Most people, at least those of a certain age, know something about Detroit's story.
It was once a booming metropolis, home to the auto industry and a blue collar, middle class haven. But the decline of the auto industry, white flight, disinvestment and mismanagement led to Detroit's dramatic decline and eventual bankruptcy. The city became a shell of itself, literally.
A hold your nose bankruptcy process allowed Detroit to start a comeback, emphasis on start. Unless you've visited Detroit and its neighborhoods, and I have, it's hard to fathom the depths of its decline. It has a long way to go but maybe there's hope.
I interviewed Detroit environmental justice advocate Michelle Martinez last week for my Great Lakes Now work. A Detroiter, Martinez had left and returned. I asked what brought her back to the decimated city. She was young with a graduate degree from the University of Michigan. She could have gone anywhere and didn't have to return to Detroit to do justice work.
She responded, "We have neighborhoods that bind together in hardship. And more, brilliant art and culture has emerged from this struggle. That part of the fabric of Detroit is what inspires me. Beyond the corporate bailouts and the shiny downtown, there are real families in neighborhoods and communities that have endured over these many years by locking arms and creating community."
I was stunned by her comments. I've interviewed dozens of people and never once has an interview caused me to reflect like this one did. Either Martinez is a hopeless optimist or she knows something most don't.
I share this as Detroit, writ large, is part of my fabric too. I was raised in the Downriver area and even though I haven't lived there for decades, I'm still from there.
Good to know as you read these pages.
Follow Gary on Twitter at @garyglx5
Chicago-based environmental journalist