Today was a very, very busy day. I had to be at the art school at 8 am to check in with my teacher and then get into my friend’s car to hitch a ride into Detroit where the art students in my grade were all learning about the city for the day. I was not thrilled. Who wants to get up before the sun gets up on a Friday? Not me. But this morning, after setting 5 alarms, I begrudgingly rolled out of bed and into some jeans and a sweater. Unfortunately I had forgotten that the Detroit activity that I signed up for involved walking around in the very brisk, Michigan air for over an hour. A sweater was not exactly sufficient. However, this is not the point.
The point is that I went into the day expecting it to be awful. And it really, really wasn’t. Where I live in Connecticut is a very short drive into the city of Hartford. Hartford is, to put it nicely, scary. The people are scary, the neighborhoods are scary; what happens in Hartford in general is really just scary. I have never wanted to be there for more than 2 seconds and therefore couldn’t tell you that much about how neighbors in Hartford get along, but I can’t imagine they interact that much because in most parts of Hartford it is dangerous to leave your front doorstep. This is what I was expecting from Detroit. I was very wrong. Detroit was awesome.
The activity I signed up for was “Building Brightmoor.” Brightmoor is a neighborhood in Detroit that is working hard to turn itself around. About 7 other students and I took a tour around Brightmoor today, led by an extremely nice man named Bill (his wife’s name is Billy) who had moved there five years ago. The people of Brightmoor have planted a total of 6 different gardens, two of which are completely run by kids. Each garden, Bill explained, produces about up to $4,000 in profit each summer. Two families own their own goats and three have chickens from which they sell eggs. Bill told us some amazing stories. One especially motivated mom had taken it upon herself to rid the neighborhood of the people living in the “drug house.” This was a house in which people went to deal drugs and for prostitution. This was a house in the middle of a neighborhood filled with children. This was a house surrounded on both sides by community gardens. This particular mom decided that in order to get them to leave, she would take her young kids to the gardens right beside the house and play with them all day to make the prostitutes and drug dealers feel extremely uncomfortable with their actions. It worked and they left.
These people love Detroit. They choose to live there. It is where their family is, it is where their friends are. It is where they grew up and where they want their children to grow up. It is a place full of rich history and beautiful potential. The people of Brightmoor have made Detroit home.