I am so glad I decided to take RCIDIV 350 this semester (take this class if you get a chance!!) and engage in the Detroiters Speak series. After volunteering weekly in Detroit for the past few semesters through the Detroit Partnership, I had a keen interest in the city and have been waiting for a class that would expose me to the city further. This class was a perfect fit, and I was very thankful for the opportunity to travel to the city every other Thursday this semester and learn from some amazing Detroiters.
This class gave me a window into the Detroit community that I could not have gotten any other way. While diverse in race, background, occupation and personality, the speakers all had one thing in common, their love for the city of Detroit and passion for the city’s future. Betty DeRamus shared a unique and particularly intriguing perspective as a former Detroit Free Press journalist. Hearing her tell the story of many Detroiters she encountered, as well as her own story, was inspiring. She was incredibly spirited, well-spoken and an amazing storyteller. Her passion for the city and its people was contagious.
I especially enjoyed the class held at the Puerto Rican Club in downtown Detroit. I had never been exposed to Puerto Rican culture before visiting the club and learned a lot about the history of that particular community and how they gained a sense of belonging in Detroit. I really appreciated the viewpoints of those who had grown up in the city and had witnessed it change throughout history. The Club was a very vibrant and welcoming atmosphere (we got to eat Puerto Rican food, hear live music and dance!) and I felt fully immersed in Puerto Rican culture during our visit.
I really valued having readings before each speaker session so I could learn background information as well as the context of the topic we would be hearing about. I thought that prepared me well to ask questions and listen intently to the speakers as they told their stories. I particularly appreciated this for the Detroit City Council session, as learning about the new district configuration was key to understanding the perspectives of the different panelists.
From this class, I learned so much about a city very close to us in the best way possible- through its citizens, storytellers and leaders. I have gained a much greater appreciation for the history, culture, people and government of the city of Detroit and plan to stay very connected to the city in my future, as a University of Michigan student and beyond. Let me know if you have any questions about the class- I highly recommend it!