Well, reading over my initial letter to myself, I think that I have fulfilled most of what I wanted to accomplish this summer. I explored the city and its boroughs, made an impact in my organization, kept an open mind, and learned more about the socio-economic history of Detroit than I ever thought possible. Still, I could have explored more and there is still so much to learn!
Overall, the past 10 weeks have been very eye opening and humbling for me; eye opening because I have learned about atrocities that have happened in this city such as mismanagement, water-shutoffs and structural racial segregation; and humbling because this experience made me realize some of the things I often take for granted such as socio-economic advantage, legal status and education quality.
Detroit is an interesting place. Most people only see the tip of the iceberg, but THERE IS SO MUCH MORE BELOW THE SURFACE. There are so many amazing things happening in this city: revitalizations, community organizing, inclusive development and social change. Some people call Detroit a “blank canvas,” but I think that negates the incredible people and places that are already thriving here. Detroit is more like a sturdy foundation for real positive change if policy-makers and investors can learn to include long-time Detroiters in their future plans for the city.
During my exit interview, Jenna asked me if I would consider moving to Detroit after graduation. I said maybe, if it didn’t mean that I would be gentrifying. I wonder how white people can move back to the city without gentrifying? Will Southeastern Michigan always be as segregated as it is now? I still have so many unanswered normative questions regarding Metro Detroit and its changing dynamics. I hope to keep learning about the city and the region as I continue my collegiate studies.
I know that throughout college, I will encounter ignorance regarding the city of Detroit. I hope I have the courage to speak up when someone makes a racist/ignorant/naïve comment about the city or its residents. There is still so much work that needs to be done in Detroit, but I think that programs like the Detroit Community Based Research Program can have a lasting positive impact in the city.
This summer, I met some ambitious, motivated and creative people in this program, and I am proud of the work that we all accomplished this summer. Thank you Jenna, Gloria, Ana, Fernanda, José, my fellow DCBRP scholars, and Detroit for making the summer truly life changing.