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Detroit Weekend: Inspiration, Anger, & Action

Inspiration: FutureMidwest

I spent Friday and Saturday at FutureMidwest 2010 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre. I was inspired. I was told it’s ok to go crazy, or at least have crazy ideas.


Watch this opening video from FutureMidwest to see what I'm talking about. It gave me chills.

FutureMidwest Opening Video from Green Sky Creative on Vimeo.

Pretty cool, right? But here’s the thing, just about everyone that attended the conference has already seen that video. And most of us that were there already feel this way.

We’re preaching to the choir, people!

The people of Detroit need to see this. Heck, people around the world need to see this. We need to start sharing this energy and convert the non-believers, the naysayers, and Chris Hanson. I’ll get to him in a bit.

In his keynote speech, Jay Adelson, former CEO of said,

"In Detroit, we have more talent and more technical expertise concentrated in one region than anywhere else in the United States," he said.  "And we're stuck in this because we're told we're supposed to be stuck in this."

"If you want to make a difference in Detroit, I would say think about those limits that have been set for you -- anything you've been told is impossible -- find one and break it, because there's no people better qualified to do that than the people in this room"

So, I walked away from the conference with a spring in my step, with the confidence that the ideas that have been swimming around in my head are worth investing in.

Adelson, a hometown boy originally from Southfield, Michigan said in an interview, “Everybody has to let their crazy out.”

It’s time to get unstuck.

It’s time to take a chance.

It’s time to get crazy.

Anger: Dateline NBC

And then Sunday night rolled around and the Dateline NBC special about Detroit, "America Now: The City of Heartbreak and Hope," with Chris Hansen aired.

It didn’t show us anything we don’t already know. We know Detroit has problems. The national media has been showcasing Detroit’s ruin porn and the “burnt out Detroit” for a long time so the rest of the country knows too. The heartbreak was the focus of the program while the hope was glossed over.

Chris Hansen, another hometown boy, thought he could come here and get the story right because he’s from here. He didn’t offer anything new to the equation; he didn’t bring any solutions to the table.

Watching my twitter stream and the #detdateline hashtag was interesting. It was split between people who thought it was fantastic and people who thought it sucked donkey balls. I’m on the donkey balls side.

Did it show an accurate picture of Detroit? Yes. Did it show the whole picture? Most certainly not. It was a lost opportunity for a hometown boy to do the job right, to actually make a difference in the way the world sees our city.

Action: Time to get your hands dirty

So, where does this leave me? Did FutureMidwest inspire me? Yes. Did Dateline piss me off? Yes.

Now, what do I do with that fire, that anger, that something-something?

I act. I get a little crazy.

I’m just one person who is doing what I can to encourage people to explore Detroit, to embrace this city. But that’s not enough.

I’ve had this crazy idea to start a community outreach/volunteer aspect on Detroit Moxie for some time now. I’ve found, through this little ole blog of mine, that there are many people out there who love this city as much as I do and who want to do something to make it better.

What can we do?

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, Detroit won’t be fixed overnight. But we can make a start.

We can work with Motor City Blight Busters to tear down the abandon homes or work with Habitat for Humanity to build new, livable homes.

We can work with our local food organizations such as Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest to feed the people who can’t afford to feed their families.

We can clean up Detroit and take the trash out.

I’m open to suggestions. I’ll start making the phone calls today. I just need you to show up.

The big question is: Are you in? Were you all talk while watching Dateline or are you ready to get your hands dirty and make a difference? I’m rolling up my sleeves and heading in.

I hope someone joins me. I hope I’m not all alone.

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  • Response
    The issue and the TV shows are talking about the city proper. Don't list your business as a Detroit business and hand me a business card that says Bloomfield Hills.

Reader Comments (22)

I haven't seen it yet, but I've gotten enough texts and tweets to get the jist. Either way, I'm in...

