Detroit, May You Be a Phoenix

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The Phoenix is a mythical beast which lives and dies by burning itself into a heap of ashes. From the ashes rises the next generation Phoenix.  I look around at the Detroit Metropolitan area and realize that we have become a heap of ashes.  

The fire began to blaze in 1968 with the riots.  From that moment on the death spiral had begun.  The fire is out.  We are but a pile of ash.  The question now becomes what will happen with this pile of ash?  Will we be blown away by the wind never again to breathe the breath of life?  Or, just maybe, will we rise like a Phoenix from the ashes?

I have hope that we will rise.

Why?

In the last 24 hours I have been a part of two significant events in our city. On Wednesday, September 29 I participated in TEDxDetroit and on Thursday, September 30 I participated in EACH.  These two gatherings were very different and very much the same.  Both of them are seeking to transform a city which has become an icon of failure.

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TEDxDetroit is a gathering of innovators, thinkers, doers, visionaries, entrepreneurs, and catalysts.  EACH is a gathering of pastors.  TED is multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-everything; EACH crossed racial, economic, urban, and suburban.  TED made a call to the people of this city to act and do and be creative to transform this place.  EACH made a call to the people of this city to act and do and be creative to transform this place.

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This may be a historic time that is coming to the city of Detroit.

From both I left with the same question: Will anyone really act?

I heard fine speeches and great visions and big dreams.  I prayed. I worshipped.  I thought.  I reflected.  I was challenged.

But will I act?

Will we?

A Phoenix may rise but it will require us to act.

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We love Detroit. An Open Letter to Dan Shaugnessy

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Dear Dan,

In a recent edition of the Boston Globe you had this to say about Detroit:

Think about it: For the next five weeks, you could live in downtown Boston and your wife could shop on Newbury Street. Or you could live in downtown Detroit, amid the boarded-up buildings and the proverbial skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets. Is this really a tough call?

I would like to commend you on your lack of research.  You seem to be looking at pictures from 1968 in the immediate after math of the riots. Do you still think there is a gunman on the campus of Kent State University? Or maybe you believe that the “British are Coming”?

Of course maybe you are upset that President John F. Kennedy had this to say about Detroit:

I don’t know what your issue is.  I don’t really know why you feel like you have to chastise a proud city.  I would invite you to come and see what Detroit is all about.  Oddly enough I have not seen a burned out Chevrolet anywhere.  From Midtown to Greektown to Downtown all I find are great restaurants, bars, world class hospitals, a world class university, and three great sports franchises.

When one determines to include the metropolitan area we find that on a weekend in the fall 110,000 people jam into U of M staduim, 70,000 at MSU, 20,000 for a Wings game, 20,000 for a Pistons game, 35,000 for a Tigers game, and 60,000 for Lions game.

Detroit is proud city with good people.  We are a collection of urban and suburban working together for a great future. I suggest, sir, that you come visit before you write about our home again.

Sincerely,

Me.

PS – Thanks to Dave Mieksztyn for the following links that you might find interesting:

http://500coolthings.com/ (from the boys at Professional One)

A grocery store…IN DETROIT??? Yep…

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So, one of the things that has always made living in the actual city of Detroit a difficult thing for many families (and no suburbs are not Detroit, ehem…Redford) is that there have been no real grocery stores there.  That is all about to change with Meijer building a store near 8 Mile and Woodward.  This is a genius move on their part.  With a mayor who has a plan, a city council that could get turned over (through elections or arrests), Detroit might have a chance to become an urban center again and Meijer would be on the ground floor.

There is something to be said for being the first. Well done Meijer.

Meijer signs deal for Detroit store | Detroit Free Press | Freep.com

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Urban Exile: Gran Torino

I read this article this morning because I am always interested to see what people have to say about Michigan and Detroit.  Usually it’s some sort of comedic piece or a good chuckle at the ineptitude of the city’s political structure.  However, this morning when I read this Out of Ur post on Gran Torino I was moved.

You see, it’s not everyday that you see a snapshot of Detrtoit that points to the racial and the spiritual. But, here we do. I have worked in and around the city of Detroit for four years. My first three and a half took place on the college campuses and for the last six months I have been in the suburbs working at Grace Chapel, EPC.  In my time here I have been amazed by what is happening in and around our city.

Many people look at 8 Mile and Telegraph, those grand dividers as the keys to what’s going on here.  The reality is that they aren’t.  There is a movement growing of the emerging generation to re-engage in a real way the very real problems that our city faces.  They see the problems.  They live the problems.  Yet, when you go to Wayne State University or talk to people from Citadel (a multi-ethnic church in the heart of the city) you begin to glimpse a different picture: hope.

Whereas our parents generation was one “lost in space”, our generation is one that seeks to rectify those problems and change the future. Are we despairing? Yes. Are we frustrated with an institutional agenda that makes change difficult? Yes. Are we without hope? No.

As I think about what David Swanson says in his article I can’t help but think that this is the generation that will change the tide. We can only hope.

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