Cultural Revolution in a Dying City
We have all heard the bad stories about Detroit, Michigan’s major city that was once as prosperous and alive as any other city in the country. Decades ago, people from all over flocked to Detroit in search of employment (mainly in the flourishing auto industry) as well as a nice place to raise a family. Believe it or not, Detroit once offered all of these things as a land of opportunity. My father spent the first twelve years of his life in this city, his father had a successful career working for General Motors, and was able to retire and live a peaceful, economically stable life until he passed. After the 1967 riots, the city ran into many obstacles and took a turn for the worst.
Decades passed, and the city was going downhill. Crime and poverty were at an all time high, employment at an all time low. Every year more people left. Less than a month ago the city declared bankruptcy; indeed it is a sad thing to see. Yet every day, there is the strangest optimism in the air.
Over the past 10 years, artists, musicians, activists, and all types of people began moving to the city. The vacant lots where abandoned houses used to sit and rot turned into community gardens. Warehouses unused for years are under conversion into venues, and artspaces. Entire neighborhoods are becoming cultural hubs, filled with creativity, new faces, and a sense of community that hasn’t been felt in a long time. Whether it’s students throwing parties in lofts, underground musicians putting on concerts in warehouses, or anarchists planting gardens, and creating a community—this is a city on the rise.
About a year ago, a good friend of mine decided to move to Detroit. When I first went there to see him I had the same feeling most people would. Detroit is a dangerous city. People are murdered every day. Why would he want to live in Detroit? Well, what I saw literally blew my mind, and this is no exaggeration. I’ve been to concerts in old warehouses, where the music was incredible, the people were glowing with creativity, and it felt like a community. I’ve been to parties in lofts with so many people it was hard to walk around. A band was playing, and the energy was unexplainable. They began to dismantle the drumset, and handed the individual pieces to the crowd until pretty much everyone in the room was part of the band, and the sound was still awesome. The experiences I’ve had in the city cannot be compared to anything, there is truly no city like Detroit.
Unfortunately, Detroit has experienced many problems, but the phrase “destruction is the greatest form of creation” has never been truer. This city is a blank slate. There is a cultural revolution taking place, which is truly a beautiful thing. Literally, the city is a ticking time bomb of art, music, and culture. When it goes off, the city will shine so bright New Yorkers will have to put their designer sunglasses on, left and right.
There are numerous stereotypes about Detroit, but things are happening there that no one could have fathomed. Detroit doesn’t need big businesses to set up shop. The city needs people to come together, continue to experience, and contribute to the massive boom of culture, and community taking place. By March 2014, I will trade in my suburban life for a Detroit mailing address.