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Detroit Historical Society Detroit 67

Looking back to move forward

By Bob Bury

Page 54

Detroit is a classroom for the world, and the world is paying attention. We know that the challenges, achievements, successes and failures of our past can provide important lessons for our future.

In the year ahead, as we mark 50 years since the devastating summer of 1967 in our city, we have an unparalleled opportunity for Detroit, the region and beyond. Rather than simply let this important time in our history pass or just be a troubling reminder of a tragic event, we can use it as a catalyst to engage, reflect and provide opportunities to take collective action to move our community forward.

The Detroit Historical Society through its “Detroit 67: Looking Back to Move Forward” community engagement project has taken the lead to convene an unprecedented community-wide effort. Those who engage with the Detroit 67 project will be able to better understand the events leading up to July 1967, where we are today and connect to efforts that are moving Detroit forward.

The Detroit 67 Project, which will be announced to business and community leaders at this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference, will cover a period of 150 years. We will look back 100 years — from 1917 to today and, importantly, forward 50 years to 2067 — and use an understanding of our collective history to inform and inspire our future.

This is a big story that can be transformational, but also needs to be inclusive and balanced. As a key part of the project, we’re engaging diverse voices from across metro Detroit to share their individual perspectives in a digital collection of online oral histories. Hundreds of people are involved, including those who have vivid recollections of 1967 to those who weren’t born yet.

We also know we can’t tell this complex story alone and are taking the lead to connect the story and its relevance outside the museum. The DHS is leading an unprecedented community-wide involvement, calling on others, like New Detroit, who have social, economic, race relations and generational expertise to lead programs, workshops and discussions that help engage the community and connect to the ongoing story of our region.

We’re also partnering with organizations like the Detroit Police Department, the Department of Neighborhoods, the Detroit Regional Chamber and a diverse group of residents and community groups from across metro Detroit.

The centerpiece of the Detroit 67 project is a major exhibition opening at the Detroit Historical Museum in spring 2017. Comprehensive, balanced and experiential, we will break new ground for how a cultural institution works collaboratively with local and national scholars, experts and community members to design a thought-provoking, high-tech and high-touch experience complete with space for reflection, discussion and opportunities encouraging people to get involved.

The “Detroit 67: Looking Back to Move Forward” project will create a model that makes history relevant to a community’s present and future. It’s important and transformational and well-aligned with our mission of telling Detroit’s stories and why they matter.

This isn’t simply about telling a story, but rather about creating one. I invite you to join us.