Detroit's Creative Class Works Towards City's Recovery

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

After a recent "Dateline: NBC" documentary angered Detroit residents with what they called an overly negative portrayal of the city, we thought to talk with residents well-versed in creating positive imagery: Detroit's creative class.

We speak with Toby Barlow, author of "Sharp Teeth" and Chief Creative Officer for marketing group Team Detroit. He helps us look at the city from the eyes of some of those people most committed to its economic and cultural recovery, who are proving instrumental to its urban revitalization efforts.


Toby Barlow

Comments [2]

Tova Perlmutter

I thought my comment would go through an editor, who would remove my personal cell phone number. Please delete that section if possible. Thanks.

Apr. 28 2010 07:18 PM
Tova Perlmutter from Detroit

I want to point to two problems with Dateline’s coverage of Detroit. First, the program suggested that when things go wrong, it’s because of bad individuals, and any chance of positive change is because of good individuals. It’s not sexy and sensationalist to talk about policy and structural constraints. But one of the key reasons for Detroit’s troubles is the decades of investment and subsidies our society has made in suburbia, at the expense of cities and all they provide.

Second, the program showed individuals struggling with enormous problems, but didn’t cover the positive, functioning institutions or organizations that Detroiters use to make change. To me it implied that black people make good or bad decisions as individuals, with no social context, while white people—suburbanites—make organizations and projects, which can save those poor African-American city people.

That’s a crude, false picture. The reality is that our city and region have many smart, energetic and dedicated people—of all races—who come together in thoughtful ways to build institutions. We are not a third-world city. We have loads of skills, assets and capacity. But we are crippled by a national economy and government that have abandoned urbanism as a value, and a society that often looks away when the communities suffering are people of color.

I run a national nonprofit based in Detroit (see, and would like very much to be part of your radio coverage of the city and the positive work being done.

Apr. 28 2010 07:13 PM

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