My love affair with Detroit began the first time I heard Eminem’s, real name Marshall Bruce Mathers III, ‘The Real Slim Shady’ in 2000. Although not born in Detroit he spent his vital teenage years growing up there and often talks about his humble beginnings also recording and releasing a track called ‘Welcome to Detroit’
Marshal Mathers is not the only celebrity who has called Detroit home, Detroit is known as the ‘Home of Mowtown’ boasting stars such as Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and The Detroit Spinner. Other great stars include The White Stripes, Aaliyah, Mike Posner and Kid Rock.
Detroit is also known for its once striving automobile industry where one of the leading car manufacturers, Henry Ford, created cars that were available to all Americans and not just the rich. 80% of the world’s cars were once made in Detroit, today its residence feel betrayed by the government.
Detroit is now a complete contrast from what it once used to be, today it is bankrupt. The images that emerge are of empty homes, schools, libraries, factories are dismal and sad.
To get a more clear perspective on the woes of Detroit let me give you some facts:
Sixty percent (60%) of all of Detroit’s children are living in poverty. Fifty percent of the population has been reported to be functionally illiterate. Thirty-three percent (33%) of Detroit’s 140 square miles is vacant or derelict. Eighteen percent (18%) of the population is unemployed and 10.6% of Detroit’s 713,777 residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, considered themselves white.
Economic woes, racism, violence and the uneducated many all combined together have caused the largest American city to fall.
What has fascinated me the most about this city is its rich culture and history, its once thriving spirit and the bright lights that have slowly dimmed. It has been at the centre of many controversial issues but has always attempted to fight back in an attempt to become what it used to.
Seeing the images today make me want to visit Detroit, walk through the empty libraries perhaps find a literary great to read. Walk through the factories to take in the smell of gasoline. Take photographs of its history because this is history, this is what people will remember.
With an investment from the government and a new mayor to be elected, Detroit citizens are hoping, praying that they can find a job, have an income, send their children to school for a good education, not have to wait half an hour for police or ambulance services to arrive and not have to be worried about being robbed or assaulted. After all these are the basic rights that tax paying citizens should have according to the American constitution.
Beyoncé recently played tribute to Detroit ending her concert with a quote from Henry Ford, ‘Failure is simply the opportunity to start over, this time more intelligently’
This, I believe is the beginning to an end.