April 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterapril

Here's just one way I'm in. The Motor City Connect Blood, Sweat & Gear campaign is slated for 8/11 - 8/15. That means we will be doing Blight Busters, assisting Operation Kid Equip distribute back packs with schools supplies & support a blood drive. I am the volunteer committee chair and am committed to getting people to join us to tear down blight in Detroit, donate blood & pass out back packs.

I was hesitant to watch the Dateline special and now I know why. Thanks for heads up. I won't bother to tuning in at all.

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Thanks! If you haven't done so already you should take a look at the video I linked to at the top of the post. It's awesome. I'm so happy you're in.

Thanks for sharing. I am a huge supporter of the Blood, Sweat, and Gear project from Motor City Connect. Not only did my husband and I participate in the project but I talked about it here, here, and here.

Will I be lending the same support and hands this year? Of course! But one weekend a year isn’t enough for me. And many of my readers aren’t on Twitter or associated with MCC. They reached out to me afterward and wanted to become involved.

So, I’m looking for the people who want to do something who don’t know where to harness that energy. I’m looking at the people who showed such bravado last night after the Dateline episode aired. Are they afraid to get their hands dirty? Do they think it won’t make a difference? I don’t know.

I’m so happy that you’re working with MCC and Blood, Sweat, & Gear project. It’s fabulous. I also have to add that Operation: Kid Equip is a great organization and very close to my heart.

However, I don’t think there can ever be enough opportunities for people to get involved; I’m just trying to provide another outlet.

I’ll see you in August with my sledgehammer and husband in tow.

You should really watch the Dateline special, though. I'd like to hear your reaction. Don't take my word for it. As I said, my twitter stream was split.

April 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

I didn't even watch the dang thing, but from the comments in various places, the twitter feed, and the clips I saw online, donkey balls it is. You're not alone.

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBelle Isle Home

I hear you loud and clear, Becks! I am glad to hear that you are moved to keep it moving.

I think I am going to be interested in addressing this "75% dropout rate" that Chris Hansen dropped on his special. Even if it is embellished or miscalculated, it is probably still fairly high. If you are interested in doing anything with that, I would throw my weight behind that.

"I believe the children are our future."

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHubert Sawyers III

You captured the rollercoaster of this weekend perfectly. It's time to take all that inspiration and anger and turn it into action. I'm in.

The truth is, one person can make a difference. If each of us inspired to help did just that, in our own way, we WILL make a difference. Too many times we wait; wait for others to organize opportunities, wait for others to join us, wait for someone to direct us. I think it's time to stop waiting, and to start doing. Yes, an organized effort could have a farther reach, but just one of us, helping to build a home or tutoring a child, can change the world.

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTrisha Verma

I'm ready to get crazy with you, Becks. Volunteers are so desperately needed by many local organizations, and I'll commit to help where I can!

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNikki Stephan

I made a conscious choice not to watch the Dateline special - it's starting to feel like exploitation, this constant drama around Detroit's death or rebirth or both. "City of Heartbreak and Hope" told me everything I needed to know. What's needed is more regular coverage of the activity going on here, the innovation and investment. One Dateline special doesn't seem to do much more than pile on a very large bandwagon.

I like your commitment to get beyond that. I'm going back to classes in a month, but when I can be, I'm in.

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoni Golden

My instinct to skip watching the Dateline thing sounds like the correct one to me...donkey balls? Yeah, I can do without that.

Forgotten Harvest is a long-time favorite metro Detroit charity for me. I love the fact that they not only address the issue of hunger, but they also address the issues of waste prevention and greening our environment (recently recognized by the Freep as one of the area's "green leaders"). We've been out to their Champagne Cruise fundraiser a few times (a great time benefiting a great cause) and toured the warehouse a few years back when we went to their "mortgage burning" party (yup, they earn high marks for responsible management of their available resources--see places like Charity Navigator).

