“Becoming a Challenge Detroit Fellow gives you the flexibility to discover more about who you are, what you like, and where you want to go.” – Kameron Bloye

City of the World

In front of the Barry Sanders statue post-Lions playoff win.

In early August (2023), a little over a week after starting at my host company, Regional Transit Authority (RTA), I was given the opportunity to tour Newlab at Michigan Central, along with Michigan Central itself. Although I was working, it didn’t exactly feel like it. The facilities were undeniably impressive, and the level of investment and care was palpable. Those on the tour with me seemed comparably impressed, and the buzz of excitement rang throughout the high-ceilinged building. Newlab marked something for us all, symbolizing a new and emerging Detroit that was proactive, flashy, focused, and unblemished. Everything was state-of-the-art, clean-cut, and glowing with the shine of thoughtful investment that Detroit had been waiting on for decades. It was easy to forget what that building once was, or what it looked like after the Great Recession came to town. This made me uneasy; I didn’t want people to forget about what Detroiters had done to get back to this point or what they’d had to experience to brave the storm.

The second part of the day was a presentation and tour of Michigan Central Station. As we entered the building, I remembered stories my grandpa told us about growing up in earshot of the arriving trains. His parents immigrated from Ireland and Canada to Southwest Detroit in the 1930s, and his first American house once stood on the other side of what is now I-75. Like so many former homes in Detroit, it is no longer there. After moving Downriver in the 1940s, he would return to that part of town as a member of the U.S. Naval Reserves, training at Fort Wayne. Soon after, he saw his brother off to Korea. In this very building.

Michigan Central is an art piece. Even in its darkest, coldest, wettest, most windowless days, it was an art piece. 

I grew up thinking that Detroit was never a city of the world. It seemed like its own thing: a place that people lived in and cared for, but one that never went anywhere or came from anything – an afterthought of unregulated American enterprise. That tour that day in August made me think about what Detroit was, who lived there, who built it, and how it got to where it is. I realized that Detroit was once everything – the place that came from so much and allowed the world to go everywhere. Detroit was and is the definition of a worldy city. But it did become an afterthought, and how quickly the world forgot. Forgot that prioritizing profit is bad for people; that racist policies didn’t end in the 1960s; and that leaving a place is no way to protect it.

Michigan Central is a monument of that history. A place where people came and went, sometimes never to return, other times never to leave, it has been, in every stage, a representation of this City and its people. And it took me being there to realize.

ABOUT: My name is Kameron Bloye, and I grew up in Allen Park, MI. I graduated from the University of Chicago in June of 2023 with a B.A. in Political Science and a B.A. in Romance Languages (with specialization in Spanish Language, Literature, and Culture). I enjoy listening to, writing, and playing music, outdoor activities like hiking and fishing, and playing soccer.