Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Detroit - Day One

Welcome to Detroit!

Janice, Matt and I arrived in Detroit Monday morning. We decided to take public transportation into Downtown to the College of Creative Studies who graciously offered to host us during our stay. After we picked up our bags we spotted a Smart Bus which serves Wayne County and after an hour and a half, we arrived at our destination. The bus took us through commercial corridors of the outlying neighborhoods and although the ride was long, we made it into town for $1.50 per person. What a deal!

The College of Creative Studies is a gorgeous building located in what many people refer to as the "Cultural Center" of Detroit. Some of its neighbors include the Detroit Institute for the Arts, the Detroit Public Library, Wayne State University and the Detroit Historical Society.

We met up with our Road Trip counterparts Alex and Anusha and headed to Northwest Goldberg. Although Northwest Goldberg is three miles away from Downtown, its physical appearance is drastically different. Singular blocks of houses stand amid blocks of empty lots with tall grass and unpaved roads.

After stopping for Downtown dinner in an old train ticket office we met with "Baba" Charles and "Mama" Sandra Simmons who run Hush House. Hush House Black World Museum and Leadership Institute for Human Rights. is located in the Northwest Goldberg neighborhood and its a center for history, advocacy, education, community rights and empowerment. Charles and Sandra are life long educators and activists who have grown up in Detroit and witnessed the city and its best and worst. And although they share an intimate knowledge about the struggles Detroiters face, they remain fiercely optimistic about the city and its inhabitants.
Charles and Sandra believe that success, no matter how small is meaningful because it proves what a neighborhood can overcome. They also believe that the power of love is the most powerful tool we have and they have devoted their lives to this pursuit.

The Simmons' also value mutual learning environments so they began to ask us questions about why we had embarked upon this trip, what we hoped to accomplish and what are role was in the process. Their questions left us tongue-tied. We began the conversation hoping to learn about Sandra and Charles but I don't think any of us expected that we would learn so much about ourselves.

This conversation left an indelible mark and will be something that none of us will soon forget. We drove away from the Simmons' home full of wonder and inspiration, excited about everything that lay ahead.

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