My “Like” Letter to Detroit
October 21, 1978 at Hutzel Hospital, Detroit, MI: where the magnificence of Jenifer Raquel West began. Detroit born and bred, public school educated, west side resident. Detroit is me and I am she.
My grandfather worked for GM, my grandmother for Wayne County Community College. My father is a Northern Jaybird, my mother a (Cass) Techie, and me — a King Crusader. You can’t tell me I am not a Detroiter. I spent my Sunday’s at 1300 Beaubien Street watching my dad play in the Detroit Police Athletic League games (PAL) and my summers at St. Cecilia and River Rouge Days watching the likes of Derrick Coleman, Steve Smith, and Chris Webber.
I danced my way through the Bob-lo boat rides and play hooky during Senior Skip Days at Belle Isle.
But you know how life sometimes goes. You find that although you have everything that it takes to make it, you are not quite where you want to be. Yeah, you’ve gone to college, but maybe you can’t pass that BioChem class. You just snagged that internship at the firm, but you can’t seem to get your boss to take you seriously. And yeah, you have the best friends in the world but they never seem to want to chip in on gas money. We’ve all been there. Right now, Detroit is going there.
Detroit has just filed for bankruptcy. The Emergency manager Kevyn Orr has just declared that not only is Detroit broke, but that it can’t pass BioChem, the boss doesn’t like her, and no one has $5 on the gas.
So why write a “like” letter and not a “love’” letter? Simply because (right now) I don’t love Detroit. I think it all started when I was sixteen. At that time, I was living across the street from Belle Isle. Belle Isle is the place to be as a teen or young adult. Imagine being lucky enough to have your own island in the city. What would you do with it? Well, we let her down. At one time with no monies to financially support it, we closed our zoo and aquarium (thankfully they reopened in 2012 but were not what they used to be) and let the public restrooms become dumps.
And when folks stepped up the plate to say “hey, we’ve found a way to pay for it”, residents balked saying that it was just a way to steal our resources . . . resources that we all of a sudden started to care about.
And get this, while I was in high school we had one really nice bathroom. So nice that you’d risk getting detention if you were caught out of your ‘”zone” loitering in the halls. But it was the only one with toilet tissue. Yes, you read correctly, toilet tissue. All the others didn’t have any because it had been stolen or dropped in the toilet as a prank.
So yeah, I love Coney Island restaurants and I love Olga’s and I love Faygo pop and I love the Pistons, Tigers, Lions, and Red Wings. But I only like Detroit.
Don’t get it twisted, this is not a “dis” post — it’s a cry for help. Although I live in Charlotte, NC, I still own a home in the suburbs (which is more proof of my likestory) and I still pay taxes to support city services. But my husband and I purchased that home in 2004 because we wanted to improve our quality of life. And because we liked our tires.
All the things that make up Detroit, make up me. Detroit is me and I am she. But there are times that you have to admit that you don’t like the person (or city) that you’ve become. And that is okay. So I’ll always root for her and the day that I can fall back in love with the city I can’t get enough of. The city that introduced me to “farm to table” before it was hot (Eastern Market). The city that taught me to speak my mind. The city that made me the optimist and a realist at the same time. The city that even inspired me to write this post. Until then, she’s just alright.