Detroit’s Got SoulWednesday, February 5, 2014
Here’s a nifty video that starts out with the usual stuff about Detroit’s good, bad, and the ugly.
Then the filmmaker showcases the Brightmoor Youth Entrepreneurship Project, a training program that teaches youths various skills and entrepreneurial savvy. It’s referred to here as “curb-side economics,” and the people are known as road-side entrepreneurs. City youths in this program learn woodworking, bike repair, community gardening, and how to make t-shirts. Brightmoor’s principal Bart Eddy makes the point that “we have to awaken young people to a larger dream.” He also notes that while “old institutions are crumbling apart,” Detroit’s entrepreneurial spirit is kicking up. Detroit is a place of many small and spontaneous changes, while the bigger changes take planning and investment. Indeed, with this resurgence kicking up at a steady gallop, private investors and developers are circling the city like vultures looking for prime properties and entrepreneurial opportunity. The big changes, as Eddy notes, are coming to our town.
One gal from Detroit Soup, who is a transplant to Detroit, accurately portrays (at 7:45 of the video) Detroit’s very special environment where human relationships are unique, and in fact, conversations that take place here don’t seem to take place north of 8 Mile.
My city-folk friends and I call this “the village of Detroit.” There is indeed a very smalltown feel here – everyone who gets out a lot knows everyone, and wherever you go in the city you run into friends and acquaintances as if you were moving about in a small town. I’ve made friends in the city by bumping into a total stranger and having a conversation about a commonality, or by finding out that we have a mutual friend. Time alone in a coffee shop or a bar ends up with one joining a spontaneous conversation with people who you get to know quickly, and who you end up bumping into over and over again. Everywhere I go in the city I know someone or see the friendly face of an acquaintance. And still, I have little familiarity with the folks in my own suburban neighborhood. People who love Detroit and understand its magic make friends of strangers who pay the friendliness forward, making life here seem intimately sociable. I’ve never experienced such a thing in my life as I have in the village of Detroit.
Lastly, I want to note the Shinola representative, Bridget Russo, who makes the comment that “Detroit has swagger.” Shinola is a maker of rustic goods, beautiful bikes, and made-in-Detroit watches. In fact, they manufacture the first watches made in America in almost fifty years. The narrator notes that Shinola is “successfully marketing that indefinable Detroit feel.”
And that feel is unique, and those of us here know it exists even if we can’t define it. And yes, while New York has lost its swagger, we are the new gritty city.