Passionately Detroit: A New Vision and Action

It was the summer of 1967.  My parents had taken my brother and me to Tiger Stadium in Downtown Detroit to enjoy America’s favorite pastime, baseball.  As best as I can recall, it was a great day at the old ballpark.

After the game we piled in the Chevy Impala and traveled I-75 north toward our home in the suburb. I distinctly recall looking out of the windows and asking my parents, “Why are there so many people standing along the highway looking down?” We continued to look, “Is something on fire? Where is the smoke coming from?” To be honest, mom and dad didn’t think much of it.

When we arrived home the phone was ringing – friends and family members wanted to know if we were okay.  Okay?  Well, why wouldn’t we be okay?

Riots! Haven’t you heard? Riots have broken out in Detroit!

The only thing else I remember about this chapter in my young life was the indelible memory of Moms and Dads sitting in their lawn chairs in their front yards with loaded rifles and shotguns, waiting to fend off any would be looters.

For many 1967 marked the beginning of the end of the great city of Detroit. The once great Detroit settled by the French in 1701 and later ruled by Great Britain.  The same Detroit that survived the great fire of 1805, the same Detroit that was once referred to as the Paris of the west because of its great architecture, Detroit, Motown, the Motor City was crumbling from within.

Following the riots of 1967 the politics of blame ensued as did the politics of handouts and the politics of poverty.

Blame didn’t stop the blight or crime. Handouts didn’t help anyone develop skills and poverty had grown into a generational problem.

Valiant efforts by some left the city wanting for rebirth.  It was nothing but a joke for comedians and an easy target for anyone that wanted to point to failure; it was sad, pitiful, and hopeless.

But something has changed recently in Detroit; that something is people that believe in the City, people with passion and plans, people with money and willing to invest their money and countless hours in something in which they believe.

A beautiful new football stadium downtown was developed, a spectacular baseball stadium with the revitalizing city’s silhouette providing a background on warm summer evenings, new theaters, growing medical facilities, a world class University (Wayne State), the once great architecture now being brought back to life, young “creatives” making the City home, residential lofts…and those visionaries.

Detroit is coming back but it’s not happening by accident, it’s happening because there is a plan and there is action.

A Japanese Proverb says, “Vision without action is a daydream, action without a vision is nightmare.”  But when you have vision and action – look out, these are the ingredients to make extraordinary changes the kind of changes that make history.

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