"Show them a different side of Detroit."
This sentence is boldly printed on a button I bought from a local artist while I was in Detroit attending Netroots Nation. This sentiment was one echoed by countless people during my time there.
People hear a lot about Detroit. I know I had. The bankruptcy. The violence. The poverty. The awful water shutoffs. We've all seen the headlines.
But what these headlines fail to mention is how incredible the people of Detroit are and how vibrant the city really is.
I'm certainly not a world traveler, but I have been to a fair number of cities and states in the United States and the people of Detroit are some of the nicest, most resilient and inspiring people I've ever met.
It could be partly because I came from D.C., a place where we are notoriously known as douchebags. Whether it be because we never stop to smell the roses, feel we're far more important than anyone else or because none of us are actually from here, I'm not sure. But, regardless, the reputation is there, and we seem to be far too happy to live up to it.
Don't get me wrong. I love the city where I live. I love it a lot. I just know having someone utter an f-bomb to you while you're walking down the street, catcalling you or, sadly, showing you their junk happens on a weekly basis in D.C. while the things I came across in Detroit were only positive.
I was greeted on the street with a smile and hello or a "how are you." People went out of their way to talk to you and engage with you. As someone who is both southern and relatively outgoing, these were things I was immediately drawn to.
And yes, these could be outliers, and it is hard to judge a city on only five days there, but I feel like the passion and the kindness weren't just acts put on for us liberal bloggers who were in town, but are things that are legitimately there 365 days out of the year.
On my second night in town, after attending one of Netroots more interesting and after hours parties, I found myself waiting for a cab at nearly two in the morning. A car full of young women pulled up to the corner and asked if I was OK and safe. They didn't offer me a ride, which could've come across as a little forward or weird, but wanted to make sure I didn't need them to wait around with me, and just wanted to know I was save. I've never encountered something like this before and it left a huge impression on me.
At bars, where the drink prices were ungodly cheap, which in my book is never a bad thing, natives exchanged high fives and drinks and hugs with strangers while we watched the Tigers play. They asked about our time in Detroit and hoped we would come back to our homes around the globe with positive things to say. As one man pointed out to me after offering to pay for my beer when realizing we we both had North Carolina roots, "When it comes to Detroit, let me tell you, don't believe the hype."
And there's more than just the spirit of the people at play. There is legitimate infrastructure and business coming to the area.
Hell, Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Comic Sans fanboy, owns 60 buildings in the downtown Detroit area, close to where an enormous multi-purpose, multi-use, multi-neighborhood endeavor by the owners of the Detroit Red Wings will break ground this September. He couldn't be more excited. If he jumps ship someday for Detroit the irony won't be lost on me.
Yes, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in that city. One of the first things is to make sure every resident has access to water, a conversation that sickens me to think we're having in 2014 in the United States. And yes, it still needs to attract people to live there and invest in the economy.
However, I have no doubt that it can and after five incredible days taking in as much as I possibly could I can't wait to see what the future has in store for Detroit and I hope that even in some small way I can be a part of it.
So when you read the headlines, remember, "don't believe the hype" because with every negative thing you might read I can guarantee there are at least 10 positive things happening quietly behind the scenes.
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