An overview of Detroit

Detroit is an interesting city. Whenever I think of Detroit, the word “adversity” comes to mind. Detroit has bred master MC’s like Eminem (I love the art of rap and lyricism, and Eminem holds a special place in my heart, more on that later in another unrelated post). Sports? Despite having a past history of losing in American Football, Detroit has been home to some great talent, and in recent years has been on the mend. For example, my favorite running back of all time, the legendary Barry Sanders, played for the Detroit Lions:

Barry Sanders

Detroit has also been home to some of the best teams in NBA history (think the Pistons of the Isaiah Thomas and the Ben Wallace/Chauncey Billups era’s):

My favorite Pistons squad

Outside of sports, Detroit has also had other notable achievements:

  • The first ever news broadcast was made in Detroit on August 20, 1920 by a radio station called 8MK (currently called WWJ) that was financed by the Detroit News.
  • Techno music has its origins in Detroit. Today, the Detroit/Chicago area is a hot scene for soul house and techno festivals.
  • Detroit has the world’s only floating post office, the J.W. Westcott II.
  • Berry Gordy’s Motown Records was founded in Detroit.
  • And of course, Detroit is the center of the US Auto Industry (Ford, General Motors and Chrysler have their homes/headquarters here).

So that’s all the good stuff. On the more negative extreme, Detroit in recent years has had many financial woes. The city has long had a problem with being economically stable (there are many theories behind this: some say the policies in place played to race politics, others say industry outputs fell in efficiency, others believe a large part of the city’s current state is due to past corrupt mayoral regimes, some believe that the past focus of the city was to support corporate interests and not take care of their residents, while some yet believe the decline was due to poor city planning). Whatever the true reason is or combination thereof, the fact is that the city has been on a steady trend of economic decline in recent decades. This decline has resulted in a mass exodus of the white and middle class from the city to the suburbs and more promising locations, leaving the city as a whole with a reduced tax base. It resulted in over half of the city’s property owners to failing to pay their taxes in 2011; money that the city (like any other city under proper administration) would have used for municipal services and residential planning (I’m sure you get the picture, and can see how this would affect the standard of things like the educational system). With a reduced tax base and more importantly a reduction in spending power, the city looked less promising from an investor standpoint. So, businesses left. All this and more created a cascading effect, and on July 18, 2013, the city officially filed for bankruptcy, setting a record as the largest city in the US to ever file for such protection (not quite a record to be proud of).

Crime is a constant problem in the city (Detroit became a hallmark for violent crime in the 70s and 80s, and today has the highest violent crime rate amongst US cities). Many violent gangs were started in Detroit, and Detroit was one of many cities that was hit hard by the crack/heroin epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Detroit makes its appearance within my novel in 1990. It was a year that saw Detroit under the Coleman Young administration (he was the first African American mayor of Detroit). Nelson Mandela also visited Detroit in that year after his 27 years as a political prisoner in South Africa. I wrote some pretty cool scenes featuring this interesting city in that time frame.

I’ll leave you with this video showcasing a few random shots of Detroit. Peace.