There have been a few memes going around where people ask 2016 – the year where the Presidential campaign is tumultuous to say the least, where death and anger are rampant, where people we love as entertainers and personalities have been lost unexpectedly – to just settle down, to start over, to go screw itself.
In other words, it’s been a tough year. And while Detroit is the definition of a resilient city, it can feel a bit difficult to bounce back from so much despair. But that is all the more reason to come together, to celebrate talent and persistence, to honor our connection to one another, to the city, to the larger community and to the world, in all honesty.
Now, that’s a whole lot of flowery words to invite you come to Detroit and play a game with some cool people. But, like most things the Urban Consulate does, asking everyone to stop what they’re doing and join in a game of Connect Four is something special and deserves some fancy adjectives, in my fine opinion.
Tonight, Urban Consulate will host an event it is calling “Connect Four The City” at its headquarters inside 4470 Second Avenue. The games begin at 4 p.m. and I’m guessing they’ll last well beyond the 7 p.m. stop time. And I’ll also hasten a guess that the conversations started during this seemingly innocent event will be something that will go forward in the days and months to come. Because when you’re playing Connect Four, you never know what will be said (i.e. trash talk) or how the ideas and opinions will expand.
Why play Connect Four as a way to connect with the larger world? It’s a weird idea, I’ll grant you. But it is brilliant, simple and awesome in other ways. Just like the Urban Consulate in and of itself. It’s a parlor where Detroiters of every kind – life-long residents and newcomers, visitors and residents, curious and the jaded – can come together to have real talk, tough love and honest and open communication. At least, that’s how Claire Nelson designed it.
In her pitch to get people to attend, Nelson made it clear that playing a game where you connect one-on-one is kinda important right about now. “It’s been a pretty intense month, with an extra dose of political divisiveness. We want to counter this with more connection and love,” Nelson said.
Consulate advocate and well-known design maven Melinda “MeMe” Anderson is bringing her own Connect Four sets to play the game with all comers. Besides whooping people at her favorite activity, Anderson and all involved will be playing around with ideas, creativity and more in hopes of finding ways in what has been a crazy year to become “a more connected city,” Nelson said.
Anderson was inspired to launch this fun challenge to Detroit in part by a story that ran recently on Thrillist. In New York City, a man was hoping to make the wait for the subway a bit more fun and helpful to his romantic life by offering a “speed dating” table right there on the platform. He eventually added Connect Four to make it a bit silly and a good way to break the ice. But then people of all sorts asked to play, and the dating idea when to a wacky way to just talk, shoot the breeze and get to know someone in an otherwise big and impersonal city.
Anderson – who has a Connect Four relationship that goes far deeper than one might expect – hopes that people will come out in the spirit of fun, to build neighborhood ties and to open their minds to what Detroit needs and wants. Tall order, yes. But a good one.
“In a world filled with so much hate, I think that the antidote is love. We must truly learn to connect and love each other a little bit more. The event on Friday is my answer to everything that is happening in our world through a simple yet fun event,” said Anderson, who spends the rest of her hours acting as Creative Director for the Detroit Design Festival.
All ages are welcome, so bring a kid or two. No experience is necessary – but you might want to have some Connect Four skills. Anderson is a fierce competitor, and she is throwing some heat out there in hopes of having a decent about of challengers attend. Be prepared.