In my short time working with Detroiters and learning more about the city firsthand, I’ve learned a lot about people’s attitudes towards their communities. Detroiters are proud of where they’re from, probably more so than most other people. They care about their community and they don’t want to see it taken advantage of like has happened in the past. I’m working with my site on a project relating to the Bel Air Shopping Center in Northeast Detroit. The property was recently bought up by the trucking magnate, Matty Moroun, who allegedly intends to demolish the shopping center and turn it into a trucking depot. The community response to this has been tremendous. The people of Northeast Detroit don’t want to lose their beloved community center only to have it replaced with exponentially increased truck traffic and more damage to their roads. Members of the community have banded together with their councilman, Scott Benson, and with multiple nonprofit organizations like Nortown CDC in order to oppose the demolition of the Bel Air property. The collective community effort that has arisen from this circumstance is inspiring, and I believe that it has the potential to triumph over the machinations of the powerful billionaire.
With regard to COVID-19, the pandemic has definitely made life very difficult for a lot of people in the Detroit community. Life in the city has been irrevocably altered with loss of jobs and even simple tasks becoming impossible, not to mention the many victims who have been infected or died. There are some glimmers of hope however, as the city has transitioned to online forms of communication and administration. For example, all zoning hearings are now held via Zoom which allows members of the community to attend remotely. Previously, residents would have had to drive downtown and attend the hearing in person, often early in the morning. Not everyone has the luxury of easy transportation or availability at such times. Now that it is online, the processes of government and administration are more accessible for a wider array of people. I hope that when the city eventually resumes in-person hearings, that they continue to employ some form of virtual communication so that the newfound accessibility that came with this pandemic does not disappear.