America’s Forgotten Cities [Part II]:Detroit

Sweet Motor City, Detroit has birthed enough black artists to rival the Harlem Renaissance. Once upon a time, Detroit was the black Hollywood of America, as many of our favorite musicians and some of the world’s sexiest music have come out of this place that also graced us with Motown Records (before they moved to Los Angeles in 1972). And how could we forget the beloved 90s sitcom Martin? Yes, this city was once great, from the beautiful architecture to its diversity. Unfortunately, the D hasn’t been so cool in the past decade. In fact, between corrupt politicians, bankruptcy poverty, the city seems to be on a continuous downward spiral.


Abandoned United Arts Theater via

Since filing the largest bankruptcy in history, Detroit has been in a deep hole that I’m not even sure gentrification can pull it out of. Not factoring in the insane crime rate (most of it stemming from the city never truly recovered from the Reagan drug era), Detroit has been on a rapid decline since before 2008’s economic collapse and the longer it takes to sustain it, the harder it will be to recover. But according to Business Insider, there have been efforts to revive the city, such as Dan Gilbert’s one billion dollar investment that created about 6,500 jobs, but for every step forward there seems to be two steps taken back. After a horrible water crisis, many people in the city were without heat last winter, and the crime is so bad that police officers take at least a half-hour to respond, many of the residents have predictably fled the city and abandoned their homes (most of which faced foreclosure). Neighborhoods outside of the downtown area are in such bad shape that in 2014, homes were being sold for under $500. Schools have been shut down and many buildings have been abandoned, leaving 47% of the city illiterate and 1/3 of it’s 140 miles vacant and destitute. This is devastating when you consider that 60 percent of the children in the city have lived in severe poverty (, 2013), as many of them will likely have very little to provide for themselves.


A large "Opportunity Made In Detroit" banner is seen on the side of one of the buildings owned by Quicken Loans founder Gilbert in downtown Detroit


But with all the dreadfulness, there may be a glimmer of hope. Former prosecutor and current mayor, Mike Duggan believes that keeping the population up is the key to helping the city out of its hole. In October 2015, he became one of the several cities in the US willing to take in Syrian refugees. While sticking strictly to the basics necessities and being very blunt about his focus on improving what’s already wrong the city, we are already starting to see slight improvements. With big companies like Amazon and Quicken Loans making heavy investment into the downtown area, other future sustainable projects in mind, more money starting to go into the police departments, and street lights (this has been a huge problem), things appear to be looking up. Of course, there is always criticism that follows every politician, and the cost of home demolition has been the main area of criticism for him. On a recent tour with president Obama, he gave a desperate plea for help in education reform and improvement on Detroit Public Schools. That seems to have caught some attention, as the state of many DPS buildings and learning facilities are dilapidated. However, only time will tell us if the efforts will be successful and either way, it will take a while before we actually see the city stabilize. It will be quite some time before we see it return to its former glory.

Written by Tiara Letrice, Staff Writer, #mygirlsquad

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