Day 1: The Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center
Dinner was served at this historical recreation center on the first evening of the event to welcome the 200+ expats home. The space was transformed from a vacant building to a breathtaking space: edgy with a touch of elegance — just like Detroit.
As part of the Crain Communications Social Media Team, Melissa Divietri and I were ‘gramming, tweeting and broadcasting to give virtual access to this invite-only event. We utilized Facebook LIVE, Instagram stories, and Twitter with event hashtag #dethomecoming.
Facebook LIVE broadcast compliments of yours truly:
And because WordPress doesn’t support Facebook Video embeds (or at least I can’t figure it out) Watch it here.
I even got to meet Dan!
After the event came to a close, in true Detroit fashion, we headed to the after-party at Shinola.
Day 2: Cass Technological High School
What an amazing place. I had never been there before, and wow, was I impressed.
We had the privilege of listening to (and sharing with the social-verse) a slew of fascinating people talk about their past and present experiences with Detroit — and their future hopes and plans. We heard from Mayor Duggan, Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation and Khali Sweeney, founder of Downtown Boxing Gym to name just a few. They had the audience captivated, and we started trending on Twitter:
What’s more, as I was tweeting, monitoring the hashtag, you know, social media thangs – in the front row of the auditorium, a gentleman to my right comments on a post in the Twitter feed on my screen. He points to a photo and says, “That is art.” I chuckle and say, “yes, that is a great picture.” He says, “You don’t have to say that just because I took it.” I smile, and don’t really comprehend the implied joke. I check the twitter handle on the picture he likes and it is none other than, @ron_fournier. Oohhhhhhh. He sees the realization, and subsequent excitement and panic wash over my face. I say something super nerdy like “You’re him” (picture the M&Ms commercial with Santa. M&M’s: “You do exist, Santa, “They do exist.”) SO NERDY. Ron Fournier is a national political journalist who previously served as Washington bureau chief at the Associated Press. In other words, the guy’s a big deal. In fact, he was on the list of VIP people I would be broadcasting live on Facebook Live later that evening. He shrugs it off and smiles, “Yes, every once in a while I even check my own ID.”
Next, the #DetHomecoming group traveled to Will Leather Goods for a fantastic lunch.
The food was remarkable. The catering company, Forte Belanger, traveled with us to each venue and provided drool-inducing food at every turn. What’s more, their service was IMPECCABLE. I mean, I would go as far as to say jaw-dropping. Before you blinked your empty plate was removed, before your cocktail was ever empty you had been offered another. What if you couldn’t figure out how to work the freight elevator in an old abandoned building? To my surprise, they helped with that too.
Later that evening, we continued our adventure at the Max Fisher Theatre. What turned out to be the most captivating of the Fireside Chats, in my opinion, happened next:
Watch it here.
Day 3: We migrated, again, this time to the Rusas Printing Building.
My favorite event of that day was this:
Watch it live here.
To summarize this experience is tough. To be fair, there were several (amazing) parts I left out. Think of this blog post as my personal highlights. The most vivid parts of the event- according to me. It was undoubtedly one of the coolest events I have ever attended and had the privilege of covering. It was exciting to meet people who are shaping the future of Detroit. Awe- inspiring, even. The positivity and sheer rawness that permeated this event was unreal. The emotion was palpable whenever anyone talked about ‘their hometown’ of Detroit. It was like having a secret window into the future – as well as to the past. There was a lot of, we’ve come such a long way, and maybe even more of, we still have such a long way to go. But one thing was clear. Everyone agreed:
Detroit is worth the fight.