When I first heard about the new Detroit film, my first thought was panic. How is this movie going to portray my city? Will it cast it in a negative light, canceling out all the wonderful work that has been done in the last few years to revitalize the city? Will Detroit ever escape its negative reputation?
This past winter, I took a history of Michigan class, much of which was centered on Detroit. We studied the riot historically, taking into account what was happening in the world and, specifically in the city, during and leading up to the event. It amazed me that I had right outside downtown for the majority of my life and knew so little of the city’s history.
During the semester, I attended a lecture by historians who were writing a book on Detroit 1967. It was the first time I had heard “the riots” referred to as a rebellion, people speaking openly about police brutality at the time and of the Algiers Motel.
I was disappointed in myself for not knowing more about the events of 1967 and was disgusted that I had never heard of what happened at the Algiers Motel. This made me start thinking about my education leading up to the lecture. In my primarily schooling, the history of Detroit was only briefly talked about. All I knew about 1967 was what I heard in casual conversation. My knowledge of the event was limited to it being referred to as “the riots” and the fear that was brought about by tanks driving down Mack Avenue. Never were “the riots” contextualized with segregation, nor were the events ever explained as anything other than citizens rioting. The Algiers Motel was never mentioned. So, when the trailer finally premiered, my initial reaction of what will this mean for the city was replaced with one word: “finally”.
As I watch Detroit building herself back up into the great city she once was and can be again, I’m glad this story will be told to the world. All too often history is told through a narrow lens of perspective. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to move on unless we know the untold stories of the past. Hopefully, Detroit opens the door for more storytelling to broaden the lens of understanding of our great city.
I haven’t seen the movie yet and am curious, what did you think of it? Did you enjoy it? Did it make you see Detroit in a new light? Did it do the story justice?