Everyone is from somewhere. Everyone comes from a place that they don’t choose and it’s that place that is their hometown. Some of us move from place to place and hometown doesn’t mean as much, it becomes more centralized to the family itself, they are your hometown. It isn’t until you are a little older and can choose where you go and where you will invest your time, energy, and heart where you find more of a meaning of Home. Yes, home is where the ones you love are, but that is a purely emotional connection and is not a choice of the mind but of the heart.
Home though, home is not a someplace. It is YOUR place.
I grew up in a small town in Southern Michigan called Linden. It’s a nice little place but is a small town in every way. It’s quaint but closed and is slow to change, which can be good and bad. I liked growing up where I did but I was never invested in the area. It was where I was from. And it was fine, but that was all. When I moved out, really late in life, I moved into the first apartment I looked at. Again, it wasn’t home. It was a place. It was my first place. It was an adventure and I loved it, as much as you can love a place like that, where you have to call the cops on the neighbor for abusing his girlfriend, where people leave shopping carts in the yard, where drama seems to hover like a storm, but for what it was I did sorta love it.
I didn’t find home until I made my way to Flint.
Flint is my home.
It’s my home because I chose it.
It’s my home because I invested myself here.
It’s my home because I found my art and heart here.
It’s my home because I found friends here – the family you can choose.
Flint is my home because I believe in the heart of this place.
By now everyone knows the struggles of Flint, the stories of the crime, the dirty politics, the abandoned properties, the arson, the poverty, the lack of jobs, and now the water. Flint’s history of malfeasance and trouble are well chronicled and I have time and again reminded people of how much beauty there is here but with every good story out there comes the same tropes of racist rants and hateful dreams of bulldozing our community.
They don’t see the families at dinner.
The children laughing.
The friends sitting on porches.
The artists transforming an area.
The people who hate our city without knowing it see the police blotters.
They see black people committing crimes.
They see burned out houses in burned out neighborhoods.
They see the grants our city gets and look at them as handouts, not hand ups.
They see the twisted carnival mirror that they need us to be in order to be right.
Flint is not perfect.
It has an alphabet of issues.
But it is home.
Flint is where I met my first girlfriend.
Flint’s where I met my wife.
Flint is where my friends and I put together strange, freeform art shows.
Flint is where I got to live out the dream of putting a convention on.
It is so easy for us to fall back to what we know, to the fear of the world beyond our doorstep that we start building barricades against anything that isn’t Us and isn’t part of our tribe. We put ourselves on pedestals, even if just in our imaginations, so that everything and everyone is below us. The fear of cities, of people of color, and of the poor is still deeply rooted within our culture. Those are things we must rise above.
Those are things we must conquer if we are to be great once more.
And it is easy to look at the poor as societal lepers, hands out, reaching out for help and expecting people to take care of them as they lazily float through life.
We don’t see the shame.
We don’t see the depression.
We don’t see the hopelessness.
We don’t see the despair you feel when you have use the foodstamps.
Flint is the perfect villain for people from the suburbs who have come to hate a liberal world they don’t necessarily feel a part of believe in.
But they don’t see the people.
They don’t see the stories.
They don’t see the hands held against a future you can’t dare to believe in.
Flint is about more than water. Is about more than grants and non-profits. Flint is about more than the downtown or the north side or the cultural are.
Flint is all of those places at once.
Flint is mobile barbecues set up in parking lots.
Flint is running clubs gearing up for a huge August race.
Flint is neighbors cutting one another’s grass, or clearing one another’s snow.
Flint is community baseball games in the summer.
Flint is laughing children and smiling familes.
Flint is more than the things that drag it down.
It is the heart that beats against all reason or rhyme.
Flint refuses to bow to anyone, standing tall and proud, battered and beautiful and better than all of the people who call her home.
She is scarred and broken but hopeful and resilient with a history that still fills one with.
Flint is many things but above them all she is home.
Flint is home.