Founded in 1701 by the French explorer and adventurer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, and located on the border of Canada Detroit is the largest city in the state of Michigan. With a population of around 5.5 million people, the city’s economy and survival is built around the automotive industry. General Motors have their global Headquarters here, as well as major plants of Ford, and Daimler Chrysler. Oh and not to forget the town that gave us the music from the likes of Diana Ross, Eminem, Stevie Wonder, Motown Rage, Della Reese, Madonna (born in Bay City!), Martha Reeves, Aaliyah...and so many others. World renowned for its Detroit Symphony Orchestra and music celebrities, the area has a long and rich heritage, including several Platinum artists in different genres whose recordings had surpassed forty million copies by the year 2000.
This is my first time to the United States of America, and it’s interesting that I happen to be in a city that is not really strongly representative of the whole country. The city of Detroit has gone through a lot in recent times. My first impressions after landing were that there is not much happening here. One of my first few questions to my taxi driver included ‘Where is everyone?!’. The roads are not busy, and on the way from the airport to my hotel, I came across many derelict buildings, most of them former factories or just left empty by people who could not pay their taxes. According to official statistics, between 2000 and 2010, the city's population fell by around 26%, from the nation's 10th largest city to 18th. In 2010, the city had a population of around 714,000, more than a 61% drop down from a peak population of over 1.8 million at the 1950 census, indicating a serious and long-running decline of Detroit's economic strength. If there was one city that had strong signs of a depriving global economy, then in my opinion it would be Detroit. In some parts of the city, it just feels like a ghost town.
Part of this decline may have to contribute to the history of the city. During the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Detroit witnessed some of the worst confrontations between the police and inner city black youth, culminating in the Twelfth Street race riots in July 1967- which went on for over a month. Governor George W. Romney ordered the Michigan National Guard into Detroit, and President Johnson sent in U.S. Army troops. The sad result was 43 dead, 467 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. This also resulted in thousands of small businesses being closed permanently or relocated to safer neighbourhoods around the state or country. The impact of those riots have had a long lasting impression on Detroit and the affected districts lay in ruins for decades- even today the scars of those riots can be seen as in some parts of the city most buildings are derelict. As of 2010, the mean income of Detroit is below the overall U.S. average by several thousand dollars. Of every three Detroit residents, one lives in poverty. Luke Bergmann, author of Getting Ghost: Two Young Lives and the Struggle for the Soul of an American City, said in 2010, "Detroit is now one of the poorest big cities in the country."
While taking a drive around town, my friend told me that the American government and the local Michigan State government are trying their best to bring business back to Detroit however without much avail. The city has a strong baseball team (Detroit Tigers), and a very good American Football team too (Detroit Lions). It comes across that apart from the automotive industry, which itself is suffering because of the outsourcing to growing economies such as India, Brazil, Mexico, and China, there is little else that Detroit has to offer. There are a handful of Casinos in the Greek town of the city, however that’s mostly for touristy purposes and is not really fuelling the economy of the local area.
I don’t want to make it sound like Detroit is a bad city at all, and it’s not all doom and gloom here. It’s a nice, and quiet city. Above all else one must bear in mind that Detroit is an industrial city and where ever in the world you have an economy being fuelled by heavy industry you are not always going to have that neat blend of being a touristy city as well as an industrial city. The same I suppose goes for Seattle which is home to Starbucks, Boeing, Microsoft and others, but its not a touristy city at all. There are many other examples around the world.
There are many beautiful parts to Detroit as well. Like every city in the world, Detroit does posses a few jewels, such as the Grosse Pointe Shores area, which is an affluent suburb on the shores of Lake St Clair. This area is home to A-Listers, government officials and Captains of Industry. Then there are pockets of nice area outside of the main Detroit area such as Rochester, Ann Arbour (home to Michigan University Campus), Troy, and Shelby Township.
So here are some photos I have taken of life in Detroit.
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