My grandmother lived to over one hundred years of age. One of the things I will always remember about her was her abiding faith in young people. All her life, she enjoyed spending time with children and teenagers. She found they buoyed her sense of optimism and kept her young at heart.
Whenever I see youth taking the initiative to build something, I think about my grandmother.
Recently, my son forwarded a link about a video project that explores how young people in Detroit see new possibilities in the resurgence of their city. While many media reports have focused on Detroit's blight, this perspective is refreshingly different. We've all heard how the city has staggered under the crippling blows of the collapsed housing market, the world banking crisis and the subsequent near-death experience of the auto sector. Many sections of Detroit do indeed look like parts of New Orleans after Katrina. The city faces monumental challenges.
But the essence of Detroit runs deeper than the highs and lows of the auto industry. Thanks to the "can do" attitude of growing numbers of young people, Detroit survives and is very much alive, reinventing itself in new and unpredictable ways.
In the mini-documentary, posted on the Palladium Boots website and presented by actor Johnny Knoxville, one gets a sense of a city within a city. In one sequence, for example, the producers talk to long-time resident and club owner Larry D'Mongo about a desolate part of town. D'Mongo explains, in his own characteristic way, how he came to open his Cafe' D'Mongo in that location:
"When I first left, I always tell people, the pigeons had left. I mean there wuz no homeless, no nothin'. About five years ago, I saw white girls running down the street. Now, in the past, everybody would call 911, like, 'who's chasin' em?' ... (but)I realized that they were joggin'. And I said, 'Am I in Detroit?' "
"And these kids who live down here; they kept aggravatin' me, knockin' on the windows: 'Sir, please open, please open.' "
"I said, 'Okay, I'll open.' "
The pictures tell an interesting story. It's a story about new uses for abandoned urban spaces, of creativity, modern soul and entrepreneurship from the young and proud.
Check out the video. It's in three parts, shot in 2010. The first part on its own is enough to give you a sense of this alternative, up-beat perspective of a city coming to life again. The project is called Detroit Lives.
Detroit picture courtesy of Anttank (Maha Rashi), Michigan.