We Are Not GhostsMay 23, 2012 Leave a comment
“Somebody’s gotta tell them, that we are not ghosts, that we are in this city and we are alive!”
– Jessica Care Moore
Feeling nostalgic, shaken, stirred, and inspired during my current trip to Michigan, and my first return visit to my hometown of Flint in 15 years. So much here has changed: foreclosures – 2,000 last year alone, 40% of all property parcels in the city are vacant or abandoned, jobs have disappeared now to the point of 25% unemployment, 36% of all residents live in poverty, half of the student population in the public schools has left in the last 10 years resulting in numerous school closings including my high school, of those students that remain 81% qualify for free lunch. And the flip side, there are anchor institutions, physical landmarks, and stalwart active citizens (thank you, Sylvester Jones and Harold Ford, among others!) that remain and provide some sense of backbone, continuity, and hope.
Like many other small industrial towns, Flint has had to come to grips with the reality of downsizing, along with a legacy of racial inequity. The reality here feels particularly stark, and yet, people keep on keepin’ on. After 30 years of recession (talk about the canary in the coal mine!), it is time for rebirth, “human scaled for a post-industrial world.” The same holds true for Flint’s bigger and more popular sib-city, Detroit. Years of resilience may be leading to new opportunity, but perhaps not if we fail see their story as part of our own.