So we’ve reached the last week of the program, and my final weekend in the city is winding down. We had a group meeting as a cohort a few days ago (we had food from Louisiana Creole Gumbo, which was probably one the best meals I’ve ever eaten), where we did some final reflections, and we read the initial essays from our applications as to why we wanted to do the program. Coming into this program, I wanted to learn more about the history of the city and how it factors into the present, and as it’s coming to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I will be taking away from my time here.
During this program, I took a class that I really enjoyed called the “History of Black Detroit” and I think that this class was quintessential to my experience in terms of my understanding of the city and its present state. So there are four other students who also intern at Clark Park, they attend Notre Dame and are known collectively as the Notre Dame boys. Anyway, their program is made up of only internships, they do three of them, but they were provided with no background information about the city. I think that that’s a serious issue when it comes to a lot of the internships and opportunities that are available to students. Instead of learning within the area and what the community says they would like, you just do the internship and don’t learn about the city’s past and present.
I came into this program knowing very little about the city. I think a lot of the misconceptions that arrive about the city come from people who have been fed this narrative of danger and crime, and are thus too scared of the city to even visit. Granted, all cities have their issues and the story of Detroit is not a simple one, but this program gave me the opportunity to get to know and explore a city and its population, as it’s the longest time I’ve spent living in an urban place, let alone Detroit. Detroit is a compelling story of what it means to be “coming back” as the downtown and Midtown area are developed by a small amount of business people, it’s easy to overlook the problems that still face the city outside of the “7.2,” which is the area that’s being developed. The city has a rich history of both triumphs and hardships, and I think a statement that’s really resonated with my experience in college and this program specifically is, “the more I learn the less I know.” I don’t want to sound like I’ve figured out all the solutions to the problems that the city faces in the three months that I’ve been here, but I’ve definitely learned a lot about the current developments and issues that it faces. This city is not something that needs “saving”, it’s a city that needs to learn from its past and work with the community to build a stronger foundation for the future population, rather than ignoring the rest of the city solely in favor of a strip of development. My understanding of the city is something that I plan to continue to explore, as I feel as at times I feel my time in the city has just scratched the surface.