Thursday, August 10, 2017

What Detroit and small towns have in common


I was in Detroit a few years back, and I saw a small sampling of the challenges. They reminded me of small town challenges with empty buildings, declining population, and turning to entrepreneurs for the future.

The people of Detroit reminded me of small town people. They were friendly, and looked me in the eye. It was a funny pattern. They'd say, "Don't believe everything you hear about Detroit." They wanted me to know it's not as awful as people say, that good people live there. It felt like a small town, hoping you don't all think they're hicks.

So I keep reading articles about Detroit, and the people working there. Outside experts keep telling them it can't be done, that the problems are too big. And people come in from outside, to save them. 

Whether it's Detroit or a small town, I hate that outlook, "we're going to save them." People, stop looking down on us. Help us do what needs done or get out of our way.

One of those articles, Saving Detroit, spurred some small town thoughts.

  • "A successful small business person can make a difference." In a small town, it takes less success or wealth to make a bigger difference. 
  • "A vibrant city needs a vibrant center. Suburbs cannot fill that need." Most small towns are pretty compact, and not very suburb-y.
  • Like Detroit, a small town does attract "the poorest, least educated and most unskilled – because it’s such a cheap place to live." But many small towns have shrunk, and face the same challenges of having more space than they need for their current people.
  • "If Detroit manages to revive its downtown, like Chicago's Loop, it will take a long time to stretch that prosperity outside of the core, like Chicago faces today." For a small town, is it any easier to spread the prosperity around? Is it possible that prosperity is harder to concentrate in the first place? 

Saturday, July 08, 2017

The link between community and innovation

Connecting people with each other is the essence of both community and innovation. I wrote that, and I'm still thinking through the implications of how those two interact.

My friend Renina added healing to the list. Worth thinking on as well.

Becky McCray, Raul Colon, Jasmine Zhou, Ric Dragon and Shashi Bellamkonda at the Genius Shared event in Chicago

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Urbansplaining the election

I've been hearing a lot of urbansplaining about rural since the election. 

Even though the sharp urban/rural voting divide has been evident on election maps for decades, it's only now that it has captured much attention because the rural vote certainly seemed to affect the outcome this time. Stories and essays about rural voters are popping up.

I've been seeing a lot of rural childhood reminiscences of now-urban commentators that try to explain what rural people are really like. My overall reaction is skeptical. Just because you grew up in a rural area before moving to a big city doesn't mean you're qualified to speak for that specific rural place today or for all rural areas across the US. 

Neither do the 30 second sound bites from "typical rural voters" that got interviewed on television add much to a richer understanding. The 3-minute news packages have given all the usual stereotypes of dying small towns a good airing. If all small towns were half as dead as media pieces depict them, there wouldn't have been enough rural vote to influence anything. 

I'm regularly in touch with thousands of diverse rural people from across the USA, so I understand that we're not all alike, and we're not one-dimensional people. I wouldn't dream of speaking for all of rural America, and I wouldn't recommend that you let the results of this election speak for us all either. 

It seems necessary that I add a disclaimer. You may think my purpose is supporting the outcome of the election, or that I'm condoning racism, hate or violence. I'm not. 


Trying to use these election results to illustrate the entire rural population is by definition going to draw a poorly nuanced picture. If you're interested in a deeper understanding of rural, I invite you to the conversation. 

Sunday, December 06, 2015

What I learned from a Yemini living in New York

Yahya gave me a Lyft to the airport in New York City.


  1. We live in a "golden, golden, golden country." 
  2. My brother is a strong man. 
  3. When you're learning a foreign language, listen to the older people. They speak properly and with respect. 
  4. Islamic or Christian, we pray to the same God. 
  5. Be grateful for each day. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Why I write

Mema - 91st birthday

I write because my grandmother, Ola Mae Hendricks, taught reading. She taught me, or helped me teach myself, long before I headed to pre-school. She helped me become a voracious reader. If writing comes naturally to me now, it's because of the groundwork my grandmother laid decades ago.

I write to accomplish my mission:

I help small town business people prosper so they can help their towns prosper. 

I write. As far as I know, I always have.




Thanks, Des Walsh, for tagging me in this old-fashioned blog meme or blog hop. Here are other people who are sharing their own "Why I write."

Susan Foster, who more or less start this meme on Why I Write
Des Walsh, who tagged me in his piece, Why I Write - Then and Now
Sheila Scarborough, my friend and a ridiculously good writer, with What am I doing here? Why I write

And I invite you to answer this question on your own site. Why do you write?

I'm officially tagging and therefore personally inviting these friends: