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  • Author or Editor: Brian Doucet x
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Dan Carmody is President of Detroit’s Eastern Market Corporation. In this interview chapter, he discusses the history of the market and why it is important to food access in the city of Detroit today. He explains the visions and aims of the Eastern Market Corporation and how and why it came into existence. The corporation, a not-for-profit, public-private partnership, started in 2006. Carmody discusses the role of urban agriculture in Detroit as well as the new wave of gentrification which has the potential to significantly impact the Market in the future.

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When Jackie Victor and her then partner, Ann Perrault, opened Avalon International Breads on Willis Street in June 1997, they challenged the narrative that Detroit was closed for business. They were one of the first new businesses to open in Midtown and the success of their business helped to change the narratives about Detroit. In this interview, Jackie Victor discusses her triple bottom line (earth, community, employees) business model, the role that Avalon played in gentrification and changes in Midtown, the challenges still facing Detroit, such as growing economic, social and spatial inequality and the role that businesses and entrepreneurs play in shaping cities

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In this chapter, Brian Doucet interviews Phil Cooley, entrepreneur and restauranteur. Cooley owns Slows Bar-B-Q, which has been celebrated as the ‘poster child’ for the revival of Detroit. One of his newest ventures is Ponyride, which provides space for entrepreneurs to accelerate and incubate their ideas, in what Cooley describes as a safe and supportive environment where people are not afraid to try new things or even to fail. The Ponyride location was a tax-foreclosed building; Cooley purchased it to try to change the narrative of tax foreclosure and as “a study to see how the foreclosure crisis can have a positive impact on the community.” In this interview, Cooley discusses the role his businesses have played in gentrification in Detroit, inequalities and divisions within the city and images of the city’s ruins.

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The term “urban garden” may be too narrow to describe the work that Wayne Curtis and Myrtle Thompson-Curtis do with their Feedom Freedom farm on Manistique Avenue on the far east side of Detroit. In 2009, they planted their first seeds in a formerly abandoned lot next to their home. Today, they grow food on roughly one acre of land. It is shared with the community and sold within the neighborhood, as well as at Eastern Market. In this interview chapter, they discuss how growing food is an act of revolution that is closely connected to their consciousness as African Americans oppressed under capitalism.

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The James and Grace Lee Boggs School is a community-based public charter school on the east side of Detroit. It employs a placed-based model of learning, which is rooted in the local. This means that it stems from history, geography, community members, businesses, and the challenges and possibilities in the community. The core values of the school are: high levels of critical thought; creativity and learning; excellence in teaching; authentic and trusting relationships; community empowerment; and equity within both human relationships and the natural world. The core purpose is: to provide the tools to achieve ambitious goals and live lives of meaning, to nurture a sense of place and develop a commitment to a better Detroit, and to grow our souls by developing a connection with ourselves, each other, and the earth. This interview chapter is with Julia Putnam, Amanda Rosman, and Marisol Teachworth: the three co-founders of the school. They were influenced by the philosophies of Grace and Jimmy Boggs and the school was born out of many conversations about the role of education in a city like Detroit.

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In this interview chapter, Yusef Bunchy Shakur discusses his life’s transformation from a gangster to a community organiser. He describes how meeting his father in prison had a tremendous impact on transforming and redeeming his life. Shakur has committed his life to making his community and neighbourhood a better place. He is also active in resisting gentrification and in this interview, he discusses the racial injustices of Detroit’s contemporary gentrification and renaissance.

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In this interview chapter, Grace Lee Boggs discusses revolution, evolution and change in Detroit and what this means for the wider world. Reflecting on her life’s work, Boggs talks about how revolutions come not from taking power, but from communities and groups who claim spaces in which to realise the world which they wish to achieve. Because of this, urban agriculture, and many other grassroots movements, are, in her eyes, acts of revolution. In her words, they help to ‘grow our souls.’ Boggs discusses the ways in which Detroit is pioneering this new revolution and how we need to think of revolution as a way of life, rather than grabbing power.

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In this concluding chapter, the main strands of through within the book are brought together. The main narrative of Detroit as a symbol of urban failure is briefly discussed before shifting to a critical assessment of the city’s emerging narrative: that of comeback and renaissance. Both these one-dimensional narratives are treated as problematic and critiqued by using relevant chapters from the book. Two main policy and political insights are highlighted. The first is that much of Detroit’s decline has been a factor produced outside its boundaries so its solutions need to be thought of at these geographic scales. The second relates to working towards including different voices and perspectives about the future of the city and rethinking how power relations can give marginal groups real input into the systems which shape their lives. The many interviews and perspectives in this book provide pathways towards inclusive, fair and just cities.

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Detroit has come to symbolise deindustrialization and the challenges, and opportunities, it presents. As many cities struggle with urban decline, racial and ethnic tensions and the consequences of neoliberal governance and political fragmentation, Detroit’s relevance grows stronger. Why Detroit matters bridges academic and non-academic responses to this extreme example of a fractured and divided, post-industrial city. Detroit has long been portrayed as a metonym for urban failure, most often depicted through its ruins and abandonment. However, more recently, a new narrative of comeback has emerged. While both narratives depict parts of the city, they do not tell the entire story and need to be critically examined and placed within wider socioeconomic-, political-, geographic- and racial-contexts. This edited volume seeks to critically understand these contexts to examine both the lessons from Detroit’s recent history and the new and inspiring visions which can currently be found there. Rather than only seeing decline and abandonment, these visions and the scholarly pieces within the book offer hope for a fair and just urban future. Contributions from many of the leading scholars on Detroit are joined by influential writers, planners, artists and activists who have contributed chapters drawing on their experiences and ideas. The book concludes in a unique way with interviews with some of the city’s most prominent visionaries who are engaged in inspiring practices which provide powerful lessons for Detroit and other cities around the world.

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Detroit has come to symbolise deindustrialization and the challenges, and opportunities, it presents. As many cities struggle with urban decline, racial and ethnic tensions and the consequences of neoliberal governance and political fragmentation, Detroit’s relevance grows stronger. Why Detroit matters bridges academic and non-academic responses to this extreme example of a fractured and divided, post-industrial city. Detroit has long been portrayed as a metonym for urban failure, most often depicted through its ruins and abandonment. However, more recently, a new narrative of comeback has emerged. While both narratives depict parts of the city, they do not tell the entire story and need to be critically examined and placed within wider socioeconomic-, political-, geographic- and racial-contexts. This edited volume seeks to critically understand these contexts to examine both the lessons from Detroit’s recent history and the new and inspiring visions which can currently be found there. Rather than only seeing decline and abandonment, these visions and the scholarly pieces within the book offer hope for a fair and just urban future. Contributions from many of the leading scholars on Detroit are joined by influential writers, planners, artists and activists who have contributed chapters drawing on their experiences and ideas. The book concludes in a unique way with interviews with some of the city’s most prominent visionaries who are engaged in inspiring practices which provide powerful lessons for Detroit and other cities around the world.

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