Getting pulled into being an ambassador for Detroit

July 5, 2011

detroit river walkI participated in an event in the city on Sunday where, as it turned out, I was the only actual city resident there. As a result, I found myself acting as a kind of ambassador for the city, even dispelling “the grocery store myth.”

Do any of you ever find yourself in that position, too?

The event was a fun run, a 5K, that started in Mt. Elliott Park, between downtown and Belle Isle. I jokingly thanked the organizer of the event for having it so close to my house — it had been about a 10-minute drive on a quiet Sunday morning. As more and more people started trickling in, we started talking about where everyone was from. One couple had come from as far away as Grand Rapids, but most were from the northern suburbs or the Ann Arbor area.

Our route was along the River Walk and Atwater Street, and the usual jokes started popping up about the safety of running through the streets of Detroit. (As if Atwater is really that tough.) The organizer — and myself, being a native — reassured everyone that we would be OK. The event went off without a hitch, of course, and everyone had a great time.

Afterward, as we all chatted while sitting in the grass, I talked with an incoming Wayne State University about living in the city. “But there are no grocery stores in the city,” she told me. I could have screamed. “There ARE,” I told her. “And you should visit University Foods, because you’ll probably be there a lot.” I also told her about Honey Bee Market (one of my personal favorites), Goodwells, Kim’s Produce, and a few others.

I could tell that, at first, a few of the people were nervous about coming into “the city.” I like to think, that with a real, live person talking about how much she likes living there, as well as a positive experience and exposure to the beautiful River Walk, a few of them changed their minds about how scary the city can seem.

Have any of you been pulled into this kind of situation? Do you do what I did, or do you have a different tactic? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Image courtesy of erikadotnet via Flickr
  • Jen H

    I really appreciate this post.  I’m considering moving to Detroit from the south.  Anytime I tell someone, they get a horrified look on their face and tell me it’s “dangerous”.  Members of my family used to live and work there, but they haven’t been back in 10-15 years.   

    Thanks for showing the positive side of Detroit :)