One of Going Home’s goals is to leverage the “Love” to work against the “Hate.” The blog, of course, has its racial undertones: one of its key functions, after all, is to convene mostly white suburbanites to help a mostly black inner-city neighborhood. You could read a kind of misplaced colonialism into it. You could chalk its motivation up to white guilt. You could focus on the fact that Happy and Morgan, both white, live in Detroit’s comfortable suburbs. And you could wonder how much difference a single playground actually makes in the scheme of things. Maybe you’d be right. But Going Home, its advocates will tell you, is as much symbolic as it is practical—a small-but-important step in moving on from the mutual pain of the past. The blog’s potent combination of anger and understanding will, they hope, provide a bit of the heat necessary to help dissolve the racial tensions—city versus suburb, which is often used as a euphemism for “black” versus “white”—that have stymied the neighborhood’s, and Detroit’s, development over the years. “Unfortunately,” Happy writes in a post,
we have a political climate in the city and surrounding suburbs that hinders us from creating the necessary bonds for massive movements in Detroit—in the bowels of the city, far from the Riverfront, casinos and ballparks. I read a Free Press editorial recently that said if you’re a black politician in Detroit who reaches out to the suburbs, you’re labeled as an Uncle Tom; if you’re a white politician in the ‘burbs who reaches into the city, you’re committing political suicide.
Shame on the system.
The coming together of the past and present—whites and blacks—to work on the Fletcher Playground project has produced incredible dialogue and innovation that could benefit other bruised and fractured neighborhoods around the city.
Happy sometimes takes his young children to play at Fletcher Field; Lou, Shaun, and Amanda have become friendly with kids in the neighborhood. One day, Happy says, four-year-old Mandy, after an afternoon spent at Fletcher Field, announced to her mother, “I want braids like the girls at the park have.”
“So Shannon sat there for almost an hour, trying to get her thin, blond hair into braids ‘like the park girls,’” Happy says. He smiles at the memory. It’s moments like this—small but powerful—that he’s been working for. To him, they’re the whole point.
Ends today: If you'd like to help CJR and win a chance at one of
10 free print subscriptions, take a brief survey for us here.