Detroit made history in July 2013 when it became the largest city in America to file for bankruptcy. But in the wake of the Chapter 9 filing and last November’s settlement that ended it, how have Motor City residents been affected? And how is the home of the legendary Motown bouncing back?
In December, the city’s young poets will have a chance to weigh in. At Detroit Bankruptcy: One Year Later, a community forum presented by public radio station WDET and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, a group of students from the Detroit Institute of Technology College Prep High School at Cody will perform original poetry sourced from facts and figures about the city’s economics.
The poems are currently works in progress that began at a workshop co-hosted by the InsideOut Literary Arts Project and WDET in October. The process was inspired by the inaugural experiment from the Off/Page Project, our collaboration with Youth Speaks.
In 2013, the Off/Page Project provided young poets in Stockton, California – the biggest American city to go bankrupt before Detroit – with news and information about the city’s history and financial state. The Stockton workshops, and the poems that resulted, were the foundation of our documentary “Broken City Poets.”
The October poetry workshop in Detroit drew from Off/Page’s work in Stockton. Held at Cody High School, 30 students heard from WDET reporter Sandra Svoboda about what the bankruptcy filing meant for the city. Her presentation framed the context for a writing exercise led by InsideOut’s Mahogany Jones and Benjamin Alfaro. The prompt: Beginning with the word “whereas,” students were asked to use facts they learned during the presentation and explain how they were reflected in their everyday lives.
At the forum Dec. 9, selected student poems will be performed at Wayne State University Community Arts Auditorium, providing a fresh backdrop for the main event: a discussion between journalists in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative and a panel of speakers, including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Steven Rhodes, the now-retired federal judge who delivered the historic ruling that brought Detroit out of bankruptcy.
Off/Page will be at the forum interviewing students about their writing process and experience performing at the event. Stay tuned for updates about the poems and the students behind them.
In the meantime, you can read more about the ongoing effects of Detroit’s bankruptcy and recovery in Next Chapter Detroit, a new series from WDET and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. Follow the conversation on social media using the hashtag #DETNEXT.
Detroit Bankruptcy One Year Later
Wayne State University Community Arts Auditorium
450 Reuther Mall
Detroit, MI 48202
Dec. 9, 6 to 8 p.m.