Opinion: My call to come home to Detroit
It was roughly one year ago when I returned to the city to interview for the Challenge Detroit fellowship. While I am a native of Detroit, it had been 10 years since I had lived full time in Detroit, spending four years in upstate New York for university and an additional six years working in web and digital communications in New York City.
I loved New York City. I enjoyed constantly being in earshot of five different languages, riding the subway, and trying to choose between a snack of Jamaican beef patties on Flatbush Avenue or scallion pancakes in Chinatown.
And yet Detroit beckoned me. It tugged on the strings of my memory and knocked on the door of my heart.
A walk down a tree-lined street in Prospect-Lefferts Garden reminded me of those in Rosedale Park. Late nights in Bushwick took my mind back to the cracked concrete sidewalks of the Grand River & Oakman Boulevard intersection. The sight of high schoolers competing on soccer fields next to the FDR Drive made me reminisce of the work my father invested into the creation of the first official inter-public school soccer program at Detroit Renaissance on Outer Drive.
It was with a seemingly magnetic pull that I came home to be part of Challenge Detroit, a yearlong fellowship that brings together leaders from across the country to collaborate on Detroit’s challenges and opportunities. As a Challenge Detroit Fellow working for Detroit Homecoming, I have been able to assist Detroit Homecoming with its expat engagement and external communications on Mondays through Thursdays. I have also had the opportunity to collaborate with other program Fellows and community members on the development of innovative recommendations and solutions for nonprofit organizations every Friday. These collaborative projects are the heart of the program, and have enabled me to learn more about my community and contribute to being bold and empathetic in our approach to urban and social issues.
A few weeks ago, around 60 men and women were in Detroit, from our own backyard and across the country, to interview for the same program that encouraged me to come home. After interviewing with various partnering companies and participating in immersive activities, a final cohort will be selected for the 2018-19 fellowship year.
Challenge Detroit proves that we are so much stronger and productive when we work together with creativity and hope. The city’s people, culture and complex beauty instilled in me a herculean love. This love for Detroit and its citizens challenges me to rethink sacrifice, investment, generosity, progress, development and community.
It challenged me to leave its city limits and to explore a brave, bold world so that I might finally realize the strength of its call.
Medvis Jackson is a Detroit native and Year Six Challenge Detroit Fellow.