8/9 – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program


I remember one of the application prompts to the DCBRP asked something along the lines of ‘What do you see as Detroit’s future?’

I had been out of Detroit for pretty much all of my developed mind, and so I started googling prospects for the City. It turned up with economic development plans, tech-industry investments, and even a few stories about a burgeoning art scene.

The prompt question was just slightly pointed enough to make me skeptical of all that I read though. So I did a few counter-searches, and I talked to my Dad, and found myself in a land of problems so present and systemic that I felt like I couldn’t possibly answer the prompt in the words provided.

I did my best though, and I sent in my application, and few months later I was sent home with How to Kill a City. I spent an entire day flipping through its pages, and researching all its referenced videos and articles. The book granted me numbers, and stories, and a name and a frame for all these themes I had seen appear across media. It brought gentrification further away from a perspective, and closer to an inarguable injustice.

Having that experience, and having read what happened in San Francisco, Detroit, and New Orleans definitely influenced my experience staying in Midtown.

In a more simple way, it made me drive the roads instead of the freeways to my placement, and made me conscious of everywhere I visited and ate.

In more complicated ways, it completely shaped how I functioned in my internship for the city. Instead of being ‘off-put’ by some of the dilapidated houses I door-knocked, I was ‘off-put’ by a meetings celebrating corporate interests. Instead of having skepticism for the Detroiters I interviewed, I had skepticism for the Mayor’s development plans. 

I know there’s still a lot more I need to learn about the City of Detroit. And I know there’s a lot I need to learn about cities, development, and gentrification in general. But I know for having read How to Kill a City, and for my time here in the DCBRP, I will be asking the right questions along the way, and I’ll be having my discomfort and skepticism in the right place.

1 thought on “8/9”

  1. I’m glad that this experience and the book made you more conscious of your actions. I’m sure you can take these skills and put them into future endeavors. In my own life, I’m starting to change the same things

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