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Finding Some Good in Detroit

Kudos to Stephen Henderson of The Detroit Free Press for finding nirvana in – of all places – a little ol' city called Detroit.

Henderson's column was an unexpected treat in Sunday's newspaper…like a cool breeze on a hot, sticky summer day. It reminded me that there is room for so-called good news in the modern-day newspaper.  Then, I stumbled upon an interview with Detroit icon Grace Lee Boggs, and I realized just how good some good news can feel.

Not to say that all columnists, newspapers or news people who write about Detroit look for the bad; it's just there is so much to find. Boggs and Henderson do not sugarcoat the situation; they are realists who live in the city proper, after all. But they see, feel and believe in hope.

Here is how Henderson describes it:

I grew up a stone's throw from where we live now, but the river was a non-entity for me. It was dirty and industrial. If you wanted to play, it was the last place you thought of. Now the river is a park from one side of the RenCen to the other, and east almost to Belle Isle. For my kids, it will be the root from which a sprawling, vibrant view of Detroit grows. ... As a dad, I get to see this city through much more optimistic eyes, to appreciate the treasures, to see the Detroit of possibilities and fun.I get to feel a little of the nirvana.

If you need another dose of reasonable optimism, take this from legendary activist Grace Lee Boggs:

Detroit, which was once the symbol of miracles of industrialization and then became the symbol of the devastation of deindustrialization, is now the symbol of a new kind of society, of people who grow their own food, of people who try and help each other, to how we begin to think, not so much of getting jobs and advancing our own fortunes, but how we depend on each other. I mean, it's another world that we're creating here in Detroit. And we had to. I mean, we didn't do so because we are better people than anybody else, but when you look out and all you see is vacant lots, when all you see is devastation, when all you see—do you look at it as a curse, or do you look at it as a possibility, as having potential? And we here in Detroit had to begin doing that for our own humanity.

Good God, I cannot add to those words. Hasn't she said it all? When you're surrounded by dirt and devastation, how can you not hunger for fresh green trees, kind people and a better day ahead?

Here we are, blog readers. It is almost July…The blog has three more months (probably) of life left in it. Are we – and I mean that collectively, so that I'm included too – learning anything about Detroit? What else is there to tell in this story? Suggestions, please.

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  • 1

    You will find men who want to be carried on the shoulders of others, who think that the world owes them a living. They don't seem to see that we must all lift together and pull together.
    -Henry Ford

    Well said Hank.

    There are many groups doing great work. But where is our direction? WHat is missing is someone saying " do this, do that" People will do if you give us clear direction.


  • 2

    Great Freep article.

    Amen Grace Lee Boggs

  • 3

    Stephen's post is a positive indicator of possibility! I worked for HUD in Detroit in 1975/6. It was considered a national disaster then. What I have noticed is that things have to get as bad as possible before people notice and begin to care. Then the opportunity for improvement becomes possible. When I watched Governor Grandholm's State of the State address, I was impressed with the many positive developments throughout Michigan. Recently I learned of the hundreds of millions of dollars allocated by HUD to help communities address the causes of blight and 100 million by private foundations to foster the new Metro Economy. As a disaster relief and community economic development specialist, I am willing to bet that Detroit and Michigan are destined to evolve from a "national disaster" to an "international success story" of vision, creative problem solving, sustainability and hope. AND I have launched a campaign to provide resources to help manifest that vision at

  • 4

    I would like to see a US Social Forum follow up. The event brought people from all over our nation, what did they think of our city? Detroit was so full of energy and action last week!

    Also, following the USSF, there was a national timebank training held in the metro area this past weekend. Many people from the metro area joined folks from across the country to learn about how to start and grow a timebank in their area. Many Detroiters believe that timebanks could be key in rebuilding their communities!

  • 5

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  • 6

    You asked for suggestions for future posts. I bet the restaurant owners in ethnic sections (Greek, Mexican, Italian - oops that's Windsor) have a lot to say about the people who eat there and why they keep coming back. It's not only the great food, it's a sense of community and a pocket of safety. Explore that. There's some food for thought.

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