Actually, let me take couple steps back. Before I tell you about this man’s story, you need to understand the story of the very city he grew up in, Detroit. The majority of people not living in Detroit have a distortive view of what the city is like today. They base it mostly off of three pieces of content: Eminem’s eight miles, the news coverage during the city’s bankruptcy in 2010, and the stories of population flight out of Detroit. While these are perceptions of Detroit, they are merely perceptions. Perceptions that may have been true a decade ago, but far from it today. Detroit isn’t Beverly Hills, but it also isn’t a wasteland many people paint it out to be. Downtown Detroit is a happening location resembling New York City but with fewer people, traffic, and noise. At the epicenter of Downtown Detroit is Campus Marcius Park. A stone throw from any directions of the park directs you to fortune 500 companies, entertainment, and growing small businesses. And at the center of the park lies David.
David is a chess player by day and government worker by night. Every morning he would set up his booth with his chess board, timer, and a bottle of water. Starting at 8 am, he would challenge any person that would walk past him to work for a quick game. Most people went on their way, but he would catch the attention of few of us workers like me.
“Hey, son. You wanna play a quick game. I will make it easy for you. You can have five minutes to complete your game while I have only one minute. The first game is free and the second will be five”. I was early to work and decided to sit down. So we played, and I struck a conversation with him. David was born in Detroit homeless, and to this day is very poor. He is able to sustain himself because he works a night job cleaning up parts of Detroit. He told me that his job is more for Detroit than for him. He already has been homeless and not afraid to be homeless again, so working for the city is his way to give back to the very land that nurtured him.
In the night he serves and in the day he lives. He loves to play chess and plays it for almost six to seven hours daily. Because of his passion, he has been nicknamed the Secret Assassin from those who have played against him. He almost never loses. And when he wins, he orchestrates the game so that he only wins by a small margin in order to swindle more people for more money. Before I made a move, he already made his. He already knew my move and the thousands of variations after that.
By the end of the two games, I owed him five dollars. David thought he got the better of me. The funny part is that I benefited a lot more from David. He introduced me to the mentality of Detroit. Despite the city being at its lowest point merely a decade ago, it has regrown from the ashes because people are coming together as a community to revitalize the city. Wherever I look, people are gathering to work together to strengthen Detroit. David is doing his part by serving the very community that gave him the platform to express himself. He works and maintains the park where he gets to do what he loves, play chess. The citizens of Detroit are doing the exact same. They are focusing on what they are passionate in to reshape and raise the city out of its ashes into a promising future. They are doing it together.