Year 5 interviews are just around the corner and this made me think back to my application process and what I was thinking just a short year ago and why I wanted to be a Challenge Detroit Fellow…….
To the outsider, Detroit is an abandoned building sitting on a vacant lot. To the infrequent visitor, it’s a collection of bars, restaurants and sports venues scattered amongst remnants of what the city once was. Fortunately for myself, the last few years have afforded me an opportunity to experience Detroit from many perspectives, each providing me a unique appreciation of what makes this city great.
As a member of the public safety team at DTE Energy, I am often called upon to provide safety services throughout the community of Detroit during major storms. Our assignments are often in areas riddled with blight and hampered by lapses in basic infrastructure. Given the long hours and nights spent in neighborhoods ensuring safety, interaction with the community is inevitable. I recall one night our assignment involved a community of thirteen homes adjacent to a downed wire which had entangled a chain link fence. The process of notifying families quickly evolved into warm welcomes, friendly conversations and the realization that for many friendly, hardworking people, blight and home are synonymous. This experience further reinforced my resolve to work towards impacting Detroit. Another aspect of my job involves coordinating a farmers market. Through DTE we work closely with non-profits to provide locally grown goods for both DTE employees and other members of the community. The event provides a food-centric showcase for community businesses and has allowed me to cross paths with various entrepreneurs who are doing their part to help bring Detroit back.
Revitalization necessitates more than just investment. It requires momentum. Two events in particular, Slow Roll and the Tour De Troit, have served twofold for me. They’re fun and enjoyable occasions that fit nicely with my idea of a good time. More importantly however, they exemplify a cultural aura that, in my opinion, has greatly added to the momentum driving Detroit’s resurgence. I envision myself adding to this momentum by laying the groundwork for new events using the resources and skills I’ve gained from DTE as a springboard. As an ambassador for the city I would focus my efforts on cultivating ideas and helping translate them into unique prospects for the community. Through the efforts of volunteers, non-profits and local businesses, I foresee microcosms of renovations, deconstructions and salvaging of materials to create opportune spaces and resources to spur new developments. With support from the community at large, those with creativity and vision should be actively encouraged to start their own events, further adding to the cultural aura that makes our resurgence one of a kind. Simply put, Detroit is an original opportunity – one I aspire to help revitalize.