Marygrove College’s Institute for Detroit Studies, in partnership with New Detroit and Wayne State University, invite journalists, community organizations, government, business, academics and others to a day-long meeting to discuss how we can come together to construct commonly understood paths to defining and resolving Detroit’s problems, and examine how we might share stories that accurately portray Detroit’s current situation and history.
The event will take place on Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 9 a.m. in McGregor Hall and the Community Arts Auditorium, on Wayne State University’s campus. It will contain a morning and afternoon session. Lunch will be provided.
Session 1: “Origins of the Urban Crisis,”
will focus on the historic causes of Detroit’s decline from roughly 1940 to the 1960s, starting with the book The Origins of the Urban Crisis, widely accepted as the definitive scholarly work on this subject. The book’s author, Thomas Sugrue, will open the session, which will be followed by a question and answer period.
Session 2: “Debunking Common Myths about Detroit’s Decline,”
will include an update by Sugrue on what has happened in Detroit in the years since the period covered by his book, and focus on the following three myths:
Myth 1: “It was all going so well until 1967 came along…”
There is a persistent belief in the minds of many people that a single historical event changed everything in Detroit, that things were fine until mayhem suddenly and inexplicably erupted on July 23, 1967. As Sugrue’s morning session will show, the events of 1967 were an effect, not the cause of Detroit’s crisis which began in the early 1950s. The panel discussion will help elaborate on this and make the related point that focusing on 1967 not only misplaces blame for Detroit’s decline, but also leads to superficial analysis of and simplistic solutions to Detroit’s problems.
Myth 2: “It’s all Mayor [fill-in-the-blank]’s fault…”
There is a persistent belief in the minds of many people that a single person (Mayor Cavanagh, Mayor Young, Mayor Kilpatrick, or someone else) is to blame for Detroit’s decline. Of course, leadership makes a difference. But, just as it’s foolish to blame one event (i.e., 1967) for Detroit’s problems, so is it wrong to think one person could be responsible for the myriad problems that have affected Detroit. This type of thinking also leads to unrealistic and simplistic conclusions that one leader could save the city.
Myth 3: “It’s ‘those people’s’ fault…”
There is also a persistent belief in the minds of many people (at least outside of Detroit) that Detroit residents are the cause of Detroit’s problems and that “successful” individuals simply and inevitably choose to move to a “better life” to be found in suburban areas of the region, and that residence in the city is a sign of some weakness or flaw. The common perception is that this trend toward an increasingly suburban population was in some sense a “natural” result of freedom of choice and the free market at work. But this view ignores the social and economic policies which subsidized movement to the suburbs. It also leads to the mistaken notion that the persistent challenges in Detroit result from the individual character flaws of its residents and fuels a heavy reliance on policy prescriptions designed to “fix” these character flaws, as well as policies and practices (like redlining) that punish people who live in the city.
The afternoon session will use breakout groups, presentations from the breakouts and the method of the case study to explore how best to tell Detroit’s stories in ways that help provide the community, region and the nation with the understanding needed to define and address the region’s economic and social problems.
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The Marygrove College Institute for Detroit Studies, founded in 2001, promotes interdisciplinary study of the City of Detroit through academic credit and continuing education courses; online resources; lectures, readings, exhibits and performances; research activities and visiting scholar programs. It also offers workshops, programs and presentations held on campus and throughout the metropolitan area.
The Institute builds on Marygrove College’s mission to serve the people of metropolitan Detroit, on its location in the city and on its strong relationship with different Detroit constituencies. The Institute seeks to broaden recognition of Detroit’s contributions to American culture, interrogate standard definitions and popular versions of the City and provide opportunity for cross-disciplinary analysis of issues important to the metropolitan area.
Founded by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) in 1927, Marygrove College is an independent liberal arts college and a Catholic institution of higher learning committed to developing leaders for the new global society.
The main campus is situated on 53 wooded acres in northwest Detroit.
8425 W. McNichols Rd., Detroit, MI 48221
Web site: www.marygrove.edu
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