In conjunction with our affiliate WDET and with support in part by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Takeaway is looking at Detroit as a microcosm of what is happening in communities across the country, and talking to people who are working to re-energize, revive and re-imagine their city.
WDET's reporters have offered up a host of compelling stories about Detroit residents, from a clothing designer's rise to fame with the help of platinum-selling rappers, to a health clinic's coalition of Muslim and Jewish doctors who care for the working poor. Explore with us as we look at some of the country's most imaginative citizens, building new communities and businesses in The Motor City.
Economically, Detroit is arguably a city fighting to diversify, reimaging itself everyday as a hub of entrepreneurship. But socially, some say, Motown is stuck in neutral, still weighed down by decades of racial divisions and a reputation as one of the most segregated cities in America.
"Racism continues to cast a shadow over southeast Michigan, and we are still feeling the impact,” said Thomas Costello. Costello is CEO of The Michigan Roundtable, a human rights group that’s come up with what it considers a bold idea to tackle issues of race in Detroit: an independent truth commission on racial inequality.
Anyone watching the American economy might question what it means to have job security 2011. In Detroit this week, a group of national community organizers will be taking the question to the extreme as they ponder: What does it mean to work? The traditional answer—get a job and keep it—is suddenly beyond the reach of so many Americans, that the very definition of work must be re-imagined; say organizers of the Reimagining Work conference.
America’s shrinking cities might want to take note of a new alternative bubbling up from Detroit’s ongoing battle with blight. In truth, the idea is more old school than new: Why demolish when you could deconstruct and re-purpose the remains of ruin into a job creation tool?
Detroit is besieged with at least 60,000 reasons to consider the question. That is the number of abandoned homes and buildings around the city, depending on who’s counting. In fairness, the question belongs to a number of American cities where demolition has long seemed the only alternative. But the concept of deconstruction is rising to challenge that conventional notion in the city perhaps most synonymous with decay.
Great works of art have come to the streets of Detroit as part of a new exhibition called Inside/Out. Proving that art can also be enjoyed outside of museum walls, The Detroit Institute of Arts has brought life-size reproductions of famous masterpieces to the streets, parks and concrete facades of Detroit. This is the second year for the Inside Out project, following its initial success in 2010. But this year, the Institute expanded the program to include more communities, and even more classic paintings.
If Michigan legislators have their way, the state could soon be home to some of the most permissive charter school regulations in the nation.
Michigan, and Detroit in particular, is widely seen as one of the epicenters for a number of experimental school reforms. The recently introduced legislation aiming to relax the cap on charter school growth, follows a move, earlier this year, that essentially placed the worst performing schools in the Detroit Public School system into a separate district. The city and the state have been rallying to overcome U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s declaration, last year, that DPS was “arguably the worst urban school district in the country.’’
But in the push to implement sweeping school reform, some veteran educators say Detroit and the state may be missing an opportunity to make student and classroom-centered changes.
Detroit and Berlin both know something about abandoned buildings. After the fall of the wall when the former east opened up, parts of Berlin looked a lot like Detroit today, where scores of buildings stood unclaimed, their purpose unclear. While officials worked on a city’s future, Germans like Dimitri Hegemann, relished in exploring the relics of Berlin’s industrial past.
"We were very curious...so when I could go in… I was curious like a young boy," he says. "What is this building? Oh, it’s empty? Let’s look inside. And this happened 1,000 times. We just invaded. This was, you must understand, the frame of these days. The atmosphere was burning. It was an amazing situation."
You don't have to be an urban planner to know that cheap quality space can mean artists, and artists can mean revitalization. With a video slide show, Martina Guzman of WDET tells the stories of artists who have moved or even returned to Detroit and Berlin, not only for the cheap space, but for businesses and manufacturing infrastructure open to their needs.
Detroit has long been called the birthplace of techno, and helped bring house music to a global stage in the 1980s — the kind of impact that still resonates around the world today, in the form of tens of thousands of auditory permutations. Berlin, which gave rise to "The Berlin School" of electronic music in the 1970s, has been equally influential — and is still a pilgrimage destination for DJs and electronic music aficionados from all over the world. So it's no surprise that DJ Rolando, internationally-known techno DJ from Detroit, is also a favorite in Berlin.
