We Are Not Ghosts

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I found a lot of personal irony in the fact that we watched a movie entitled “We Are Not Ghosts” the other day in class. That is because when we wrote our responses to Detroit Arcadia, I latched on to the fact that Detroit was, in fact, a city populated by ghosts. The train station really struck me as the prime example of this. Detroit is a former city of splendor and prosperity that has snowballed into it’s own demise. It’s Adam and Eve post-apple. It was supposed to be the city of opportunity. That train station was a symbol of great things to come- it’s Grand Central’s “cousin” station, designed by the same architect at the same time. In my mind, a great train station symbolizes great things coming into the city, people with revolutionary ideas and ambitions coming in to add to a city’s vivacity and power. However, the station did not become grand central. Detroit did not thrive as those in it’s golden age thought it would. The station stands abandoned and decaying, the ultimate metaphor for the population of Detroit. It’s haunted by the former ghosts of success. However, I believe that this adds to the character of the city, the people who take pride in where they live. Yes, the city is plagued by unemployment, crime, racial prejudice. It’s a food-dessert, there are no grocery stores or means of obtaining truly fresh food for the resident’s to eat. This obviously contributes to a lot of health problems. Not to mention the dangers of living in the city itself-violence and drugs are two of the largest “industries” in Murder city. However, the majority of the people who were interviewed in the film We Are Not Ghosts had a pride in their hometown that rivals those of every metropolitan area in the US. They see promise in Detroit’s decay, even if they don’t have the means to reclaim the former splendor of the city. An old woman outside of a house states “We love our neighborhoods, and we take better care of them than people think.” There are people who do love this tragically flawed town.

The voice that most sticks out to me is the collective sound of the Wayne States Students rapping: “My city. My city. My city.” Over and over again, saying there WERE teachers who want to teach, men who want to grow their own food, people who WANT to make lives for themselves in this decrypted city. The youth in the area might not have as much opportunity as they had decades ago. The job market is tough, even for college-graduates. However, as their professor pointed out, they have the drive, the passion. They can make the future better for themselves and their city. The rap stuck in my head for a while. As someone from a well-to-do suburb, you don’t get people rallying around a place like that. These are people who are going to put their education to good use by making a difference in the place where they grew up.

There are other revolutionaries who see the importance of education in a place like Detroit those who opened the African-culture elementary school. They know that education is the future- the only way to enlighten the upcoming generation and revitalize their lives. She claimed:

Smart is something you get. You’re all intelligent. Smart is something you get by working hard.

The elementary school children are another poignant narrator, probably my favorite from the film. They talk of caring for one-and-other as a nobrainer. They have only seen Detroit at it’s worst, and were probably exposed to horrible things that no child should see. However, they aren’t scarred yet.They talked of work and going to school as obvious responsibilities. Their innocence is heart-warming and saddening. Most of them probably won’t stay this virtue-minded forever, they may fall to the dangers of their city-crime, drugs, etc. They provided the most alarming call for change in Detroit, but also the most clear signs of hope. A little boy said “It’s not the city that needs help-its the people.” And that is the most important message of all. The people aren’t all broken. There are teachers out there, like the one in the video, who care for these children like they came out of her womb. There are people devoted to helping others learn to grow food and take care of themselves. There are people who care about the city of Detroit.  They form neighborhood clubs to watch out for eachother. They revitalize parks and band together to send students to college. They aren’t ghosts- i believe they  recognize the ghosts that are so prevalent in this once-great city. Not that these trailblazers can single-handedly bring Detroit back to it’s former glory, but they can forage a new path for the people who call it home.

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