Authenticity is the quality of being genuine or real. To me, authenticity is not just a mental state but it is portraying your true self regardless of the time or place. An example of being authentic is being perceptive of one’s own surroundings and one’s perception of those surroundings. Being in a different place can put one’s own authenticity in jeopardy. When one interacts with an unfamiliar environment, he or she closes in and loses sense of their own surroundings. Authenticity is actively resisting this phenomenon. During my time in Detroit, I have definitely had to put things into perspective. Initially, when interacting with the city, I let my prior perceptions and judgements pervade throughout my experience. However, when I put things into perspective and immersed myself into the enriching history and continuities of the Detroit area, things became more clear, and I increasingly started to perceive things for what they are instead of allowing my primary judgements to clutter my inner sense of reality and how I fit into the landscape of the Detroit.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity of attending the 2018 EmpowerHER Summit sponsored by the Michigan Women Forward at University of Detroit Mercy. In Detroit, especially in the Downtown area, we are given this portrait of Detroit as an area where growth is led by large and multinational corporations investing in the city. Though corporate investment can be very advantageous to an area, Detroit’s growth has been highlighted by the nature of the larger corporations. With this perception, we lose track of the community-led entrepreneurial spirit. During the Summit, I learned so much about the massive female-led social enterprises within Detroit alone. The ideas and organizations covered the whole gamut of industry including workforce development, healthcare, beauty products, jewelry, clothing and apparel, food, technology, and more. My prior sense of growth was probably grounded in the entrance of larger companies and organizations “revitalizing” communities. However, I have been exposed to the true process of equitable, grassroots entrepreneurship, which stems from individuals who care about the communities. Pictured below on the slide is one of my favorite speakers from the Summit, Erin Patten. Erin, cofounder of DāO Detroit, a unisex beauty and wellness company headquartered in Detroit, MI. Her incredible story of combating racial and sexist remarks regarding her experience working in the fashion retail industry communicated that one can be their true authentic selves, seen in her ardent support of natural expressions of beauty in her products. She and the other women I heard from are prime examples of the true, authentic spirit of Detroit’s resurgence.