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Old 04-08-2016, 12:47 PM
 
Location: Metro Detroit
1,787 posts, read 2,036,121 times
Reputation: 3559

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The past few weeks I've had the opportunity to work in Flint and get a more intimate look at it than most people get, I've spent time driving through the neighborhoods, talking with residents, going inside homes, and really getting to know the community. My business was professional (non-sales) and infrastructure related, but I can't talk much about the specifics of it.

Originally when I volunteered for this project, I expected to be introduced to a rough, run down, somewhat dangerous place and maybe even experience what it's like to be on the receiving end of racism (I'm white and act about as urban as a farm animal). I was going to get outside of my comfort zone, but I figured statistically I would likely not get myself into any trouble, so it was a good opportunity.

And I'll be honest, I found some of that. I heard gunshots, I had people yell at me for no reason, I'm pretty sure I saw a drug deal, and I got chased into my truck by a stray dog - but other than a couple of one-off situations that could've happened in any town, I really found something I didn't expect. I found a vibrant, proud and socially involved community. There were a handful of burned down houses and more that were boarded up, but the vast majority of the houses were decently maintained and some were actually really nice. Many of the homes were far nicer than the little suburban colonial I live in and some neighborhoods had no blight at all. Downtown Flint is beautiful. There are pubs, restaurants, people walking everywhere, and just a very vibrant feel to it all. The University District and Mott Park area is wonderful and the homes are fantastic. The Central East Side had beautiful tree lined streets and large homes. Had you blindfolded me, taken me there, and asked me where I was I probably would've guessed Troy. It's nothing like Detroit. There are grocery stores, gas stations I'm not afraid to get fuel from, coffee shops, roads you can drive on and all the regular things you expect in a city. Nobody formally threatened me, and the majority of people were happy to meet me. They wanted to tell me their story, hear about mine, and query me for knowledge.

Each day I was there, I went around the neighborhoods with a small team. One of the team members was a community representative - someone from the city of Flint whose job it was to bridge the gap between a socially-awkward, culturally-ignorant scientist (me) and the residents of an inner city. This person varied, but usually my assigned community rep and I just became partners, friends even. We met people from all backgrounds: wealthy, poor, old, young, black, white - all great people and often I had more in common with them than the community person did, that's how diverse the city is. Regardless of any of that, I found that most people just wanted to be friendly.

I may have made a minor difference, but I think the biggest impact this project had was on me. I have a different opinion on Flint. It's not all poverty, and the parts that are poverty are not strange to me. The people are the same as me. Typically they want the same things I want. Most of all I learned that people don't stay in Flint because they have no place else to go, most of them stay in Flint because they love their community and that's where they want to be. They want it to be a great little city and, from what I saw, they're doing just that.
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Old 04-08-2016, 01:08 PM
 
643 posts, read 376,503 times
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You mean you got sick at what a hole it is and ran to your car, then I understand
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Old 04-08-2016, 04:27 PM
 
1,916 posts, read 2,419,742 times
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Thanks for sharing your experience and your thoughts. I still have a lot of family in Flint. Nevertheless, so many of my family that lived there has moved to Atlanta (that is the hot place to go for black folk).

I had have 2 first cousins murdered there. However, I have fond memories of going up to Flint and visiting my grandmother, aunts, and cousins when I in 1980's and 1990's. They stay/stayed on the north side, which is supposedly not the good side, but I never felt unsafe in that neighborhood, it felt very tight-knit.

I am glad you saw some great things and met some great people. It shows that Flint can rebound, it has good people and good bones for a revival. Let's hope and pray the lead in the water has a minimal effect on the youth.

(P.S. your shot at Detroit was bewildering. We have a lot of gorgeous neighborhoods and I am glad none of those nice 'hoods look like the paragon of mass-produced strip mall, office parks, and cookie-cutter houses that is Troy)
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Old 04-08-2016, 05:24 PM
 
Location: Metro Detroit
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Originally Posted by usroute10 View Post
(P.S. your shot at Detroit was bewildering. We have a lot of gorgeous neighborhoods and I am glad none of those nice 'hoods look like the paragon of mass-produced strip mall, office parks, and cookie-cutter houses that is Troy)
No, you're absolutely right and sorry at the jab - didn't really think that through. Detroit also has some neighborhoods (and not just the City Center ones) that are beautiful. Work has unfortunately taken me mostly to Del Ray and Core City, so I have maybe not a super positive/unbiased perspective on the city neighborhoods, but there are unquestionably parts of Detroit that blow away your typical suburb, I've just not spent much time in them - yet I'll get there!

Sorry to hear about your cousins. There are certainly rough parts to Flint. A couple neighborhoods up off Pierson (that's where I heard gunshots) and near the old Buick City plant come to mind. Also the neighborhood by the public hospital is pretty sketchy and I wouldn't go there after dark, but that's not the whole city - just parts.
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Old 04-08-2016, 05:52 PM
 
Location: Michigan
4,640 posts, read 7,458,801 times
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I can sort of relate. For a while, I had only heard of Flint as a crime infested hole similar to Detroit. The city routinely makes the top of the list of cities with high homicide rates, and even at one point it was reported the police department had only had 4 working officers.

