Blog 1: Welcome to Midtown – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Blog 1: Welcome to Midtown

Welcome To Midtown Sign captured on my first morning run in Detroit
Welcome To Midtown Sign captured on my first morning run in Detroit

Dear Self;

You’re officially moved in! The bags are unpacked, the roommate met, the carpools…yet to be worked out. But you’re here! You’ve made it! Yet, by the time you read this again you will officially be almost done: the bags will be packed, the roommate well known and….well, who knows about the carpools. Hopefully you, future self. Hopefully you.

But let’s start where we are meant to: at the beginning. I can’t tell for sure what the next ten weeks will hold, but I can say what I expect. I hope that as the next ten weeks unravel, I’ll absorb so much information I’ll be a sponge… an accurate metaphor, since most of what I’ll be learning will be centered around water. But not only water, of course. Though I am hoping to gain insight into the water systems, the political complexities and the iffy suburb-city ties that are all part of the immense privitization controversy Detroit is embroiled in…. I’m fully aware that the academic and the statistical can’t be the limits of my experience. I want to gain an appreciation for the communities in Detroit in a respectful way. I want to learn the highway systems and the streets, so I don’t have to look at a map to know if Grand River and Warren intersect or not. I want to eat, see, listen, dance and read my way through what Detroit has to offer….because I know for a certainty that the offerings are there.

I know the offerings are there because I’ve sampled some of them. A lifelong resident of the metro-Detroit ‘burbs, I’ve come down to Detroit for DIA visits with my parents, concerts and parties with my friends, and bike rides along Belle Isle. I’ve never seen Detroit as being only one thing: either an Auto Town, or a ghetto, or a visceral experience for rich kids every once in a while. My perception of Detroit has always been that it is many things and more. Sure, there are bad parts of town. I’m not optimistically blind to blight. There are areas you don’t want to walk alone, there are muggings, crimes, corruption…..but really, don’t you find these in every large city? And in Detroit, you also find the Riverwalk, the museums, cool people, new ideas. So yes, there are abandoned homes. There are empty factories. But there are also impassioned start ups, corporations galore and diligent non profits.

Speaking of non-profits. I’m now a proud intern at Food and Water Watch, and for all that they will give me, I owe them something back. I’m setting out to find, manage, and analyze a data collection of water rates and shut offs… data that will help form a picture of what privitization will mean for the water system. I want to leave this issue with some solid statistical facts to base their campaigns upon. So though the academic and the statistical might not be the limits of my experience, they will certainly still be a part of it.


First Week Freida

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