Over the last 50 years, Detroit has lost almost a million of its former 1.85 million people. About three-quarters of those one million people were white – a number that includes my parents, my five brothers and sisters, and me. One white dude Detroit didn’t lose, until this past Thursday, was my cousin, Colin Hubbell. When even his brothers were leaving, for other cities, for the suburbs, Colin stayed in Detroit, working in city government when the city seemed its most hopeless, and when he could have been making real money elsewhere. It would have seemed a little daft or do-goodish for Colin to stay in the city, working his sisyphean jobs for government pay – he was an enormously smart and charismatic guy – if we could have imagined him doing anything else. When he finally left government, it was to work in one redevelopment company and then found another. (If this makes you think “profits” or “connections,” remember that this was Detroit. Think “faith.” You couldn’t sell the homes Colin did without also selling the idea of Detroit and its future.) He did urban policy his whole adult life, with his bare hands.
I think we all wanted to love Detroit as much as Colin did. One thing I’m looking forward to when I go back for his funeral on Wednesday is seeing with my own eyes how much Detroit loved him back. A few tributes that have popped up among Detroit bloggers – and this one from the Detroit Free Press – give a little idea.