By Olivia Lewis
Black people are leaving the Blackest city in America, according to the latest census data. But why would Black residents leave an area en masse where history, culture and opportunity collide?
“The reality of the situation is that living in Detroit is not easy,” said Michael Gray. “Oftentimes, all of the things that Detroit has that are special and unique, other people take, and they buck, and they try to put it somewhere else.”
Gray, a 32-year-old documentary filmmaker, said he worries where Detroit’s longtime Black population fits into the new vision of Detroit.
“On a Saturday, beautiful and sunny day, it’s packed out on Jefferson, bumper to bumper, and you see all the bikes come across and the ATVs, the (cars), and the noise and the lights, and to some people, that situation is, ‘I want to get away from that,’ but you have to realize, that’s the culture,” he said.
Initial 2020 census data show a decline in Detroit’s population over the past 10 years, with a 9 percent uptick in white residents and an almost 16 percent decrease in Black residents. Many Detroiters, and Mayor Mike Duggan, refute the new data, citing an abnormal count during a global pandemic. The low count will mean the loss of a congressional seat and could cost millions in federal funding. Others see the new information as proof of the negative effects of displacement and gentrification and the need for intentional investment in Black neighborhoods.
The growing visibility of white people and some of their vocal complaints about Black culture in Detroit is startling and a turn-off to some Detroiters.
“When I used to go to Belle Isle as a kid, I would never see many white people there,” said Ja’Nye Hampton, 22. “Now, you drive through the neighborhoods and they complain so much that streets are being closed and blocked off — they’re so entitled.”
Hampton is the founder and owner of Detroit Flower Co., a floral shop on Detroit’s west side. The Cass Technical High School graduate grew up at Joy Road and Schaefer, and owns a business at 6 Mile and Greenfield.
For the whole story, check out BridgeDetroit’s website.