It was maybe a couple of weeks ago when I was sitting on my couch with my roommate, and fellow Challenge Detroit Fellow—Joy Wang, and I asked in which direction is downtown, for some reason the direction Grand River runs was really throwing me off. The two of us began using our arms and legs to describe where our house and our neighborhood was nestled in The City of Detroit. It was quite funny, and as we were using our bodies to describe place, I had remembered that a mentor of mine had taught me, that I could map the city with my hand, just like Michiganders use their hand to map the state of Michigan.
The question was great opportunity to then ask ourselves: When was the last time we were going to an unfamiliar place and challenged ourselves to not look it up on our phone but to rely on what we knew, like intersections and landmarks to get us from place to place.
Our fingers serve as the main arteries that all come together in our palm downtown at Campus Martius. From Campus Martius our pinky finger leads us to Belle Isle and Grosse Pointe, our ring finger leads us to the Eastern Market and Sarnia, our Middle finger takes us to Palmer Park, Dutch Gil Donuts, Ferndale and Royal Oak, our pointer finger leads me home to my bed in Woodbridge and out to Novi, our thumb takes us to Corktown, old Tigers Stadium and Chicago, and if we had a 6th finger it would take us to Mexicantown- Southwest and downriver to where it turns into I-75 and takes me to my parents’ house in La Salle, MI.
The idea of using your hand as a map when you live, work, play, give, and lead in the city of Detroit was originally taught to school children in the 1960s and people on the streets of Detroit would use it as a guide to get from place to place, whether that be from home to work, work to social gathering, or a social gathering to home.
I have recently started working on my own hand map, mapping out the intersections and landmarks that orient me when I am out and about. I thought about the 5 pillars of Challenge Detroit, Live, Work, Play, Give, and Lead to begin my map. I was quite surprised by some of my own findings, one being how connected some of my favorite places are, how little of the city I could draw, and how much more of the city I need to experience over this next year as a Challenge Detroit Fellow.
I would encourage us all, to trace your own hand and draw those intersections and landmarks that make Detroit your place to live, work, play, lead, give. Look at what you know, compare it to a google map when you are done, how accurate is your hand map? What is missing? What more does your map leave you to explore and learn about in the City of Detroit?