Getting Mayors, radio personalities, singers, rappers, reporters and civic leaders to agree to participate in a campaign is something that seldom happens. Fortunately for Detroit, those leaders are coming together and affirm that they believe in Detroit.
The campaign, Believe In Detroit, is designed to accept the challenges of the region and help people accentuate the good. It will help connect Believers to opportunities for volunteering or donation. The goal is to help change the community while changing attitudes. Along the way, you get to hear from people like author Elmore Leonard.
“I’ve lived here since the fourth grade,” said Leonard. “I like Detroit. I have always liked Detroit. I haven’t had any reason to move.
Realizing American readers had lost their taste for Western novels, Leonard focused on crime novels. He started by taking an assignment for the Detroit News and created a piece called “Impressions of Murder.” He was so fascinated by the dialogue between officers and suspects that the four day assignment turned into a three week project. It turned out to be a project that fueled his career.
He stayed in Detroit because of the relationships he built with the people he based his books on. Even though he no longer rides along with detectives, he is still a proud Detroiter.
“One time about 20 years ago, a writer for Time Magazine dubbed me the ‘Dickens of Detroit.’ Could you imagine what they would have called me if I lived in Buffalo?” he joked.
David DiChieria, founding general director of the Michigan Opera Theatre, learned that sceptics are ever-present, and the only thing that can change a sceptic’s mind is results. He found that out in his work to start the Michigan Opera Theatre. He senses that same spirit behind the Believe in Detroit movement.
“We [Detroiters] don’t always have a good perception of ourselves; we have no clear picture of how good we are,” he stated. “We need to bring the community along with us. We have to constantly tell them that this is possible.
Stephen Henderson, editor of the Editorial Page for the Detroit Free Press, noted the success of a similar campaign in Baltimore. During his 12 years there, Baltimore’s mayor started a similar campaign just asking people to believe in the city again. It made a big difference in the way city resident’s viewed their city.
“Things like this make a big difference,” he remembered. “It gets to the point where it takes off and people start saying it. It doesn’t fix all the problems but it does help change perceptions.”
Mayor Dave Bing does not back down from the city’s problems either. Acknowledging our obstacles, Bing noted that his administration is working to bring trust back to city government by bringing back a businesslike attitude to city government. He asks that people start help to tell the story of the city.
“The city is changing for the better. It is time for us to begin telling our own story. No one tells our story better,” exclaimed Bing.