As a child, I was enamored by the architecture of the Renaissance Center. It was industrial and modern and didn’t quite fit into the archetype that was the Detroit Art Deco Skyscraper. Still it was beautiful in its own regard and without it our skyline would be incomplete. I suppose it was a symbol for how I felt in Detroit--always looking for something new, but also feeling radically connected to the Detroit ethos.
In my adult life, this connection has become even more ubiquitous--a connection inherent in my work, social life and most notably in my personal assets. Assets which include my hustle, passion, and resilience. Assets which not only stem from my upbringing in Detroit, but have been reflected in the mission-driven work I’ve engaged in throughout my career and especially since my homecoming this June.
When I returned home this summer, I jumped head first into the launch of SMASHxWayneState. As the Residential Director, I led a team on the development of a residential curriculum that fostered social awareness, civic engagement, and critical thinking to encourage the next generation of Detroit youth to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams in STEM. Though my hustle shined all summer, the hustle of our Detroit youth was unmatched. From networking with key stakeholders, to developing business plans, these scholars spent 5-weeks of their summer working their tails off--by choice. It is this hustle that has become synonymous with Detroit, and this hustle that informs the Detroit Renaissance.
Hustle however, would be static without passion--and Detroit has no shortage of passion. Just this week, in my new role as the Managing Director of Strategic Community Partners, I connected with partners from The Skillman Foundation, Black Family Development, Inc., Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, CeaseFire, and the Detroit Crime Commission
and was moved to tears by the immense passion for and dedication to black and brown youth in Detroit. But this passion is not unique to this collective. Since coming home, I’ve been reminded of my roots, have felt more connected to work, and witnessed a deep sense of ownership and commitment to the Detroit (my) community. This passion, I imagine, is the same passion that ran through Berry Gordy’s veins when he established Motown records, and it is the same passion that fuels the Detroit resurgence.
While I have had amazing experiences since returning home and throughout my career, it wasn't always easy. I grew up in a single parent household and relied on public assistance for survival. As a child, this didn't feel like a badge of honor--but rather a burden. However, it is this same experience that has helped me persist in the face of struggle today. And it is this ability to overcome that is the quintessential Detroit. A characteristic that I see manifested daily through our Detroit educators. As I sit in conversations about Teach313--a movement to make Detroit the best city in America for teachers--I am filled with pride that I was educated in Detroit Schools, and that my legacy is the result of some of the most resilient role models in the world.
My homecoming is a testament to the Detroit renaissance--there are places and spaces that are new and unfamiliar, but the ethos of Detroit remains unscathed. Detroit’s current renaissance does not diminish the hustle, passion and resilience that has always been here, and I am incredibly excited for the opportunity to rejoin the Detroit Renaissance with SCP and our community partners and to continue to share and claim these Detroit-native assets.