Reading Anthony Bourdain’s article, Kick out the jams, I was reminded about what drew me to applying to this DukeEngage program in the first place and why this summer has meant a lot more to me than taking another internship back in New York would have. In a very fitting, Detroit style, Bourdain rightly points out that “Detroit looks like nowhere else. Detroit looks like mother****in' Detroit. As it should”. For Detroiters, they have no interest in hiding or forgetting the economic hardships, the shrinking population, and the struggles from poverty. Detroiters get their identity from pointing at these massive obstacles with pride, making it clear just how terrible things are. They do not come from a rich city. They do not have the support of a good public education system. They probably did not have the luxury of being able to run around their neighborhood as a kid without their parents worrying about their lives. They come from a place where the odds are stacked against them, yet here they are starting innovative businesses, creating nationally acclaimed art, and rebuilding a city from nothing.
It is this resilience, toughness, and grit that gives the locals such a fierce sense of Detroit pride and loyalty. I’ve seen this in the director and founder of Detroit Experience Factory, Jeanette Pierce, who not only has spent her whole life here, but has also dedicated her life to teaching the world about just how great Detroit is. Even for her wedding, she could not bear to not include the whole city and had a public wedding right in Campus Martius Park open to anyone and everyone. In my next weeks here, I look forward to more trendy dinners and exploring coffee shops, but I also look forward to exploring more abandoned buildings and seeing where the wonderfully, strong Detroit identity comes from.