Erik Prouix, Filmmaker, Lemonade Detroit

What is Detroit‘s Brand?

If you’re not from there, you might only think of Detroit as the city with the massive population contraction. Or the one abandoned by the auto industry. Or the place with all the racial tension.

Or maybe when you watched the Super Bowl last year, you were introduced to a Detroit you hadn’t considered. You saw Eminem driving a Chrysler 200 through a hard-nosed, never-say-die, lunch-pail city with the Joe Louis fist suspended proudly by the riverfront (ironically located just outside of General Motors’ headquarters).

Whatever your impression of Detroit, I can tell you that if you’ve never spent any time there, it’s wrong. You may think you know about the city’s grit, but unless you meet gritty Detroiters, you don’t. You may think you understand the concept of reinventing blight into opportunity, but until you walk through the Russell Industrial Center or the Heidleberg Project, you don’t. You may think that as an enlightened white person, you understand the psychology of blacks who are just a few generations removed from slavery. But until you walk through the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, you don’t. (And even after that, you don’t.)

I’ve spent the better part of two years traveling to The Motor City to film “Lemonade: Detroit,” allowing myself to be absorbed by its zeitgeist, trying to find stories of reinvention that accurately reflect its brand . . . A brand I could have never fully – nor even partially – grasped without the first hand experience of being there.

There are anecdotes of promise everywhere you look that belie what you think you know. I coudn’t begin to list even a tiny fraction of what makes Detroit’s brand so resilient, so proud, so inspiring.

But here are a few stories that have been on my mind lately:

The Green Garage, which what was once an abandoned Model T showroom, has been reinvented into a collaborative workspace for sustainable Detroit entrepreneurs.

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