WDET's Raw Feed

The Weekend Detroit Took Over NYC

by: Courtney Hurtt & Michelle Srbinovich

April 11, 2014

“New Yorkers respect how proud we are about our city; America would not be what it is today without NY and Detroit. Both cities currently breed innovation and both have been through hardships.” - Parker Lynch, co-founder Born and Raised Detroit

Like Detroit, New York City can be a magical place.

The WDET team visited the Big Apple last week for a screening of our documentary The Pleasure of Sound featuring Ghostly’s Matthew Dear and Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad. If you recall, this was the short film that we premiered in Detroit last October at MOCAD. We were excited to show it to a new audience and blown away by how quickly the screenings sold out, but what really left an impression on us was the Detroit presence we felt while visiting.


As it turns out, we were not the only people representing Detroit in New York that weekend. Detroiter Veronika Scott was in town to accept the DVF People's Voice Award and a $50,000 grant at the United Nations for the work she is doing with The Empowerment Plan - and our trip was full of serendipitous interactions with people who had Detroit roots. It all began on our way to the subway when we ran into musical artist Tunde Olaniran, 4-octave ranged pop singer from Flint, MI. He was on tour and performing at Union Pool bar in Brooklyn that night.

At the concert we met Paulina Petkoski, executive director of Playground Detroit, a non-profit with a mission to enhance Detroit's artistic reputation by connecting artists, entrepreneurs, and influencers. Playground Detroit was the presenter of that night's performance. They've brought Detroit artists to New York in the past and have partnered on residency programs and other initiatives to bring New York artists to Detroit. Paulina shared that she was a fan of WDET and we talked for awhile about the expat community in Brooklyn and the response they've had to the work they are doing. Detroit may not be the next Brooklyn, but it became clear that there is a cultural affinity between the two cities.

Coffee and Coincidence

On Friday, we caught up with WDET listeners at an informal meet up at La Colombe Torrefaction in TriBeCa. Detroiters young and old, from the city and suburbs, came out to connect with us and each other. Despite their various backgrounds and reasons for leaving, they all had a sincere interest in their hometown and a few even expressed a desire to return one day. Regardless of when they left or what part of town they lived in, they still identified as Detroiters - and were proud to rock some 'DET swag.

We weren’t too far from Shinola’s TriBeCa store so we decided to drop by. There we met another Detroiter (and WDET fan), Kirk, who told us about Show Your Love for Detroit, an annual fundraiser to support community organizations back home. The event was taking place the next night in the Lower East Side so we reached out to the organizers and decided to attend.

Born & Raised in Detroit

It turns out that the fundraiser was being organized by Born & Raised Detroit (BARD), a new foundation that supports supports programs taking place on the ground in Detroit. Last year they raised $100,000 and administered grants to Detroit organizations like the Ruth Ellis Center, RacquetUp and Summer in the City.

BARD began as a casual event for expats to come together the night before Thanksgiving while they were back in their hometown. Each year they would raise money for a local organization. It has since grown into a 501(c)3 with nearly forty active members in New York, Chicago, and Detroit.

"We believe that the future of Detroit lies within the youth; therefore, many charities we donate to are child-oriented." “ - Parker Lynch, BARD co-founder

The purpose of the Show Your Love for Detroit event is to raise funds and build awareness about the organization. This year they accomplished both of these goals; raising nearly $50,000 and attracting 500 attendees. Not only did we meet Detroiters here, but we also met individuals from all over the country that support this event as their way of making a contribution to our city. It probably doesn't hurt that they also throw a good party.

BARD is looking to expand and eventually have a chapter in every major city in America. They've held an open call for applications, but are always eager to hear about new non-profits in the city. You can view a list of organizations they've supported in the past and learn more about the work they are doing at bornandraisedetroit.org.

Connecting The Dots

We often associate Detroit's population loss with the removal of talent, capital and interest. However, if there’s anything this trip taught us it's that support for Detroit doesn't stop outside the city limits or our state's boundaries. The Detroit diaspora is alive, well and interested in getting involved - at least in New York City. And while we continue to have conversations here that question when you can start to call yourself a Detroiter, it became clear to us that some people never stop.

Are you a Detroit expat? We want to know, how do you stay connected to your hometown?