But one day about two years ago, I drove up to Flint via Dixy Highway/ Saginaw Road. I drove through downtown up MLK avenue and made a left on Pierson to head back to 75. Flint was honestly better than I expected. Sure the city is struggling, but it's honestly not much different than most other smaller towns in the Midwest outside of college towns. Even other Michigan cities like Saginaw, Lansing, and Muskegon all kind of resemble Flint. Both in the rough areas and typical but charmed suburban areas. Even Detroit has all of the same qualities, but just on a larger scale obviously.

I wouldn't say my trips around Michigan have changed me to any great degree, but I think I have better appreciation for the state's potential. To be fair though, I kind of feel that through reading your posts, you might have lower standards than what a native Michigander would have for these cities especially since many people grew up when these cities were at their peak and thriving, but it's refreshing to have such a positive view of the cities here.
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Old 04-08-2016, 10:06 PM
 
Location: Back in the Mitten. Formerly NC
3,832 posts, read 5,669,220 times
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Thank you for taking your time and sharing your story. Most people on here simply listen to the news and judge Flint without any first hand experience.

Admittedly, I only lived in Flint until I was 5. I was born in the early 80s, so the school systems had been pretty bad for a while once I was of school age. We moved to the suburbs. However, my family remained, and I spent so much time at my grandparents' houses, I might as well have lived there. My family lived on the east side. My maternal family in the state streets, near Lowell and Williams. My grandmother shopped exclusively at the Hickory Meat Block. My paternal family near Longway Park and Potter. A few from both sides lived on the other side of Leith as well, closer to Sobey.
All houses are still standing and well maintained. The house I grew up in, a few blocks from Angelos, is one of only a handful of houses still standing on its block. It has been altered (and looks terrible because the job was done poorly), but they keep the yard up.
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Old 04-08-2016, 11:05 PM
 
Location: Detroit
3,671 posts, read 4,939,789 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geo-Aggie View Post
No, you're absolutely right and sorry at the jab - didn't really think that through. Detroit also has some neighborhoods (and not just the City Center ones) that are beautiful. Work has unfortunately taken me mostly to Del Ray and Core City, so I have maybe not a super positive/unbiased perspective on the city neighborhoods, but there are unquestionably parts of Detroit that blow away your typical suburb, I've just not spent much time in them - yet I'll get there!

Sorry to hear about your cousins. There are certainly rough parts to Flint. A couple neighborhoods up off Pierson (that's where I heard gunshots) and near the old Buick City plant come to mind. Also the neighborhood by the public hospital is pretty sketchy and I wouldn't go there after dark, but that's not the whole city - just parts.
Oh lol now it makes since. Those are 2 of the crappiest neighborhoods in Detroit. Along with a few more that come to mind... you literally can not do worse. But keep in mind Detroit is alot more densely populated than Flint not to mention bigger so the scale is a bit more extreme on both ends of the spectrum. But most neighborhoods in Detroit are still pretty dense by American standards.

But thank you for your post. I've only been to Flint once... I really want to make it back up there one day. Literally nothing you hear about Flint is good, even Detroit has a more positive image than Flint. Your job sounds pretty interesting, I'm glad you got to experience a side of Flint that the media doesn't show you. It's crazy how much negativity sells.
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Old 04-09-2016, 12:20 PM
 
Location: Metro Detroit
1,787 posts, read 2,036,121 times
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Originally Posted by MS313 View Post
Oh lol now it makes since. Those are 2 of the crappiest neighborhoods in Detroit. Along with a few more that come to mind... you literally can not do worse. But keep in mind Detroit is alot more densely populated than Flint not to mention bigger so the scale is a bit more extreme on both ends of the spectrum. But most neighborhoods in Detroit are still pretty dense by American standards.

But thank you for your post. I've only been to Flint once... I really want to make it back up there one day. Literally nothing you hear about Flint is good, even Detroit has a more positive image than Flint. Your job sounds pretty interesting, I'm glad you got to experience a side of Flint that the media doesn't show you. It's crazy how much negativity sells.
The media... heh. They have their story to tell, facts be damned.
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Old 04-09-2016, 12:21 PM
 
1,648 posts, read 2,825,941 times
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You peaked my curiosity. I've never spent any time in Flint.

Can you list a couple of places/bars/restaurants you would recommend for a day trip.
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Old 04-09-2016, 02:45 PM
 
Location: Loving life in Gaylord!
4,121 posts, read 8,079,731 times
Reputation: 3906
I spent many years working in Flint, even the rough North side. I had a few run-ins, but nothing where I felt like I was gonna die. Flint has a lot of great, proud people. It's not as bad as it is portrayed in the media. When I lived downstate I lived 20 minutes away, so I was always in Flint for one reason or another. Sure, some parts are so bad you can just feel the life sucked out of you, just avoid those areas.
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