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Maraniss: No True Renaissance Until Neighborhoods Thrive

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Drawing on lessons from Detroit’s past, David Maraniss, associate editor of The Washington Post and best-selling author of “Once in a Great City,” explored how external factors such as the automotive industry, the birth of Motown music, labor negotiations and the Civil Rights movement impacted the city and lessons today’s leaders can learn from the 1960s.

During a Conference keynote address sponsored by Delta Air Lines, Maraniss said many of the issues that set the stage decades earlier for Detroit’s eventual bankruptcy are still relevant today. Chief among them is making sure opportunity trickles down to the city’s neighborhoods.

“It’s great to have downtown come back … but until the neighborhoods are revived, you can’t call it a renaissance,” he said.

A major component of that revitalization lies in education reform for Detroit schools and encouraging young people and talented immigrant entrepreneurs to move to Michigan.

“Detroit, like all great cities, is fueled by immigrants. You have to figure out how to bring more immigrants here and provide them the support they need to develop their entrepreneurial expertise,” Maraniss said.

While the Detroit of the 1960s, which is the primary focus of his book, is very different than today, Maraniss said issues like civil rights and the automotive industry continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the city’s narrative. Maraniss said both are moving in a positive direction.

“In the 1960s, the (automotive) industry was leaving Detroit because they did not realize Detroit is the beating heart of everything they do,” he said. “For the most part, I think the industry now sees that investing in Detroit is essential.”

Maraniss also discussed the importance of arts education in the classroom and Detroit’s impact on the national music scene.