Although their time is very valuable, entrepreneurs at ProsperUS have always been willing to take their time to help Andrew and I find what we are looking for. Many entrepreneurs we meet are not privileged with the same flexibility in their schedule that Andrew and I have because of their family life, lack of transportation, juggling multiple jobs or other reasons. Yet, they are always so willing to pick up the phone and talk to us about their business, come across town to interview with us for ProsperUS marketing pieces or find some other way to help us help ProsperUS. I love the slogan “Detroit Hustles Harder,” because many of the entrepreneurs at ProsperUS have demonstrated that to me. Some balance multiple jobs, all while giving back to the community. It’s been interesting to observe Detroit entrepreneurs and residents both in the office and on the ride to work. It’s led me to believe that in many ways Detroit serves as the best of both worlds: it bears both a slower, simpler Midwestern pace of life and youthful, rejuvenating energy.
In the past couple of days, I have felt super lucky to not just authentically observe Detroit’s residents, but also actually immerse myself in our Detroit community. On Thursday, I skateboarded around midtown for two hours with Mac-Rufus and Walter, two students at Wayne State. We pushed down Woodward and Cass Avenues, popping 180s over potholes, and hitting stair sets and ledges on our way. I loved hanging out with them and checking out midtown gems, like the mural Mac-Rufus’s neighbor is painting on the back wall of City Center Coin Laundry Co. On Friday I was faced with going to a little Wayne State community barbecue Walter and Mac-Rufus invited me to or joining others in our group going to see Toy Story. Although I felt a little bit nervous going to the Wayne State barbecue where I wouldn’t know most people, I decided to go instead of seeing Toy Story, which I deemed the more comfortable choice. I am so glad that I pushed myself a bit out of my comfort zone and decided to venture off alone to a new community in Detroit. I absolutely loved meeting Wayne State students at the barbecue and other community members that wandered into the open, welcoming party gates. I skated outside in the streets with a couple of guys as the sunset beautifully, and honestly, Thursday and Friday nights were some of the best nights I’ve had in a long time.
Skateboarding is my one true passion and while I’ve loved it since I was a little girl, it’s not something I’ve always been proud of. Growing up skateboarding often made me feel very out of place, and as a girl, I’ve often felt self-conscious about my abilities or my belonging in the skateboarding community. I have experienced my fair share of put-downs, including the all-too-familiar “you’re amazing … for a girl” caveat. Skating with the Wayne State guys makes me feel like I am truly amazing, and not just for a girl, but for a skater. Skateboarding has allowed me to connect to this community as my most authentic self, as a vulnerable, yet proud skateboarder. Through skating with these guys, I learned so much more about the Wayne State community than I would have otherwise. I learned about the sense of community of this campus, the adjustments international students like Mac-Rufus (from Nigeria) and Harsh (from India) have experienced, and what social and religious life looks like on campus. On Sunday morning I went to New Life Church with Wayne State Students and felt even more connected to my true, authentic self and the Detroit community. I feel so grateful for all of the warmth Wayne State students have welcomed me with, and that I have been able to find another meaningful community for me to be my authentic self in within Detroit.