My hometown has been on my mind so strong lately for many different reasons. First off, I miss it. I’ve been a New York resident for over 15 years having moved here to attend college and pursue my dreams of acting and writing. I love New York and always will, but Detroit is home. It’s in my blood, it’s my lifeline, my beginning, middle and most likely my ending.
I also have family that still resides there, a biological mother and a host of brothers and get this a sister. One I didn’t know I had until earlier this year. There could also be someone special in Detroit for me too, but that remains to be seen.
So when I heard that Dateline NBC recently aired a documentary on Detroit I was interested but nervous. As a news junkie kid growing up in Motown I remember seeing local and national news reports about our dark underbelly, from the crack cocaine explosion in the 80’s to the yearly tradition of vandalizing cars, homes and property in accordance with Devil’s Night, which occurred on Halloween evening. I always felt a simmering anger and even embarrassment when the worse parts of the city I loved so much were broadcast out to the world. I knew about the good things and I wished everyone else did too. I even wrote about it in the Denby Log, my high school paper. As editor, I thought it was my responsibility to provide a balanced view.
After viewing the Dateline special dubbed: America Now: City of Heartbreak and Hope, narrated and reported by Chris Hansen, I felt conflicted. Chris Hansen has always been one of my favorite journalists. He also grew up in Michigan, albeit in the suburbs, but he lived and worked there and I believe he has a vested interest in seeing the city rise up and rival it’s former glory. But, I couldn’t help getting a sinking feeling as I watched the cameras roll up on criminals or capture the eerie sight of The Coon Man talk about killing and selling raccoons for food. Yet again the rest of the world was seeing the city at a low point. To hear that former NBA star and now current Detroit Mayor Dave Bing wants to actually tear down and destroy some desolate neighborhoods therefore shrinking the city is shocking and a new low for my hometown.
A lot of people are upset over the documentary and I can understand why. No one wants to be embarrassed and I know people who live in Detroit probably felt humiliated after the special aired. Nothing in it was untrue though and Hansen did spotlight several people who are doing their best to bring positivity to the area by rescuing abandoned children, renovating run down homes into green properties and the like. But even in reporting the positive, it still pointed out the negative. Whether it was the best balance of good and bad can be debated, but it got people talking and now there is talk of an upcoming town meeting to discuss the report and some solutions to Detroit’s problems. Hopefully good can come from this and positive action can be taken.
Other media outlets have also taken notice. Public Radio International’s The Takeaway program asked its listeners to give their reasons to love Detroit and co-host Celeste Headlee traveled to the Detroit area and aired portions of the show from the Motor Town. Headlee even shared stories of her own experience Celeste Headlee’s Take on Detroit with the city when she moved there to take a reporting job at WDET radio.
I even weighed in with my thoughts, which were featured as a “takeaway of the day” viewpoint on the Takeaway website (seen in the photo above). My take is this: Detroit may be viewed as desperate and in need of immediate help, but it is not dying. As long as the conversations about its ills are coupled with action, it can thrive again. I believe this about Detroit as well as other parts of the world that are facing major economic and social challenges. We must not only talk, we must do. Getting the word out is something I can and am doing and I want to do more. I will search to find other ways I can help. Do you care about Detroit? If so, what are you planning to do?
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