Detroit was once a thriving city filled with an abundance of employment oppourtunies and a population that once reached into the millions.
Manufacturing jobs were able to provide for a family of four who wanted to live in a middle class neighborhood, put their children in a good school and live a life that was more than a dream.
Detroit housed buildings inspired by the beautiful architecture of Paris Department stores, and restaurants decorated the city with happy citizens who loved to go on shopping excursions. Six decades later, Detroit has decayed to a city of lost souls, high unemployment and unkempt homes.
Main streets like Livernois, Michigan Avenue and Gratiot have been stripped of their ma-and-pa businesses and have been replaced with liquor stores and pawn shops. I have nothing against these profitable businesses, but there is more to the upkeep of a city than trying to make a quick dollar by placing these businesses in the neighborhoods that have been ruined by them.
Less than a month ago, Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection with hope for a fresh start. Kevyn Orr, the emergency manager, estimated that Detroit is in $18 to $20 billion in debt. As a Detroit native, I have many concerns on how my hometown has gotten into such steep debt. The big question is where has the money gone?
When I moved into my neighborhood it was filled with smiling children and well-groomed homes, fenced with freshly bloomed flowers. Now my neighborhood looks abandoned with potholes you can play hopscotch in and seedy characters who hang out on the corner shouting sexual slurs at every woman who walks by. The education system is crumbling and failing to educate kids. Thriving businesses are becoming more and more extinct.
On one level, a person might say that they saw this coming and it was an inevitable decision to file for bankruptcy. This may be true, but it goes beyond looking at this from just a financial point of view. There are sentimental values behind some of these businesses that are shutting down. Family-owned businesses are closing down as we continue to try to point blame at what ruined Detroit.
Businesses are having a hard time making ends meet and it’s the city’s job along with its citizens to come up with a noteworthy solution to turn this setback into a comeback.
Around the corner from my childhood home there was once a thriving candy shop owned by an elderly woman. She made it her mission to give every smiling child fresh chocolate drops and five sticks of cherry licorice to brighten their day. I went to that candy shop every day for five years until the economy had gotten to its lowest point and she had gone out of business. Many more businesses have shut down since then that were a part of my growing up. It is imperative to nurture the businesses that are still progressing in order to resuscitate Detroit.
As a community, we have every right to be outraged about the downfall of our city. But let’s remember we are down but not out.
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