"September in Detroit" is a multi-part post, part of the continuing series of musings on Detroit as I sit here, absorbing my own experience in the city combined with others' tales. This particular 4-part series is best read from Part I below and then upward, if you can make it through... I call it a "musing" as I attempt to make sense of what I see and experience each visit, part of my in-progress photo exhibition/book exploration of my birth city.
At Grand Circus Park with view of Broderick Tower
I am spending one additional day in Detroit to see friends and wander a bit more, hoping to return for a more intensive photo shoot in October.
I breakfasted with my "family by house," the Faust family of siblings whose parents had owned my family home in the Northwest and with whom I try to visit each time I am in the city. Mary Hammons Faust, Veronica Faust and Maurice Faust represent for me the regular people of Detroit, knowledgeable about their home city, experiencing the ups and downs of everyday Detroit, ready to discuss it all. And discuss we do, especially since I am brimful of information and enthusiasm after the past three days.
Of particular interest: neighborhood. I mention one of the civic neighborhood initiatives already in practice: providing lawnmowers to residents who promise to care for their properties. There are families raised in the decades of decay who have watched their neighborhoods disintegrate before their eyes. Unused to the concept of order and what it means not only for neighborhood beautification but for safety and land value, they have forgotten home pride.
The simple gift of a lawnmower is bringing order back but, as Maurice points out, it requires that residents be trained to take care of their property, something to be undertaken by the block as a whole to ensure that this type of neighborhood pride and resultant enhancement takes hold. A simple idea that can be suggested coming down from civic leaders on high but that also requires encouragement and guides rising up from each block.
A great block club example is the previously noted Henry Jolly Memorial Block Club, where Veronica Faust is on the Board. In 2013 I photographed another terrific block in the Northwest Goldberg neighborhood where the boards of what abandoned houses remained were brightly painted by residents with the words of W.E.B. DuBois, an abandoned lot had become a community vegetable garden and park, and all populated houses and yards were inviting and immaculate. While the streets around this Wabash block were sad examples of the decay too prevalent in the city, this block shone and I would like to return soon to see what's happening today.
Similarly and as a part of the requirements for renting a home there, the Penrose Art House and Garden development for low income families requires not only home maintenance but has also established a neighborhood agricultural center and art garden for community meetings and childhood afterschool education and activities, all beautifully designed and founded by Detroit friends, landscape architects (note Lafayette Park downtown by the Book Cadillac) Beth Hagenbach and Ken Weikel. I've spoken about this before.
Readying for pumpkins 2013