Bill Wylie-Kellermann is a Detroit activist and United Methodist pastor serving St. Peter’s, an Episcopal congregation. In his article, Resurrection City for Sojourners Magazine, he outlines a broad vision for how Detroit is transforming into a model for urban sustainability. Resurrection City can be read as a companion piece to Jenny Lee‘s Detroit: Arsenal of Creativity on new media economy in Detroit.
What if Detroit, the vacated and rusting shell of a deindustrialized city, turns out to be the hustling forefront of urban sustainability? Another city is possible in the shell of the old. For those with eyes to see, it’s actually happening.
In a certain sense Detroit has been living for decades with the implosion and collapse that is finally catching up with the rest of the country, and with the global system for that matter. In four decades we went from being the city with the highest rate of homeownership in the nation to being the city with the highest foreclosure rate. We lost a million people, mostly white folks. About a fifth of the homes in Detroit are vacant or abandoned. And still homeless people camp in parks and under bridges. As much as white flight, capital flight and job flight took their tolls. In the last decade nearly a quarter-million auto-related jobs disappeared in the metro area. Do you find the prospect of double-digit unemployment daunting? That we’ve had for a long time—percentage-wise we’re currently in the 20s.
And yet. As witnessed, the roots beneath are full of life. Amid signs of death an urban resurrection is afoot. In all these things are the openings and spaces for a whole new way of doing city life.