Detroit undoubtedly consists of a culture defined by the altruistic desire to give to and build the community. The motivating factor behind this drive to better this city is the pride that courses through the veins of Detroiters. I have come to discover this love that Detroiters possess for their city as well as their selfless nature to be entirely genuine and authentic. This honest authenticity becomes apparent in the t-shirts that Detroiters proudly wear sporting slogans such as “Detroit vs. Everyone” or “Detroit Hustles Harder,” as well as in the street art found of the sides of buildings, parking structures, or even on the inside of stairwells. Short expressions are strikingly painted on the faces of buildings reading “reach for greatness,” “rooted in good,” and “never stop dreaming,” reflecting the common person’s desire to inspire others to strive to create positive change. This pure expression of art acts serves as a microphone for the voices of Detroiters and the messages they wish to share with their community. One longer quote painted on a wall serves as the quintessential mindset of Detroiters: “It takes heart to fight for something that so many consider a lost cause. A strong mind to breathe life into that cause and prove so many wrong. Keep your heart true and your mind string Detroit.”
This authentic desire to inspire change to better Detroit and fight to create impact regarding tougher social issues present in Detroit is not only evident in clothing and street art, but also in the stories of Detroiters. During my time working with TechTown, I have come across two people who have demonstrated authenticity, generosity, and altruism in distinctive yet impactful manners. Their stories are as follows.
During our first week at TechTown, our supervisor, Joanna, made it her intention to introduce and expose us to as many people working within the organization as possible. One of these people is Matthew Roling. Upon introduction, Matthew remained unbelievably humble as he mentioned his passion for aiding others via contributing his skills and time with his greater community. After Joanna prompted and encouraged him to share a few of his accomplishments, Matthew expressed his role regarding prosecuting rape in the state of Michigan. After discovering the existence of over 10,000 untested rape kits in Michigan, Matthew had an authentic desire to take action. Driven by confusion and disgust that the government did not want to expend the funds to test these kits, he researched and discovered statistics indicating that an offender left uncaught will continue to rape 7-8 more women. As such, leaving these rape kits untested not only colossally disrespects the women who bolstered enough courage to have their bodies examined at hospitals, but also unintentionally warrants the rape of numerous other women. Matthew used this acquired knowledge and made it his responsibility to act. He recruited four other activists and they single handedly raised enough money and awareness, allowing for the testing of every single one of these rape kits and consequently, for 128 perpetrators to finally be found guilty and condemned to solitary confinement. Matthew created significant impact and a novel precedent for the treatment of rape kits in the State of Michigan, yet this was not a path that he had foresaw him pursuing. He came across unjust information and had an authentic desire to create change and lasting social impact. This authenticity is not only what allowed him to make a difference for thousands of victims and future victims in Michigan, but it what is inspiring him to continue working for the community and at TechTown today as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
One of the projects that Andy, Xin, and I are working on this summer is creating a database that will connect developers with technical skills to ideators possessing abstract ideas for applications and websites yet without the technical skills to do go about creating them. When discussing possible incentives for developers with David Webber, a current Entrepreneur-in-Residence at TechTown, our conversation led us to discussing why he has chosen to dedicate his time to a non-profit rather than a for-profit enterprise. David shared that he has an authentic desire to aid his community and create social impact. Just as with Matthew, David’s authentic desire to aid others has led him to constantly find ways to contribute to his communities. He began working with the nonprofit RainCatchers, which leads volunteers into southeast Haiti with the mission of creating sustainable rainwater collection systems that families can use to drink, bathe, and cook via RainCatchers. After making this non-profit sustainable by teaching the locals how to create and install the RainCatchers, his authentic drive to aid his community led him to dedicate his time to TechTown.
Both Matthew and David possess authentic desires to better their communities and constantly discover new ways to do so. I have witnessed this authentically blatant love for bettering societies not only in Matthew and David but in many Detroiters who too wish to aid one another through painting inspiring murals, creating encouraging t-shirts, and dedicating service and skills to non-profits. I genuinely find this authentic energy to be contagious, as its presence is felt by purely being in Detroit, and I wish to also share the responsibility and desire to better the community and make an impact.