Category Archives: Business and Branding

Talent in Detroit

With all of the bad news, crime statistics and potential for receivership under an Emergency Financial Manager (regardless of what Mayor Bing said in his State of the City address a few days ago), we often forget about the talent that is deeply rooted and often overlooked in the City of Detroit. Detroit receives worldwide attention for the North American International Auto Show, the government scandals and the uprise of foreclosures leading to additional blight, but Detroit doesn’t receive the same level of attention for the talent that has grown and exists here. So many people have left the arms of the City of Detroit for the softer, greener pastures of Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York (where the competition is stiffer), in an effort to become break out stars. Many of whom have achieved that goal, while others have been sent running home with their tails tucked.

As I look at all of the talented people in Detroit, I sometimes overhear people stating that they want to step out on faith, leave the city and become successful elsewhere. This makes me wonder ~ If they put the same energy into remaining and working on their craft here, as they put into their plans for exodus, how successful would they become? The same plans a person has to become successful in another city, can be implemented for them to become successful in Detroit. Don’t get me wrong, I clearly understand that Detroit is behind the eight ball in technology, infrastructure, commerce and entertainment compared to larger urban meccas like Atlanta, the bright lights of Hollywood and the always busy streets of the Big Apple. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t improve. Improvement requires people with ideas, just as much as improvements cost money. I sometimes think that we’re getting what we get from our leadership simply because we don’t demand more from them. They have cut the arts from schools, they don’t appropriate Federal funds into the community the way they should and they would rather lay people off from work than have an Emergency Financial Manager uncover their corruption. This results in people losing hope and feeling that the promised land is elsewhere instead of underneath their feet. Those are some of the same issues other large cities have. It’s the national recession. It just hits cities like Detroit harder.

This weekend I had the privilege of attending Fashion in Detroit, an event sponsored and organized by Denise Ilitch (her father is the founder, owner and business mogul behind Little Caesar’s Pizza, the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers), and Joe Faris (Project Runway contestant and Michigan native); two individuals who obviously have business and creativity in their blood. The afternoon was full of beautiful fashions designed mostly by Detroiters. Yes, fashion is present and alive in The D. Have you ever heard of a talented young lady by the name of Tracey Reese? She’s a graduate of Cass Technical High School in DETROIT.  Have you heard of Kevan Hall? He also is a native Detroiter. Shoe designers Shane and Shawn are also Detroiters and graduates of Cass Technical High School. If you didn’t know this, please allow me the privilege of educating you briefly…

Detroit has been fashionable since it was named Motown.  

Then there are the big names in entertainment like Tim Allen, Jerry Bruckheimer, Ellen Burstyn, Francis Ford Coppola, Jeff Daniels, David Alan Grier, Madoon, Eminem, Tom Selleck, Kid Rock, the late Sonny Bono, the late Aaliyah, Blair Underwood, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Bill McKinney, Big Sean, J Dilla, Brandon T. Jackson, Anita Baker, Aretha Franklin, The Clark Sisters, The Winans, and many, many others. The list of heavy hitters in entertainer from Detroit is so long that it would take another 500 words for me to name them all. But I think you get the point. Detroit is full of talent. But we have to nurture its growth. Even if success eventually pulls people from the city, we need those people to be proud of where they came from. It doesn’t hurt for them to come back and visit sometimes. I honestly believe that if the most successful people who originated from Detroit, would occasionally show up and embrace this city as their home. and use their influence to improve the city’s image, the leadership here would be compelled to do a better job representing the community. That’s just my opinion and I could be wrong. But will anyone step up and attempt to prove me wrong with action? Worse case scenario: Detroit receives POSITIVE media attention.

I know that the city requires a lot of work to rise from the ashes of the last several years. I believe that it can be done. I”m working to do my part to change its image. But I’m just one person. And I’ve noticed that the Detroit community hasn’t quite embraced The Brand; mostly because it’s not what they are accustomed to. Michigan is a working class state. As a result, creativity is often frowned upon and viewed as mere craziness. This attitude results in talented people feeling the need to flee to other cities where they hope to be more “accepted”. I’m blessed to have the encourage of my supporters to keep me from feeling defeated by the lack of love I receive from my city. The first major publication to interview me was Rollin’ Out Magazine which is published out of Atlanta. The first talk show to contact me to make an appearance was also in Atlanta. There are a lot of opportunities for me in Atlanta, that I will take advantage of very soon. Taking those opportunities may result in me temporarily relocating, which I’ve planned for when the time comes. But my movie writing career is rooted here in Detroit (more on that forthcoming) and my business is headquartered here. These are things that will always spark me to declare that I’m Imported from Detroit. I hope that one day my city re-embraces creatives and supports the local talent more than it has over the last several years. If not, it won’t limit the opportunities for creatives elsewhere, but it will have a detrimental effect on the way the world views what was once called Motown.