Detroit My Beloved

I was born in Detroit.  It was a blustery day, no actually Michigan was in the middle of a blizzard and I decided it was time.  My dad drove my mom into Detroit to St. John's and I was born....in the middle of that blizzard.

When I was a wee bit of a girl, my parents often took us on Sunday drives through the city. We might stop at Hudsons and shop, or just do what people did back in the 60s in the inner city: wander the streets, stop at the bakery and pick up our favorite polish sweets Kruschiki, perhaps pick up some kielbasa or cold cuts at Kowalski's Deli.

On a particular July day, my parents were unaware of the raid that took place in the early morning hours on the Blind Pig an illegal bar.  After church that morning we made our way into Detroit down the infamous Grand River Avenue.  On this particular July 23rd day in 1967 the riots in Detroit started. We were stopped at a stop light on Grand River Ave. and suddenly a group of black men came rushing out of a building and started shooting over our car at the police standing across the street. My dad yelled for us all to lay down in the car and he floored it through that red light as well as any others and we raced out of the city.  We had no idea what was taking place until we made it safely home and the newscasters started to report on it. The black inhabitants of Detroit were rioting.

As a young girl growing up I recall driving through Detroit in our made-in-Michigan General Motors car on weekly visits to my grandparent's homes.  My Grandma and Grandpa Daniels (it was Danielczak until my Grandpa and his brother petitioned the court to make it more American sounding) lived in a small bungalow on Duprey in Detroit. My daddy graduated from Denby High.

My grandfather died of cancer of the stomach and black lung on Christmas Eve, three months before I was born.  He was a coal miner in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania prior to moving to Detroit to work in the steel factories.  I suspect we could guess where his cancer came from.  When my grandmother could no longer keep up the house, she sold it and moved in with us as we moved into a new home in Warren.

My grandpa Hausch was a manager at GM, where my father also worked.  That set of grandparents lived in a beautiful Tudor on Westbrook in Redford, backed up to Redford High where my momma graduated.

Detroit was a bustling place when I was a young girl. My parents took us to Belle Isle and Boblo Island, through the tunnel to Windsor, Ontario, Canada and back again over the bridge, we went to the Renaissance Center when it was built and we went to Tiger Stadium for ball games.  We went to the International Freedom Festival every July 4th in conjunction with Canada Day and we watched the Detroit Grand Prix as well as fireworks and visited the international food festival tasting Greek, Polish, and other foods.  We took in the ballet at the grand Fox Theatre and visited the Michigan State Fair where I won 3rd place for one of my Charcoal drawings in high school.  Slowly the city decayed with white flight as people moved out of the arms-length reach of busing. 

By the time I was in high school, it was run by a rather narcissistic man, Mayor Coleman Young who put his name on everything including the zoo. Sadly, the city was run into disrepair and the corruption was so deep, people fled for jobs in the suburbs. I recall going to concert after concert at Cobo Hall and the new Joe Louis Arena and being scared at what this city had become. 

Then I left and moved to California for 5 years and when I came back I did not recognize the city.  It was empty, and people would burn the buildings on Devil's night, the night before Halloween.  Hooligans took over the city and I no longer wanted to be there.  Apparently neither did anyone else and all the broken down, boarded up buildings and homes were tagged by the gangs. 

By the time I had moved to Texas and brought my new husband back to visit Hamtramyck and the Polish Village for some awesome Polish food, the city was really scary.  I mean really, really scary.  My husband, born and raised in Brooklyn was afraid.  We drove by burned out home after home with boarded up windows, tall grass, surly looking dudes on the streets and purple, pink, and white Caddys with tinted windows and booming bass stereos.  Detroit had become a sad caricature of itself.  It became the Detroit as we know it today.

It's no wonder why Detroit has gone bankrupt.  It has been run into the ground by self-serving racist leaders such as Coleman-Young and Kwame who scared off white folks, scared off people with money and scared off businesses.  With no tangible tax base, it was only a matter of time.

I don't want to bail Detroit out.  I don't want to give another chance for yet another opportunist to plow in and claim all white people are at fault and demand Obamamoney for the po folk.  I'm so over that mindset. 

It's time for Detroit to stand on it's own two feet.  Let the people take the city back and recreate it.  Let the people take the city back and figure it out, and they will.  They have already started.  Downtown near the river, there are actually outdoor cafes.  Can you believe that?  The city has walking trails and parks and nice high rise apartments.  There are restaurants, butchers, bakers, and all the folk that initially made these old cities what they were back in the day.  There are no jobs to speak of at the moment,  but they will come.  What's old is new and I hold out hope for my beloved city on the river.