Riding my bike along Jefferson the other day, I took note of all the streets named for early French and British landowners, and I couldn’t help but think that Detroit has always been a place for seekers. Seekers are brave. They accept the fear of the unknown but move ahead regardless, the drive to make more of their lives pushing them towards the potential of what could be. Detroit is a place where people from all walks of life come to look for something more. There are generations of immigrant families that have roots in the historic neighborhoods that surround the central city. The first generations came from Ireland, Germany, France, and Poland. They began to establish churches and community centers to gather and share their culture and freedom. When the industrial boom hit the city, more people from all over American and around the world came seeking work and wealth, and thus added another layer to the city’s histories. Today, artist, musicians, entrepreneurs, and students come here to live and grow. While in recent years the city has experienced population loss, there still remains a great feeling of diversity.
I can think of few other cities in the United States that maintain such a rich variety of peoples and cultures amidst loss and destruction. There is something inherently beautiful in that. Evidence of Detroit as a great accumulation of different heritages and ethnicities is everywhere. What is harder to see is why all these people, who came searching for something better, stayed.
But what you seemingly never see on the TV news or in the newspapers is any mention of why people are staying and more people are moving in. The reason may not sit well with people who haven’t experienced the magnetism of Detroit. It is quite simply that we like it.
People keep adding to this mixed-up melting pot because it’s unlike any other place. The residents in the Midtown neighborhood where I live are both new and old, both fresh and experienced. Talking with them, I discover what people mean when they reference the “Die-Hard Detroiters.” My neighbors in Detroit, just like your neighbors in any other city, have had their share of troubles. Their stories are as different as the people themselves, but the one thing that remains constant is that they are all still here, and have no intention of leaving. They all seem to say with a brief shrug of their shoulders and a quick “what are you going to do?” that they understand the nature of the city. They understand that this place can be unlike any other. A city that is rich in diversity can be unruly at times, full of excitement for those seeking an adventure, and incredible all at the same time.
People are always telling me that in Detroit, there are too many places a person shouldn’t walk at night, too many places you dare not go. I know they are trying to be helpful, but I know also that they are just afraid of Detroit. They refuse to see that these things have always existed, in every time, in every city. But I am a Die-Hard Detroiter. I shrug my shoulders, give a quick “what are you going to do?” and get back on my bike. As I ride through my city and the magnetism of Detroit pulls me into another adventure, I am reminded of the seekers and the potential of what could be.