City Transformation, Creativity

Save a few Twitter nitwits, #313DLove showed off the best sides of its speakers, Tweeters

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Let’s start with the positive: It’s great when a collective group of people come together to celebrate Detroit and their love for the city via an event like 313DLove.

terry jAs for the negative, it’s stupid to see people try to sell their products by abusing the 313DLove hashtag. It’s the kind of thing where you just want to slam your head against your smartphone screen and scream.

Now, before I go any further, I get it. This is a very “First World” complaint – to whine about someone misusing a hashtag. I understand that the city has far better things to worry about in the grand scheme of things. My main point is this: If you think for a second that you can sell your cars, your T-shirts or anything else by manipulating a fun Twitter stream with your nonsense, then you’re not only flat-out wrong. You’re ridiculous.

Before my rant goes any further, here are a few words of praise for 313DLove, Terry Bean, all of the speakers and Tweeters who took part in Thursday’s 313 event. What they pulled together this year was both inspirational and intriguing. Not only did you hear about great projects under way, but there was enough pushback that people felt comfortable saying, “It’s not enough.”

Don’t just Tweet, they said. Create something. Make something. Do something. Detroit needs a spark from all of us to make this place turn around.

twitterAs background on the event…A long time ago, everyone in this area had a “313” area code. It became a number full of pride and meaning. It identified Detroiters just as much as “212” does for New Yorkers. Having such a number placed you within the city.

A few years back, a guy named Terry Bean came up with this brilliant idea. He would honor Detroit – known for many years for its 313 area code – by doing a huge Twitter campaign March 13.

This year, Bean went one step further. He gathered some of our favorite dreamers, makers and doers together at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. He organized a huge amount of sponsors (Click Click Car and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to name a few) and many co-conspirators to make this thing happen. And anyone who has ever planned an event knows, putting together something with this many working parts is challenging to say the least.

Speakers included one of our favorites, the master brander himself, Hajj Flemings, who talked about the importance of telling Detroit’s story with positivity and energy. Rabbi Yisrael Pinson, Executive Director at Chabad of Greater Downtown Detroit, talked about his decision to move his life and family of seven to the city. He noted how hard he has to fight against “FOD,” or Fear of Detroit. Every place he takes people in the city, whether it is to eat or visit or shop like Shinola, he finds that fear decreasing and being replaced with respect.

museumMenachem Kniespeck of Operation: Kid Equip talked about giving of yourself and his work that gives away free books, supplies and school equipment. He brought up the idea of how even the smallest sparks can create great fires. He – and thousands of others who Tweeted their love at 3:13 p.m. and throughout the day – are just one example of people changing one thing in their lives and igniting huge impact across Detroit, the metro area and throughout the state.

Here’s where I start complaining again: As I Tweeted my 313DLove, I started following other people’s hashtags. Most were amazing, talking about how far the city has come and what else it needs to accomplish. They were heartfelt sentiments, all neatly packed in 140 characters.

Then came the ads.

People trying to sell their stuff under the same hashtag. Here’s my least favorite example:

Do you love the #Charger but are looking for an older model? 2011 Dodge Charger R/T Sedan: #Detroit #313DLove

Right. I’m not ever going to your dealership. Get over yourself. Not to get too carried away here, but no one should buy your Charger. Find some other way to hawk your goods. Anyway, most of the Tweets were great.

In the long run, here’s the main takeaways from the day. Detroit has always been a place where things are made. People are starting to understand that it’s our turn collectively to return that favor and help remake Detroit. It’s not “their” problem; it’s our problem. It’s not “their” project or business or park. It’s ours. And it’s time we did something for our city, well beyond Thursday or a Tweet or a hashtag. But it all starts somewhere, and I was proud to be part of it.

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