Recently Kauilapele, a popular spiritual blogger, shared a short video, about a brilliant young woman making a big difference in Detroit.
This began a conversation, between fellow Golden Age of Gaia team member, Andrea Scully, and myself about our personal experiences with this city, which represents the hollowing out of America’s middle class. Both of us had visited the town, and the devastation of this once thriving metropolis saddened us deeply. I decided to do some digging into the past, present and future of Detroit, and found some very enlightening information that I thought you would all enjoy.
Detroit was the heart of the automobile industry in America, but during the tumultuous era of civil unrest and race riots in the US, many issues occurred that set Detroit on a course of ruin. Outsourcing and innovation in the Auto industry simply removed the economic heart of the city, and almost overnight it became a ghost town. The root causes of this decline speak not only of corporate decision-making, but a sea-change within the culture that had initially held the city together.
Photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre published a book entitled The Ruins of Detroit that shockingly illustrates the abandonment of the city, not only on a neighborhood scale, but within the very infrastructure and culture of this mid-western giant of industry. What amazes me about these photographs is the beautiful architecture of the city, and how many simply closed the doors and walked away, leaving everything in place, as if nothing at all mattered anymore.
But within the ruins of this great city, beats a strong heart and many tenacious individuals, who wish not to restore the past, but to create a new future, built on strong community ties and service to those in need.
Veronika Scott is one of those individuals who grew up as the child of drug addicts. She received a good scholarship to college, and she says that one class changed the course of her life, setting her on the path to founding the Empowerment Plan. This is a plan which provides jobs and training for women in homeless shelters, and creates special coats that convert into sleeping bags for area homeless who find themselves sleeping outdoors in the harsh Michigan winters. The Gap stores, who support a program for empowering women called One Stitch Closer, featured her in one of their videos.
For more information on how the Empowerment Plan is helping build jobs within the Detroit community and supporting those who are homeless, please visit their website.
Charles Annenberg Weingarten of Explore visits with Detroit area artists, who are in the process of transforming abandoned buildings into huge art installations. While the footage is stark, the excitement about the future of this city voiced by those who are interviewed is heartening.
Mitch Albom, who is the best selling author of various novels, such as Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet In Heaven has adopted Detroit as his family home. He also feels a strong need to give back, after being so blessed with material success, and so he has founded many different charities to directly benefit the revival of Detroit.
In a recent radiothon he raised $340,000 which was split between 14 local charities that support health care, elder service and homelessness in the community.
Regular people with big hearts get into the act as well. The Gagnon brothers recently biked across the US to raise funds to fight child hunger in the Detroit area. They peddled for No Kid Hungry and raised $17,000, with 80% of the funds going to local support and 20% going to the national foundation.
Amy Peterson and her business partner Diana Russell are both driven to service through the arts. Amy, a self-taught jewelry maker created a culturally sensitive awareness pin to support the Rwandan relief efforts years ago, and raised over $5,000 for the cause. She has longed to find a similar service opportunity ever since, and she found one in Detroit. After walking around an abandoned area where graffiti paint was flaking off the walls, she saw how beautiful the pieces were, and decided to make jewelry out of them. Thus Rebel Nell was born. The company began by hiring 3 women from a local shelter and giving them life skills and business training, providing micro-loans as well, to get them back on their feet. They consider Rebel Nell a “virtuous cycle.” as the more profit they make through sales, the more women they can employ, which puts former homeless people on the path to security.
While individuals are working hard to bring support and opportunities to the area, the City of Detroit is in the process of declaring bankruptcy, so they can clear the slate and move forward with redevelopment. As the largest municipality to declare bankruptcy, there have been many conflicts and delays, but it seems that the last stumbling block, the Detroit Pension Debt Holders are coming into agreement so the plan can move forward.
The future of Detroit involves rebuilding lives, neighborhoods and the city center as well. Many companies, with visionary leadership, such as Twitter and Quicken Loans, are moving their operations to downtown Detroit and refurbishing vintage buildings. The city is working with the Project for Public Spaces, to redesign city space, and draw more individuals into a love affair with downtown. As people used to only come into the city center to work, and then leave to live in suburban neighborhoods, the revitalization wishes to change all that and make Detroit a destination, or place-centered city. They have asked for assistance from the public to implement their “Power of 10” process, which divides any great city into 10 districts with 10 great things to do. After focus groups and individual interviews they have come up with plenty of ideas to bring people back into the downtown and enjoy a refreshed Detroit.
Many successful individuals grew up and went to school in Detroit, and then moved away, as the city changed and opportunities dried up. Now, with renewed spirit from the ground up, Detroit sent out a call for a homecoming. The program focused on “expat” business people and entrepreneurs to discuss the changes within the city, and ask for assistance to move forward. The homecoming page shares many great articles about this event, and shows significant hope for the rebirth of this “Rust Belt” city.
The list of positive, service oriented projects and changes within the city goes on and on and I encourage you to continue digging if you feel inclined, because these types of projects are a whisper from the future, where all needs are supported and all have a voice in the process.
I hope you have the same feeling of hope for the people of Detroit as I have. As a child, I saw the decline of many New York City neighborhoods that have since been reborn, and I feel that as long as we remain strong in our commitment to building a future where everyone is supported, we will continue to see this type of rebirth into something more all around the world.
See you tomorrow for some Feel Good News!
Be Well. Be Joy. Be Love!