A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend Racing Forward’s “Facing Race” conference in Detroit, MI. While the bulk of my stay was for the purpose of the conference, I did have a day to myself to explore the town that has so much history of Black culture, as well as another country! I might talk about my experience at Facing Race in another post, but for now, let’s take a walk through a part of Detroit, and Windsor, Canada:
I landed in Detroit on Wednesday afternoon, immediately taken by the colors of the trees surrounding the airport, the freeway and the city. Reds, oranges, yellows littered the ground, a sight that’s uncommon in Southern California weather due to the more tropical climate. I was staying at a hotel downtown, directly across the Renaissance Center, with a wonderful view of the City of Windsor, Canada, across the river.
I had originally wanted to visit Windsor that night, but I knew that I wouldn’t have much time before the Tunnel bus ended service so I settled on walking through a little bit of downtown. My small obsession with coffee shops led me to Yelp for a local favorite, which I quickly found only a few blocks away from the hotel. Roasting Plant Detroit was a serious yet unpretentious shop, greeting customers with its “Javabot” upon entry. This series of clear tubes reveal “green” beans in a series of clear storage columns. When it’s time for roasting, the beans are automatically measured out by weight and then “whooshed” into the roaster via bursts of air through clear pneumatic tubes.” I probably had one of the best mochas of my life with an Ethiopian coffee and Oat Milk (yeah, I was one of those people).
From there I walked back to the Renaissance Center, which is also the HQ for General Motors Automotives. The first floor of the center was showroom for all of their vehicles, including race cars, and provided a unique experience seeing the future of automotive from the lens of GM.
Due to being up so early that morning (in CA time), my flight and the travelling, I was tired early so I spent the evening in my room, ordering delivery from 2149 Street Food, a delicious Mediterranean eatery (I had the falafel fatoush flatbread) and cuddled with Hulu.
Thankfully, Thursday was one of my other free days. I didn’t need to check-in to the conference till the afternoon so I decided to wake up early and head over to Windsor, across the river, in Canada! With $5 and a passport in hand, you can take the Tunnel Bus to Windsor every half hour. To visit another country only 15 minutes away is a unique treat, but I want to acknowledge that I should have visited later in the day as I was there before many businesses were open. That said, I go to enjoy a lovely caramel macchiato from The Coffee Exchange and breakfast from this adorable eatery, A Dog’s Breakfast. I had a “French Toast Lasagna,” which was layered brioche bread that was striped with cardamon and caramelized edges. Y’all, when I say it was good….it was good.
Adjacent to the restaurant was Maiden Lane, where their walls are adorned with murals from street artists around the country. I’ll show some of my favorite ones below…
While my time in Windsor was brief, my experience was lovely. Just the ability to cross to a different country on your breakfast hour is pretty incredible.
Returning form Windsor, I had to check in for my conference but there was some time before any events so I decided the Motown Museum. We weren’t allowed to take pictures throughout the tour, except for one room, which was the original recording studio. The tour, led by a fabulous guide, covered the beginnings of Motown Records, the rise of Berry Gordy, the growth and changes of the company, to productions and so on. Most importantly, to be in a space where so many pivotal figures in music & culture, particularly Black culture, walked the halls was electric. I’m a firm believer in energy and I completely believe that I felt immense energy every room I walked through, particularly the recording studio.
There are few moments where I’m able to express my Blackness, or sit with it wholly, and the Motown Museum was a space where I felt really connected my culture, my ancestry really. If anyone has the opportunity to see it, I highly suggest visiting!
From the museum I returned to the conference center for some activities, joining a colleague from a partner organization. My colleague has a friend that currently lives in Detroit so they showed this beautiful venue called The Apparatus Room, a restaurant and bar that was built out of an old fire station. That night happened to be their music night, where they had several DJs perform, as well as a live singer and a musical painter, who painted on canvas throughout the performances.
The entire venue was a vibe, but the performers particularly were incredible, spinning us through decades of music, singing covers of hip-hop, r&b, and leaving us an art piece that encapsulates the night. There were many people from the conference that were there, some even partaking in a soul train and what felt most incredible was that everybody was there; a mix of races, genders, sexualities, etc. For once, it felt like a space where everybody could show up as themselves and just dance!
Friday was a full conference day so there isn’t much to talk about except this lovely restaurant called Rock City Eatery. My colleague and I went after a long day at the conference, stumbling upon it accidentally as we were looking at a place across the street but decided against it. We walked in and the vibe was definitely nice, a modern-punk type of feel. The wait was an hour, but we had the time so we kicked it by the bar and chatted with a couple waiting next to us. Within 15 minutes they were sat, leaving us with 45 minutes to spare….except the wife in the couple INVITED US TO EAT WITH THEM INSTEAD.
Now, this is a moment that I feel like I only see in film or TV, who is that kind these days? Who is that genuine to invite two total strangers to their table. As a introverted-extrovert, a lot of questions went through my mind; What if we have nothing to talk about? What if we have completely contrasting opinions? What if they end up not liking us?
I’m pleased to report that none of these questions were answered and we have the loveliest time with Scott and Dana (their names). We talked during the entire meal, sometimes on one conversation and sometimes with our side conversations, next to each other and across the table. We laughed, we got personal and we each treasured the time we spent together. If I’m being quite honest, that was the highlight of the trip for me. I love people but sometimes I’m weary. But this couple were incredible and it made Detroit feel a little bit like home.
And what did we eat, you ask? Just peep this giant rice ball and this Mac&Cheese INSIDE A BAKED PARMESAN BOWL. #Yasss!
Saturday was another conference day, as well as my last day, so I left by noon time, not having much time to continue exploring Detroit. But the time I spent there has truly left a beautiful impression on me and I definitely will want to visit again. As they say in the city - What up, tho?