It was a question I had had for some time. I wanted to really know what gentrification looked like in action, what it did, I wanted to know whether someone raised in the suburbs could enter Detroit in a way that felt appropriate or ethical. In a way that felt natural. I believe I have found the simple answer is that I don’t belong here. I do not belong here despite the welcome I have received from the community I work in, the friendship I have with my classmates, or my conscious effort to respect those who are already here. I simply don’t belong in the end.
I think it is better to say that I don’t have a place here. I live in a neighborhood that I don’t necessarily love, don’t feel like it has my vibe. Midtown/Cass Corridor is a neighborhood that belongs to white 20-something professionals who have moved into Detroit to be trendy and contribute to gentrification (often unknowingly). And despite even living in Wayne State University housing here, it doesn’t feel like a place that fits for college students. The life I want to live is not something that can happen here, where everything closes by 9 PM and my only friends are mostly under-aged and all live on the same corner. It is not to say anything about the neighborhood around me in the abstract, but rather how I fit into it, how I don’t. If I had a community in the neighborhood it would be different, but I have the strange situation of being in a group that is insular as a consequence of design. So right now, my life in Midtown is not a life where I feel like I belong.
Grandmont Rosedale, on the other hand, is a place where I could and do see myself fitting in more. I am friends with all of my coworkers, who are mostly neighborhood residents, and I have started to make connections to the local community. The tree-lined streets and large parks remind me of home back in Troy, and the community is strong and active, with young people, families, and every sort of group in the city represented and living happily together. It feels like a place where I could one day belong or become a community member. But even then, there is still something about it that I don’t know about. There is still a worry about what place I am allowed to have as someone from the suburbs in this space. But at the very least I am able to feel comfortable in Grandmont Rosedale in a way I never could in Midtown or Downtown.