Dreaming of Downriver: A Journey Home to the Heart of America's Engine
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I had the intention of doing this capstone project on Detroit. I love the city and the region far too much for me not to focus on its people, challenges and triumphs. The city has been such a major focus of my academic and personal growth throughout my time at Kalamazoo College that when some professors brought up Detroit in class, they turned to me for analysis and insight. However, I didn’t want to write just another Detroit story. I wanted to turn to a different part of the region: Downriver, my home. Downriver hasn’t had many champions. Mostly, Metro-‐Detroiters stereotype it as a trashy place to live—a group of suburbs south of Detroit they would never visit, demeaning the livelihood of over three hundred thousand people. Yes, Downriver is home to the blue-‐ collar factory worker who lives in a modest bungalow in Taylor, but it’s also home to the white-‐collar executive who lives in a grand mansion on Grosse Ile. Sure, bowling is one of the most popular sports, but there are many golfers and tennis players, too. And while much of the population is white, there are people of color in every community. Like any part of America, Downriver is a complex place full of people with a shared thread of regional culture. With this project, I sought to tell a piece of Downriver’s story, to shed light on people who are often ignored by the mainstream media. While beginning to report during the 4 summer, I kept going back to my own connection as a denizen of Downriver. Even though I had come home every summer since I left for college, each time I came back a different guy: More educated, more pretentious, and more ready to never go back. But, after returning from a sixth-‐month study abroad in Ecuador last February, I came home to the states with a different heart and a different mind. Being abroad made me miss everything about home, especially my family and friends from whom I was distant—both physically and emotionally. I wanted to find a way to reconnect with my roots again before I started my senior year of college and went off to work in the “real” and probably political world, given my budding interests in working for change through our political system. That’s why I couldn’t remove myself from the story: Learning from familiar people and places was also about finding my voice.