Sunday, August 19, 2012

A City on a Heap of Distractions

I took a journey through my neighborhood this morning.  I've lived over here for over a year and I've never ever walked around the neighborhood.  Partly because there were so many abandoned building and I feel safer in my car and partly because I'm must just be plain old lazy. 

What I saw and what I took pictures of was astonishing.   I went out to test my hand at taking pictures with my iPhone.  As a general rule, I think I take horrible pictures, so I thought I'd go on a nature walk and take pictures of herbs, greenery, flowers and anything else earthy that I saw.  But what I did actually see interested me much more than the four foot weeds all around me.  I saw homes, homes that were skeletons, empty, yet full of memories, memories of lives possibly shattered by the economic downturn.  Communities, once thriving and strong, now torn apart and ravaged by lost jobs, a diminished school system, and an outright loss of hope.  It's quite easy to feel hopeless walking through this urban neighborhood of decay.  And while that wasn't the overarching feeling I had.  I hoped to capture something besides the devastation evident in the pictures.  As much as I could, in each photo I also tried to capture the light of the sun shining through.  The essence is, though things seem dark and hopeless and sometimes there's devastation all around, there is still light, there is still hope.  

I've seen 11 new homes go up on my street alone in the year+ that I've been here, but by the looks of it there is so much more to be done.  These pictures were taken on my street and 3 blocks south of me.

I imagine at some point these homes were filled with families, love, laughter, meals, gatherings and celebration.  But now they stand as a constant reminder of danger, poverty, loss, and struggle.  
This is not the neighborhood that I grew up in, where I came from is still full of most of the working class families that bought their first homes and raised their children until they were gone to college, the military, or out working in the plants and offices in nearby cities. 

I can imagine how beautiful these houses and this neighborhood used to be.  I can picture grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts uncles, cousins, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers. These nuclear and extended families that used to be so close knit when I was growing up.  I see fading faces, now displaced.  I wonder where did they end up.  

What I do know is that if Detroit wishes to attract new residents, this blight and emptiness of shattered homes and shattered lives must be demolished, not just by bull dozers but demolished as a part of city life as whole.  Detroit has to thrive!  Detroit's neighborhoods and schools must be thriving.  No one wants to send their kids to a failing school system.  My daughter has never attended a Detroit Public School for this very reason.  And unless there are still schools of excellence in 3 years when she begins high school she never will.  This saddens me because I went to Cass Technical High School and growing up it was always a source of pride to attend one of the top three High Schools in Detroit. 

I hope that my city along with their partner (Bank of America) will continue the work that they set out to do over a year ago, complete the demolition of abandoned homes in my area, the neighborhood known as the Northend.  These homes are battered, they are uninhabitable and there is no good reason for them to continue to stand, they can be used as crime dens and that's no good for any neighborhood.  At this point I still remain in Detroit, I don't know that I will continue to keep the faith.  No matter where I go I hope that my city will rise from the ashes of distractions that begin with the white flight of the Coleman Young Era (that's right, Kwame Kilpatrick is not to blame for all the City's Problems, though he is a visible microcosm of its problems)!
Detroit will rise again.  I just hope that I'm still here to see it.
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