I Will Stay If…

Abandonment destroys the future of everything it touches: people, families, cities, states, countries. There is perhaps no city in our country that is living an abandonment fantasy nightmare more than Detroit, MI.

In light of this, GLUE (Great Lakes Urban Exchange) did a project where they asked Detroiters of all ages, shapes and sizes what it would take to keep them in the city called I Will Stay If…

The project asked people to complete the sentence “I will stay [in Detroit] if…” What a simple, elegant, brilliant concept. Some of the answers were very interesting.

This has been on my mind a lot over the past couple of days of bad news about GM and negatively framed analysis on the future of Detroit, of Michigan, and of the entire Midwest. For example, my fiancée & I heard an NPR BBC broadcast Monday night that had someone from Detroit’s Capuchin Soup Kitchen (incidentally, a place I worked in 2001) talking about how Detroit resembled a 3rd world country. His arguments were too ridiculous to repeat. Suffice it to say that this guy was not a good advocate neither for the disadvantaged nor the city.

As someone who, frankly, is a prototypical example of Southeastern Michigan brain drain, this troubles me. Not only does my home need people like me to stay & not leave in the first place, or come back home] we also need present ourselves in a positive way and share our vision for a future brighter than the present.

Finishing the “I Will Stay If…” sentence is a great way of beginning that.

One Love. One II.

Video credit: Model D


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

5 responses to “I Will Stay If…”

  1. Mashawnta says :

    I will stay. (Period).
    Garlin come back, we need you.

  2. Brandon Q. says :

    Ditto @Mashawnta,

  3. Brandon Q. says :

    But seriously, we need to transform our economy and embrace regionalism like the folks over in Stuttgart, Germany. We need more regionalism, higher commitment to education at all levels, comprehensive mass transit, a dynamic new economy, and a general ease with the only constant in life….change.

  4. Danielle says :

    This post is really tough for me to respond to. I was born and raised in Detroit, and have recently contemplated moving, south after receiving my master’s degree in December 09. ….I really want to stay, my family is here, my friends are here, but it’s tough when you know what the city’s missing, when you’ve been exposed to more. Yes, it hurts to hear that Detroit is being compared to a third world country, but I’ve traveled internationally, lived in a developing country for two years, so I can honestly say that yes, Detroit is comparable to a third world country, not just in respect to infrastructure, but I’m talking about the spirit within.

    I’ve already begun my search for work elsewhere, but I will say this: I will stay if Detroit begins to embrace diversity -diversity of mind, culture, spirit, and experience.

  5. Garlin II says :

    @Mashawnta & @Brandon,

    I’m flattered & I’m preparing.


    I can identify with your situation, as it is precisely the dilemma I faced when graduating from Michigan in 2005. I took work here in Seattle.

    I’d encourage you to, if you do leave the area, to not slam the door on it. The only thing perhaps more damaging than people leaving the area is people swearing they’ll never come back; those that completely write off home.

    I’m curious as to what you mean by Detroit being comparable to a third world country because of the “spirit within.” Do you mean a spirit of pessimism? Apathy? Frustration? Vagrancy? I’ve never been to a developing nation myself, so I can’t speak authoritatively, but I bet that just because most of the people are poor by Western standards that they’re not unhappy.

    One Love. One II.

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