WDET's Martina Guzman spent six weeks in the German city of Berlin, exploring a long-recognized but underreported connection between that former manufacturing giant and the Motor City. In this post, which you can hear from the radio here, she gives a first-person account of visiting Berlin and talking with several people that recognize the connection between the two cities, especially their diminished but still "sexy" industrial prowess.
Two cities, both alike in industry: Detroit, U.S.A. and Berlin, Germany. In a recent series for WDET, Martina Guzman explored the similarities and differences between the two iconic hubs of industry that came into their own in the 20th century.
Jennifer Granholm was the governor of Michigan from 2002 to 2010. Those eight years were some of the most turbulent in the history of the state. Governor Granholm led Michigan through a number of factory shut-downs, a serious recession with skyrocketing unemployment, and, of course, the auto bailout in 2008. Governor Granolm and her husband, Dan Mulhern, describe these challenges and much more in their new book, "A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America's Economic Future."
The push to re-imagine Detroit as a national Mecca for creative entrepreneurs takes another leap forward, starting September 21, with the new Detroit Design Festival, eight days and nights of crowd-sourcing ideas, talents and urban solutions.. The city has been making global headlines of late for its ability to draw young artists from all over the country and from every genre on the promise of cheap real estate and rich creative opportunity. This festival marks the first major showcase of creative Detroit and the potential local and relocating artists have to transform one of America’s anchor rust belt cities.
Four years ago, the United Auto Workers Union allowed the three Detroit auto makers to put in place a two-tier system for paying employees, which allowed them to continue to functioning and stay in business as they struggled to stay afloat. New hires were given a salary around $14 an hour, while their tier-one counterparts were making almost double that. The system has helped increase employment in Detroit and kept the auto giants from tanking, but many people say it's unfair.
The economy has yet to recover from the great recession as nation’s unemployment numbers remain bleak at 9.1 percent. That number is worse in Michigan, where the unemployment rate is 10.9 percent. One solution to this problem may be for more people to start businesses. The costs of starting up a business may be lower now than in pre-recession times.
Independent local fashion designer Adriana Pavon has a vision that could one day do for fashion made in Detroit, what Berry Gordy once did with Hitsville USA, Motown's precursor. Yes, Pavon, 35, really believes her Detroit Fashion Collective, a new incubation, production and showroom space for designers and fashion creatives, could eventually be just that big of a hit.
The Takeaway has been focusing on education this week, as students have been heading back to school across the country. Today, a look at one school, Detroit's Catherine Ferguson Academy. With a $327 million deficit and huge cuts in funding and employment, the public school system in Detroit has entered worrisome times. Catherine Ferguson Academy, a unique school that caters specifically to young mothers and pregnant teenagers, was almost closed as a result of the deficit, but students, teachers, politicians, and advocates rallied to save it.
The film adaptation of “The Help” has been out since last week, and reviews are mixed. Some say the film depicts the lives of African-American domestic workers with too much levity. Discussions abound about the movie's treatment of the sensitive relationship between white women and black domestic servants — many of them negative.
Last week, the Library of Congress named Philip Levine as the next poet laureate, succeeding W.S. Merwin. Previous writers who were awarded that title include Robert Frost, Billy Collins, and Maxine Kumin. Levine was once an auto plant worker in Detroit, and that city became the basis for many of his poems. Levine joins us from his home in Fresno, California and talks about his reputation as a working class poet.
The nation's debt crisis has all eyes on the politicians on Capitol Hill. But we wanted to know how the debt crisis is playing out in different cities across the country — what local fears and concerns are, and what people have to say about what's happening in the District of Columbia. We headed to Denver, Colo., Detroit, Mich., and Miami, Fla. to hear what people have to say about the current debt crisis.
Motown, the city that set the world on wheels, now wants the world to consider calling it home.
“Immigrants: come. You’re welcome here.’’ That’s the message at the heart of a new effort by policy leaders to roll out a global welcome mat to immigrants, particularly foreign-born students.
They paint a picture of a future Detroit where some of the more than 31,000 currently vacant homes are returned to stability by immigrants, foreign-born students and entrepreneurs with business acumen strong enough to help reverse the economic decline. Immigration, leaders say, equals solutions.