By: Clarene Mitchell
The last time I visited Detroit was approximately eight years ago when my husband and I attended a marriage retreat. After the retreat we spent a couple of days exploring the Motor City. We both love history, so our trip included spending time at the Charles H. Wright Museum, the legendary Motown Museum and other sights. We also just drove around and explored the city. The blocks and blocks of burned houses and abandoned areas left a negative memory for us regarding the city.
Fast forward to my recent visit to Detroit. This time a solo trip for me to speak at the #DisruptHRDetroit 3.0 event on September 19, 2019. I was looking forward to my speaking engagement, but I wasn’t excited about visiting the city overall. Based on my last trip and all the negative things I hear in the media about Detroit, I was planning on spending a lot of time in my hotel room working and relaxing.
My views of The Big D changed during my cab ride from the Amtrak station to my hotel. My train had stalled on the tracks for two hours, so I arrived in the city after 10 pm. As the cab traveled through downtown Detroit, I was immediately impressed with the vibrancy and action. I expected the city to be in sleep mode because it was so late. Instead, I was wishing the cab drive drove slow so I could fully take in all the lights and movement of people. From seeing the brights lights of the historic Fox Theater to all the people dining in the outdoor restaurant seating or just walking. I was super tired from my travels, but seeing Detroit alive and well made me want to dump my luggage at the hotel and join in on all of the fun.
My new found love with Detroit increased on my second day. I was staying in downtown near the venue for my speaking engagement, so I walked to check out the location and grab some lunch. My event was at The Madison, a beautiful venue near Comerica Park and the Detroit Opera House. The business district and stores gave me a lot to discover. I met some great people and purchased some items to add to my collection of travel memorabilia. Although I was roving around by myself, to the chagrin of my husband might I add, I felt safe as I explored for a few hours. After my event, I even walked from the venue in my heels back to my hotel. It was well after 10 pm; I probably should have taken a cab. I totally destroyed the heels on my favorite shoes, but the energy in the city was too captivating for me to just pop in a cab and then pop in to my hotel. Despite all the negative crime news regarding Detroit, I walked .04 miles and felt totally safe. Homeless people lined the streets, but they left me alone and I respected their space as well.
I hope the rebirth I observed downtown is going on in the residential areas as well, especially in the communities I once saw countless burned houses.
I accomplished my business goal with my trip, but I boarded my return train to Milwaukee wishing I had added a few days onto my travels schedule to be a tourist in the city. No worries Detroit, I will be back to fully enjoy the resurrected city. In the meantime, I advise city leaders to push a strong re-branding campaign to inform people near and far that Detroit is truly on the rebound. Detroit is fighting back!