On our first day in Detroit, Matt Nash, one of our fearless program leaders, was wearing a plain black shirt with the simple phrase “Detroit Hustles Harder.”
But it wasn’t just Matt. As we ran across the city in the search to decode the answers on our clue sheet during the scavenger hunt, I paid particular attention to the amount of people with similar shirts.
Detroit vs. Everybody.
Detroit is the new black.
The streets are filled with t-shirt of individuals proudly displaying their Detroit pride on their chest. They know their roots and want to make sure you do too. Maybe it’s because I try to hid the fact that I’m from Florida and avoid the topic at all costs, but I was shocked by how many people wanted to be defined by the fact that they were a Detroiter, and frankly, I was in awe. From the mother I spoke to on the street while waiting for the crosswalk to change to the organization representatives from a community lunch I attended at the Green Garage, everyone I’ve met has made me feel welcomed. Pride for this city courses through the veins of its inhabitants. Every want to do something, anything, to help Detroit prosper.
As I was sitting at Detroit SOUP with my cohort and program leaders, it really hit me how much people from Detroit love Detroit. Not only is their spirt represented by the words on their t-shirts, but the length of action they are willing to take. At SOUP, I was blown away by idea after idea that people shared. Juxtaposed to the media portrayal of Detroit, as a city filled with crime and hopelessness, I have quickly learned that this narrative could not be further from reality.
People know Detroit isn’t perfect, and that’s exactly why they want to help. Despite its crime and downfalls, people are constantly using their skills and creativity, or social innovation if you will, to face their problems head on.
However, I do not have the privilege of calling myself a proud Detroiter. It would be extremely naïve for me to say that I know how Detroit should “rise from the ashes” when I have only lived here for about a week. The last thing I would want is to come into a community and assume that I know what’s best for them, especially when these assumptions are often based on one-sided perceptions from the media. While I may not have all the answers, many Detroiters have spent years perfecting their innovative ideas. By getting to know individuals in Detroit and hearing about their lives, experiences, and thoughts, I want to use my skill set to build on the foundation they have already created. Through my work with Detroit Food Academy this summer, I want to do everything in my power to propel their mission of using food to instill the values of leadership and entrepreneurship to young Detroiters, while preparing them with the skills and knowledge to enter the workforce.
At the end of the bus tour, one of the tour guides concluded with the quote: “Detroit is big enough to matter to the world but small enough for you to matter in it.” The essence of this quote is embodied entrepreneurial spirit of Detroiters, and I’m so excited to play a small role in this innovation. The community in Detroit is unmatched by anywhere else I’ve been. It is because of the spirit and hard work of these individuals, that Detroit will rise from the ashes.