THE BLOG
07/31/2014 08:21 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2014

Detroit, Year Zero

Forget every negative thing you've seen or heard about Detroit, because Detroit is on fire. Detroit is not the worst city in America, it happens to be the best. Why? The people make it so. The people, the land, the unity -- the fight to make something better is alive and well. And when you're walking through a city working overtime to bring back its own soul, a kind of Utopia grows in her garden, and a flower springs up in your mind as you experience what it means to stand up to oppressive governance and corporate greed.

It is a gorgeous place, Detroit. I had a great time there recently at the Netroots Nation convention, and I have to say I never felt fear or paranoia -- only compassion, only hope. Hope is written on the foreheads of all who live there. They are digging in, staying put, fighting for the most basic human rights -- water for instance. I attended a rally and a march to turn on the water. Many Detroit citizens are losing tap water because the powers that be refuse to see water, the essence of life, as a human right. They fail to grasp -- without water you'll kill that garden, you'll kill Americans too. Blame it on the companies who wish to corporatize water, put the blame squarely on government neglect -- because that is where it belongs.

Feeling out-priced in your current city? Have no sense of community, no way to own your own home? Guess what -- five days in Detroit and I had a community. It took less than five days to make new friends. And there were thousands upon thousands of homes for the price of a song -- bring your tools and rebuild them. City subsidies make homeownership a reality even for the most impoverished Americans, and a community effort is underway to rebuild when you can't do it yourself. It makes you wonder why every cable home-makeover show doesn't spend a year in Detroit. Put that loot where it belongs, where it can make a real difference, Hollywood.

Everyone I said hello to said hello back. Folks wanted to take me on tours, they wanted me to tell you there are things going on here no other city can offer -- and they are right. Fallow fields have turned into community gardens. Once desolate streets like Heidelberg now have the Heidelberg Project, an art and community space that will blow your mind. The Detroit Jazz Festival is a blast, and Detroit is a sports lover's dream. DIA, The Detroit Institute of Art, is a major accomplishment. DIA opened in the 1920's, and sits in a magnificent Beaux Arts building downtown--go and marvel at their exquisite art collection, over 100 galleries await you. And don't miss the Charles W. Wright Museum of African-American History -- talk about an education. It's one of the few museums in America offering a real glimpse into the African-American experience. Downtown Detroit was clean, with exquisite architecture and a commuter rail system aptly named The People Mover. The People Mover swings a halo around this glorious city. The ride costs only 75 cents, and you'll stare wide-eyed at a city that in the early part of the 20th century was considered one of the wealthiest in America.

If you are young, if you are an artist or a craftsperson, or a writer who gets no respect, if you are priced out like so many Americans -- Detroit wants you. If you need medical care, or eke out a living on public assistance as I do -- Michigan has Medicaid and a means to thrive. Look, I don't expect to be unemployed forever, and I'm hoping like most citizens to get off the dole. Someday, I would like to get back to making a living wage like I did before the crash. I'm a lucky one, I have a place to live and a small job that helps keep me right above the water line. But if I needed too, and someday I may, I would move to Detroit for its diversity and opportunity. If I decided to return to an urban setting, without a doubt I would chose Detroit.

Housing stock is on the rise, the office towers downtown are filling up. So, if you're starting a new business, consider the incentives Detroit brings--great prices, hard working people in need of jobs, and a conscience -- a real conscience. Detroit is conscious of what America is saying too -- and the city is concerned. The more we bash that town the worse we make it for the people, so stop it, Americans. Lift her up instead, help bring Detroit back by good deed and faith. The Motor City has brought you many gifts: Motown, the auto-industry (shame on them for pulling out), Iggy Pop, Dinah Washington, and Joe Louis for heaven's sake.

Detroit suffered the neutron bomb in the last depression. 2008 crushed her, kicked the town right where it matters: foreclosures, family homes and jobs -- lost. And Detroit, like much of our nation, suffered through horrid governance. The city's last two mayors were back-to-back crooks, greedy grifters reminding us -- just when will our leaders lead? When will the people take up the cudgel and whack the political class who strangle our great cities? Make no mistake--it isn't the people, it's the rulers, the politicos, slimy corporations and the haters. The race baiters and finger pointers must go--and in their place good Americans must rise up and help this great city rebuild. What exists now is the foundation of a new 21st century American city. One that could just as easily become the next financial, cultural, and social powerhouse. Believe me, the talent and means are everywhere, they haven't left as you might expect -- they are entrenched within the city limits.

When the pendulum swings -- be there. In the meantime, here is what you can do today to help Detroit and its citizens -- you can pay someone's water bill. That's right, scrape it together, go to this site -- The Detroit Water Project -- and lend a hand. Keep the water on for a family or an elderly person with no means, keep it on for all of Detroit and by extension all of America. Keep the motor running and feel the power of a turnaround. The issues facing Detroit are issues we all face, and when we don't hold Detroit in our arms and reach out, who will reach out for us when and if the time comes for your town? How will we know what it means to receive if we never give? These are Americans just like you, fighting for something we all need, fighting for the basics -- human survival, jobs, a living wage, an opportunity to educate and grow.

While income disparity rips apart America, do you think the fat-cat millionaires in Congress plan to do anything about it? No -- too busy playing party games, too busy raising millions for campaign rot. The revolution begins at home -- it's begun in Detroit, so let Detroit show you the way. On July 18, I participated in that rally for water, and I will never forget it. You shouldn't either -- because when we forget about the people of Detroit, we lose our soul. Turn up the volume on those Motown hits, then turn on the tap, because Detroit needs you, and you need Detroit to show you the way back. Inspiration -- everywhere you look Detroit is on the rise. Jump up and take her hand, participate in the greatest revival of our time. Come hell or high water I will be helping someone pay their bill this month. Join me, spread the word and make a difference.

If you hold any sway, bring your conventions, your business, bring strength and your own integrity to Detroit. Take a vacation there, move there if you're outflanked by rising home prices or the cost of living. Be proactive and you will find, as I did, Detroit rocks. You need only dance in her streets to feel the beat of this reemerging metropolis. So bring it on home -- the River of the Strait, the mighty Detroit River, flows from Lakes Erie to Michigan, and right there sits a jewel so gorgeous we would be fools to mistake her for dust. Detroit is a phoenix -- now fly there and see for yourself what it means to rise up from the ashes.

Joe Louis is on the move -- he's dancing, he's ready to strike, and when he does watch out! It's a knockout, baby -- a one-two punch that really leaves a mark on your soul. So bring it on home -- sublime, supreme, sensational--this is Detroit, year zero.