Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Detroit: a love story

Why am I in love with Detroit? It's not because of the harsh and seemingly endless winters, that's for sure. It's not the reputation for violent crime. It's certainly not the pothole-laden streets. No, it's the sense of community and determination to make things just a little more beautiful and equitable that has captured my imagination here in this otherwise rough Midwestern town. I'm not planning to uproot from my little DC apartment just yet -- good heavens, Ollie and I've only been back about two months! -- but I'm a little smitten with this largely vacant yet surprisingly vibrant city.

Maybe the last, sunny days of summer have folks feeling more personable than usual, though I learned from Nicki, my guide to the city, that the pervasive friendliness and willingness to chat on the front porch is quite common and may be explained by the migration of many Southerners to the area during the days of the automobile manufacturing boom. (Ah, yes, there's that southern hospitality that I remember.) But still, I wondered, with all of the desolation and crime around, why do people seem so... hopeful?

Well, for one thing, there is beauty to be found, green spaces tucked away seemingly around every corner: flowers and food crops bursting from between abandoned buildings, in school yards, back yards, former parking lots. There is also the oldest and largest public food market in the country here each Saturday, with a variety and price range to suit just about anyone. (Yes, I actually missed it, as I was in Lyons, MI for a wedding over the weekend, but I'll be darned if I met even one person in the city who didn't rave about it.) And, perhaps most importantly, collaborative programs like The Greening of Detroit, the Detroit Black Food Security Network, and others are cultivating a new generation of food activists, slowly making the city into a model for revitalization that other formerly bustling industrial towns like Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore would do well to watch. (Calm down, readers who hail from these cities, I'm just saying that there's quite a number of good ideas that may translate well to your hometown. That's part of what I'm trying to do here with the bikeable feast: raise awareness and celebrate groups that are improving local food systems.) Detroit is on its way to becoming a safer, more equitable, and desirable place to live, though it's not exactly a smooth ride.

As I immerse myself among small-scale growers, urban food education programs, and gardening entrepreneurs, stay tuned for a series of posts on this most surprising of food justice hubs....

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

1 comment:

  1. to quote a lovely U2 song, "Grace makes beauty out of ugly things"...

    "It's also a thought that changed the world"


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