It is the end of the second full day in Detroit and I must say that I am moved, in terms of our Community Development group's commitment to this alternative spring break, in addition to how our group have been learning and becoming more attuned with one another each day that passes by. Thus far, we have become more acclimated with our surroundings, as well as starting to dive deeper into the idea and concepts of community development.
First of all, what is community development, and why is that the focus of our trip when specifically talking about Detroit? Over the past couple months as a group we have been trying to figure that out, and one reason community development is an essential social justice topic is because of the state Detroit has been left in from the collapse of the auto industry. Since the nineteen fifty's, the Detroit metro has decreased in population from almost two million to just seven hundred thousand people today. What effects can this have on what was once one of the biggest cities in the country? Well, in the last couple days we have seen first hand, some of the effects that the decline and collapse of the auto industry has had in Detroit.
To those that are reading this post I want to ask, have you ever been to Detroit? If you have not been to Detroit what do you know about this place? What are some of the words that you identify Detroit with? From many conversations I have had with individuals asking this same question in the last six months, the most common words I have heard are: Crime. Collapse. Murder. Auto Industry. Cold. Stolen Cars. Arson. It is an unfortunate reality that this is the stigma that has been placed on this city and that has been dipicted among popular culture for the better part of the twenty-first century.
Yesterday, on our way to the Heidelberg Project and on our way to the grocery store that morning, we met the reality of the numerous houses that have been gutted, with many that have had a fire at one point or another. Some parts of the city have been incredibly desolate, while some neighborhoods look nearly prestine. On one corner there is a deserted apartment building, while a large garden sits on the next corner. Detroit in fact, is home of one of the fastest growing cities for urban farming in the U.S. Why don't we hear this when someone describes Detroit? One reason that I theorize this happens is because we let the stereotypes and the stigmas that are presented to us to be engrained as an outright truth. This is not a revolutionary concept or idea, but hope that it can serve as a reminder into how society, especially in this country we set definitions to things such as to what a city is percieved to be like. How do we categorize certain things on a daily basis? In this case, society has categorized Detroit on a multitude of levels holding negative connotations and stigmas to them, while ignoring that this is a city has gone through an unforseeken population decline due to the decline of industry over the last sixty years.
In the two days I have been here, I have been met with nothing, but kind hello's and good mornings. Over the next couple days I hope to experience more of the same with the rest of our Detroit Community Development Catalyst group with our several busy days ahead. I am Austin Jensen signing off, more posts to come...