The Airbus Chronicles: Detroit

My first trip to Detroit I was 7 years old. My mother had just married my step-father – whom I lovingly refer to as ‘pops’ – and we were headed to Detroit to meet the rest of his family. I do not remember much that happened during that trip, but I remember the images.

As we drove through the streets to my grandmother’s house, my eyes widened. I had never seen buildings ravished by fire or just down-right abandoned still standing and being stripped for it’s copper piping. Never seen bullet proof glass in fast-food restaurants. Had never seen bars on everyone’s windows. And as we walked up my grandmother’s steps I took in another first, I had never seen bullet holes in the siding of a house.

Perhaps the most striking image of my first visit to Detroit — I had never seen women, black women, walking the streets with chains, pipes, and baseball bats. My mother was mortified, but I was fascinated! In 1991 there was a serial rapist harassing the female population in the city of Detroit. And my sistas being the strong women they are, refusing to be his next victim, were walking the streets with their protection visible. That was all anyone had ever talked about on the at the house, on the block, and in the news. I thought it was great!

I had not been back to Detroit in 4 years. I had not planned on going, but the Aiyana Jones event [if you don’t know what happened, look it up] compelled me to make the trip with my family and observe the buzz in the city. So I took a quick weekend trip.

Keep in mind this is solely from my vantage point in 2 days as an outsider —

Sadly, the ride in was much of the same. Buildings and homes still standing, but crumbling and abandoned – the very same buildings from ’91 plus some. The only buildings that seemed untouched were the church buildings. Bars still lined the windows and doors of house, after house. And the bullet holes in the siding of my grandmother’s house are still there.

This trip I did learn about how the city is divided. I appears that Woodward is the street that runs north and south and dictates whether you’re on the east side of Detroit or the west side of Detroit. North of 8 Mile Road, which runs east to west, you think you’re in an entirely different place. Few if any abandoned buildings, storefront business and strip malls. Nothing elaborate, but no where near the dilapidation.

In ways it is worse that I remember. The bust of the american car factories, combined with today’s current economic situation left Detroit nearly desolate. But not all lost, according to the local residents. I heard several people talk about hidden gems in the city – though none offered to share what or where they were.

I spoke with more women than men about the Aiyana Jones situation from my limited scope of conversations several women, even women with young daughters, appeared desensitized. They were either uninformed about the incident and it’s details, or shook their heads in disgust but were simply glad that it wasn’t them. Not the chain and baseball bat toting sistas I remembered from before. The few men I was able to speak with overwhelmingly blamed the father. Not one person I was able to speak with on this short trip even touched on the police’s responsibility in the situation.

While I was there, the Heal Detroit Peace Rally was happening. I’m not sure if this is an annual rally, but this year it was focused on bridging the gaps between East & West Detroit, in light of the murder of Aiyana Jones. I did not make it down until the end of the rally, but everything appeared to have been peaceful and there was residue of a decent sized crowd. I’m still looking to connect with the event coordinator to get more details.

What I observed from this trip was the Detroit is in dire need of unity and building – physical builders & mental builders that come from the community. It needs some of everything – except churches, it’s got plenty of those. I know there is good work happening in Detroit, because despite the way the city looks it’s got some of the kindest people I’ve met.

How do we stand with the residents that are doing the work? What can we offer to aid in the build-up of our bothers and sisters there? I am seeking the answers to those questions. I’m already planning a longer trip back. So with that, this chronicle entry is to be continued…

***The Airbus Chronicles will be a series of my personal observations of various cities and communities I observe on my travels across the country and the world. Particularly as they relate to the Afrikan community. ***


~ by RealmDeity on July 6, 2010.

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