New Documentary Celebrates Detroit

Page D-1At the conclusion of his outstanding documentary, “The Great Detroit: It Was – It Is – It Will Be,” producer-director Anthony Brogdon says, “I hope you enjoyed my film.”

There is no way for anyone to not enjoy it, at least not anyone who cares about Detroit and believes in its potential.

The documentary is in many respects a pep rally for the Motor City, and at a time when Detroit, despite its myriad of problems, is in the process of having a resurgence, redefining itself, trying hard to shake off many things that have been a hindrance.

That includes attitude. No city can make a comeback if the people who live there are not focusing on the positive. They have to want it to happen in order to make it happen.

Take a look at New York. The people there love their city passionately. Even the tragedy of 9/11 could not deter their spirit. The city has a population in excess of 8 million and despite the horrors of that event, it is doubtful that more than 100 people packed their bags.

That is the kind of love Detroit needs among its citizenry and, as Brogdon’s film makes clear, such love is becoming increasingly evident. And one thing that would help a lot would be television news reports putting far less emphasis on the negative aspects of Detroit.

(Please note: This story also includes material not derived from the documentary.)

BROGDON, with much support, did a yeoman’s job of finding so many people who were eager to talk about Detroit, often in depth, and all, including Tony Stovall, owner of Hot Sam’s Quality Clothes, made it clear that they and/or their businesses are here to stay.

Interestingly, some of those who declined to participate, for whatever reason, now wish they had, according to Brogdon.

The film, narrated by Jerome Espy, with photography directed by Hugh H. Hatten and music by Lawrence Jackson, covers an amazing amount of ground in 74 minutes, and yet so many things had to be left out due to time availability.

The viewer hears an array of viewpoints from people of numerous ethnicities and age groups, and there is no way to come away without having been inspired.

“The Great Detroit” is also a vital history lesson.

The average person, Detroiter or metro Detroiter, is not aware that so many new businesses have opened, that so many dwelling places are ready or are being made ready for occupation, that so many churches are doing so much, including providing employment, that so many businesses — some of expected types — are being planned, and on the story goes.

Also, people are being fed and in various places, food gardens have been planted or will be.

IT SHOULD be noted, too, that Mike Duggan is the right mayor at the right time.

Granted, most of this flurry of activity is taking place in the downtown area and in Midtown, but there is the possibility of it spreading.

“Let me say,” says Brogdon, “you’re gonna hear some good and some bad about every city, maybe a little bit more about Detroit. But it’s the people who are making a difference to make this city special.”

What organization has been more effective than Focus: HOPE? Not many annual events can match ARISE Detroit! Neighborhoods Day. And Detroit is also known for the Belle Isle Grand Prix and boat races on the Detroit River.

Another thing that makes Detroit special is the large number of homegrown products, and the popularity often goes way beyond the city. Just think, for example, of Vernor’s ginger ale, Better Made potato chips, Faygo pop and Sanders Confectionery.

Actor Carl Weathers tasted Vernor’s and immediately began having it shipped to him in California.

THEN THERE’S our sports stadiums, riverfront (including RiverWalk), Eastern Market, Hart Plaza, Campus Martius, Belle Isle and it goes on and on.

Whole Foods Market does not have its origin here, but since its opening in Detroit, near downtown, it has been a destination for thousands every week, from within and outside of the city. From day one it has been one of Detroit’s newest jewels as has the new Meijer store.

And we could never neglect giving a shout out to all those who have made music in Detroit throughout the decades: Motown, jazz, blues, rock, techno, gospel, R&B, African, pop and more.

This is reflected in the presentation of such annual events as Concert of Colors, the Detroit Jazz Festival, the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, the Matrix Theatre Company productions, concerts and other events at Chene Park, Masonic Temple, the Fox Theatre, Music Hall, the Fisher Theatre, Orchestra Hall, New Center Park and others.

No other city can lay claim to giving the world the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin; the most famous female vocal group of all time, the Supremes; and the most popular White rap star, Eminem, to name a few.

Moreover, Detroit’s cultural institutions, including the Detroit Historical Museum, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Motown Historical Museum, are second to none.

“The Great Detroit: It Was – It Is – It Will Be” will be shown at various locations this month and beyond. For more details and/or to purchase the DVD, visit or call 313.704.5612. The documentary is also available via


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