You know the story with my time constraints lately, but this does remind me that I've been meaning to do another story about them soon over on my own blog...Guess I should get to gettin'

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

Thanks to everyone for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Conversation is key.

Whitney certainly had it right with that one, "I believe the children are our future." What about the Detroit Public Schools Reading Corps? That's more of an individual commitment than a group project but still extremely worthy. Do you have any other ideas on how we can lower the dropout rate? Mentoring, perhaps?

I totally agree with you, one person can make a difference. But I also know that some people are either afraid to jump in alone or don't know where to start.

Thanks Nikki!

Joni, Belle Isle Home, and Dominique,
I guess I foolishly thought that since the same old "Detroit is Dead" story has been covered over and over that they would try and do something different. They didn't.

April 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

I love your passion and sincerity...I found Hansen's drive by journalism tiresome and offensive...It sucked in other words..

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThrasher

BTW..I propose and suggest your publish on this site Ron Scott's entire commentary about Hansen's assault on the Detroit...Ron's narrative is the best I have read in a long time...

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThrasher

I felt the same way, Becks, just by following the Twitter stream - didn't have to see the show. I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and make stuff happen. I agree with Hubert about education, but there are SO many that are beyond that. They are part of the problem and need to be part of the solution. There are lots of good people who have tried to help and have gotten burned. Somehow, we need a unified, full groundswell, grass-roots effort along with support from the top-down.

I don't have all the answers, (I'm not sure I even know all the questions) but NOW is the time, and that window is closing quickly. Not to be a doomsayer, but if we don't have substantial results by September, the window will close. LET'S ACT NOW!

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercxiro

BTW, in case you weren't sure, I'm IN!!! (up to my neck!)

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercxiro

It's interesting to see what actually aired after the all the editing was done, because on the website there are several very positive, enlightening clips that were not shown. He did a segment with his mom and brother, who professed there love for the region...and a story of a young couple that are investors and artists and decided to invest in a City block to create a sustainable artist community. I respect the story because he did explore some of the issues that are not common knowledge to people outside of Detroit. We take for granted that people understand our plight. But the interview with Sam Riddle and the raccoon hunter, aka the Coon Man, were just senseless. wth? lol

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTS1

Thanks for your input and kind words. And thank you for pointing out the post by Ron Scott in The Detroit News, I hadn't read it yet. I can't publish it here but I will provide the link below so others can read it. It's a truly passionate and honest piece. I especially love the final paragraph.
Killing Detroit: The Big Lie by Ron Scott

April 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

Well said! I could hear the passion dripping from each word. The time is NOW! I don't have all the answers either but I can't sit back and do nothing. Do you have any input on what to do? Where to start? Let's keep this conversation rolling.

April 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

I watched some of the clips on the Freeps web site, including the one with his mother and best friend. I found it odd that they said it was safer to go "downtown" when he was young than it is today. Downtown is the safest part of Detroit! I'm down there all the time and have never felt fear. There are many parts of Detroit that are unsafe, but Downtown?
I do agree that what they showed was accurate, it just wasn't the whole story. And yeah, the raccoon man? Come on!

April 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

Yup, donkey balls. I'm in for volunteering when I can. DPS needs help, and organizations like the United Way of Southeast Michigan are doing great things to address dropout rate and the failing structures themselves. They're always looking for volunteers. That might be a good place to start. The 75% dropout rate is miscalculated (I believe they count kids who transferred to charter schools as dropouts because until recently they didn't have any other way to categorize them). That said, the actual dropout rate is much higher than it should be - and it all starts with basic education, so let's make a difference.

April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTina Kozak

Thanks for the tip about the United Way of SE Michigan, I knew they did great things but didn't know about them helping with the dropout rate. I'll look into it.

Also, thanks for sharing the info about the dropout rate being miscalculated. I'll have to make sure that Hubert see's that info.

You're right, so much starts with education. I can't wait to dig into this more tomorrow.

April 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

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