Technically, I’m not “Imported from Detroit”, I’m imported from Oklahoma. The product of parents who met in the military, got married and had a baby…or something like that. Dad is from Georgia. Mom, fortunately, spent her formative years in Detroit. So, when they decided to go their separate ways, we eventually ended up in Detroit by way of Georgia and Alabama. I loved my summer’s in the south, but Detroit made me the woman I am today!
Through its culture, community, resources and people, Detroit taught me many life lessons in ways you wouldn’t expect or realize unless you’re from here. Listed below are just a few.
*To any out-of-towners reading this blog, I’m about to talk about a bunch of stuff that no longer exists! I suggest you YouTube and Google all of it!*
Belief in Yourself
Everyone who knows me knows that I am a dancin’ machine (watch her get down, watch her get down) and that came in large part from a little ditty called The New Dance Show. Everyday at 6pm, our family TV was on Channel 62 watching RJ Watkins, Pam, LaWanda, Ms. Energy and ‘nem getting down to the sounds of DJ Jesse the Body! I could not wait until I got old enough to go to The Brotherhood Club in my “move somethin” dress and do the latest dances in the flyest outfits the late 80s and early 90s had to offer. There were no shy dancers on that show. No wallflowers running away from the cameras. Why? Because in their minds, they were the hottest dancers in Detroit and nothing anyone said could tell them otherwise. They were confident. They knew they were the whip! We could learn from that today. If you KNOW that you have a gift, who cares what someone has to say about it? Continue to cultivate your gift and give it away as much as you can!
Entrepreneurship and Supporting Your Local Business
Believe it or not, The New Dance Show was also one of my first introductions to entrepreneurship. Between the commercials for strip clubs (*sigh*), there were advertisements for Singleton’s Cleaners (“Your clothes aren’t clean until they’re Singleton’s clean!”), Henry the Hatter, Miley and Miley Shrimp Shack, Babes –n- Braids, City Slicker Shoes and so many other Detroit staples that provided quality service and took pride in their community. Guess what else? They were all Black-owned businesses. These weren’t large, multi-billion dollar corporations, just local business people with a vision. They were small businesses and understood the importance of humility and slow but steady growth. They took pride in producing a quality product. They valued their customers and it showed. If they were doing it back then, why can’t we today? With internet, smart phones and twice the access to resources that they had then, there is no reason that we all can’t have a side hustle (that could turn into a full time gig). We just have to remember to embody the same traits that had us going back to those great businesses we knew back then.
There is no room for fear when you’re in this city. Not because someone’s gonna rob you, but because fear will hold you back from taking in all Detroit has to offer! Detroiters are go-getters who don’t let a little fear get in the way of their ambitions. From fashion (Iklektikk, Sole Sisters, Spectacles) to art (The MOCAD, Detroit Artists Market), to politics, to business ventures (where else do kids come up with the idea to sell cold water on the streets? GENIUS!), Detroiters can do it all! The chance that they might fail doesn’t serve as a barrier. More like a shot of adrenaline in their veins. It propels them forward with an even greater intensity and drive to excel. Detroiters live out loud. Our style, our presence, our take no prisoners attitude, everyone can tell when their in the presence of a true Detroiter. We are unapologetic about it. That’s what I’ve learned, to be unapologetically who I am and live my life authentic to me. We cannot let fears of how we may be received stop us from getting out there, networking and working together to make it happen. For ourselves and ultimately Detroit as a whole!
Realistic Self Perception
Perhaps the biggest lesson Detroit has taught me is how to make an honest assessment of self and maintain a positive self-image in spite of what others may have to say. Does Detroit have her issues? AB-SO-FRICKIN’-LUTELY!!! But what city doesn’t? For every bad piece of press Detroit gets, there are bunches of people working diligently, behind the scenes, with no fan fair, to make Detroit the beautiful place that people (who care to look for it) know and love. The same is true with people. There is always gonna be someone to bring up that time you really stuck your foot in your mouth or the money you borrowed and didn’t pay back. Are those things true? Probably. Is that the total sum of who you are? Not even. What does one do when people constantly point out your negative traits, so much so to the extent that it would appear that you have no positive ones? The same thing Detroit does. Own your junk, figure out ways to clean it up, but don’t forget to celebrate the beauty, strength and tenacity that makes you, YOU!
Rhea J. Cooper is a proud graduate of Cass Technical High School and Eastern Michigan University. She currently works in northwest Detroit, with a diversion program for at-risk youth that is always looking for volunteers. If you’d like to make a difference in the life of a child, feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org