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  • Author or Editor: Brian Doucet x
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Decline, renewal, and hope in a divided city
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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.

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 with interviews with some of the city’s most important visionaries who are engaged in inspiring practices which provide powerful lessons for Detroit and other cities around the world.

The book will be a valuable reference for scholars, practitioners and students from across disciplines including geography, planning, architecture, sociology, urban studies, history, American studies, and economics.

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In this interview chapter, Lowell Boileau discusses the ruins of Detroit and directions for the city’s future. A fine art painter by training, Boileau began documenting the ruins abandoned buildings of Detroit in the mid-1990s, long before it was fashionable or popular to do so. His Fabulous Ruins of Detroit web tour was an Internet sensation when it was launched in 1997. He also discusses the meanings of two Detroit buildings: the Michigan Theater Building and the William Livingstone House as well as his vision for Detroit’s future which focus on reducing some of the major urban division within the city and region.

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In this interview chapter, Sandra Hines, President of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, discusses the origins of the Coalition, the role that it has played in reducing police brutality and violence in Detroit and areas in which the Coalition is active within the city. Hines also critically discusses the injustices of the city’s current renaissance, framing it within racial perspectives and in the form of a ‘white takeover.’

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In this interview chapter, Malik Yakini, executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) discusses issues of food security and food sovereignty in Detroit. DBCFSN was formed in 2006 in order to address food insecurity among Detroit’s African-American community and to organize members of that community to play a more active role in local food security and food sovereignty. Yakini discusses the general food context in Detroit and why organisations such as his are necessary in the city. He also reflects on the ways in which Detroit has been represented and how gentrification is changing the perceptions of the city. He is critical of the racial implications of gentrification in Greater Downtown Detroit and what this means for the city’s African American community.

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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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