of Surya, a young boy who was picked up off the streets and sent to a regular school. At that school he was the top of the class so he was moved to a private government school, he continued to be miles ahead of his peers. After a stint in another school and being the top of his class, he is now at a nationally acclaimed boarding school and still towards the top of his class. His goal in life, to become a doctor and return to Mysore to help those on the streets where he once lived. While Mysore, India and Detroit have many differences, education translates. The kids that are coming up through the system won’t see significant changes in creating opportunity for all without first seeing an emphasis, from their elders, the government, and their peers on education first. I appreciate the ideas that the authors of this article had, but I think it is a little naive to believe that all this will be accomplished without first educating the populace you want these ideas to take affect in. People can rise to incredible heights and do wonderful things without education, but with education I believe you more than double someones chances and far more than double the number of people that will have that chance.