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Last week, President Obama gave his eighth and final State of the Union address, a sweeping retrospective of the broader goals and challenges of his entire presidency. Tonight, Governor Snyder will give his State of the State address, which is expected to focus mainly on the Flint water crisis and the future of the Detroit Public Schools. And, in a few weeks, Detroit Mayor, Mike Duggan will give his second state of the city address as the chief executive of Detroit, and he will predictably emphasize the continuing so-called "renaissance" of our city.
While I don't always pay attention to the specific details in these annual reflections by our elected officials; I find the reflective exercise quite useful and the overarching themes and narratives helpful to unpack and deconstruct. Indeed, how those we elect (and those running for office!) see the world we live in - whether we vote for them or not - and how they talk about the current condition of our communities - are important messages to listen to and try to understand. Certainly, whenever Detroit is mentioned in such "state-of" speeches by VIPs, my ears perk up and I become hyper-vigilant. "What are they saying? Why are they saying it? What did they mean?"
To be honest, however, when it comes to assessing the current state of Detroit, I am much more likely to pay attention to the words and ideas of Semester in Detroit's community partners. Since our start in 2008, SID is privileged to have developed meaningful, substantive and sustained relationships with a wide range of community-based organizations, activists, public officials, community experts, and cultural worker-artists (see list here). These incredibly committed, smart and decent Detroit folk have mentored and educated, as well as danced and laughed with our students, staff and faculty; and our program is forever grateful for these invaluable friendships. Their perspectives on this growing and changing city are important to uplift and pay careful attention to.
Yesterday, for example, at an UM Detroit Center MLK event, I heard Sarida Scott Montgomery, Executive Director of CDAD (Community Development Advocates of Detroit, which has hosted a few of our students as interns), speak about the current struggle to develop support for a community benefits ordinance. The idea is simple: if you were a rich developer who wants to build/open something new in Detroit, such an ordinance - if passed by the city - would legally require you to bring measurable and concrete benefits to Detroit citizens and neighborhoods. Of course, while the principle behind the ordinance may be straightforward, the politics are a whole different story. Fortunately, because Sarida is part of Semester in Detroit's broader learning community, all of us can benefit from her wisdom, experience and struggles to build a better Detroit. We'll learn from her organization's work on this important struggle, contribute in the modest ways we can, and stay connected with and supportive of their larger mission.
The several dozens of SID alumni who now live and/or work in Detroit are also invaluable members of our learning community and provide unique windows into the "state of the city". They help our incoming students decide where to intern; they share tips about living in Detroit and how to engage with the City respectfully; and they open their apartments and homes for community dinners. Moreover, they work for organizations across the city, from Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, to the Michigan Science Center, Detroit Police Department, Cesar Chavez Academy, Russell Street Deli, Racquet Up Detroit, Are You Human?, and Back Alley Bikes - and from all of these vantage points, they help us to learn about the "state" of Detroit in 2016.
So, in the spirit of annual reflections that begin the new year, and in the first of my monthly blog posts, I issue this challenge to our SID community partners and SID alumni: share with us your perspectives on the state of Detroit in 2016. Forget about all the so-called VIPs. What do you think? Write a few sentences, a few paragraphs, or ramble on like I just did, and we'll post it to this community blog. This way, everyone in our growing learning community can learn from your perspectives and experience. And we can keep these important conversations and struggles moving forward.
Surely we have plenty to say ourselves - and our faculty and staff will also be sharing their perspectives on this community blog as well. But, as always, we're much more interested in what you have to say. So tell us, "what's the state of Detroit-city in 2016?"
Send your reflections to Alana Hoey Moore, SID Blog Editor, and will make sure to publish them to this blog as quickly as possible.
For now, happy new year! We look forward to seeing you around the 'D!