There is an abandoned party store on State Fair Avenue in Detroit. It is located just west of the I-75 expressway. It’s an interesting one-story building, constructed in the Art Deco style that was popular in the 1930’s. It has the classic Deco lines and features, curved corners and a rounded overhang that juts out over the sidewalk.
However, it wasn’t the traditional architectural style of that era that caught my attention while riding past it on Sunday. It was the unusual looking, school type blackboard that was created on the face of the building, where the windows and door once were. The blackboard was covered in words. Not random words one would expect, but words in an organized manner.
On that pseudo-blackboard was the bold headline “We Need…”. Below that attention-grabbing headline are eight, word filled, columns. Each of the columns had 12 lines; all began with “We need”, in the same letter font style as the bold headline. Next to the pre-painted words “We need”, there is a painted straight white line flowing right. On those lines people have written in words, with chalk, things that are important to their quality of life in that poor neighborhood of Detroit.
The words found on those 96 lines on the wall are eye-opening and range from humorous to practical. There are the usual messages one would imagine on urban walls such as: We need “More Money”, “Respect”, “Less Killings” and “Jobs”. Others I saw were amusing and unexpected: We need “Less Charlie Laduff” (a local TV news reporter), “To Learn How To Spell” and “Condoms”.
Many of the filled-in words are hard-hitting and truthful, and I believe mirror life in that old neighborhood: We need “Better Schools”, “Respect”, “Better Attitudes”, “More EMS”, “Faster Police”, “Paint Supplies (for Art), and many others. Some of the more emotional messages I saw were “to Stop Crying”, “More Dads, “Better Moms”, “More Grandmas”, “More Mentors for Our Children”, “Good Dads” and “To Smile”.
I’m sure all 96 plus messages have special significance and are personal to those posting to the wall. While reading through the variety of needs listed, a couple stood out for me. They are words most of us have heard many times, over-and-over, and they make complete sense: “Stop the Violence” and “A better Detroit”. This city needs both.