Detroiter’s Unseen and Unheard


“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”
Abraham Lincoln.

Authors Note:

While born in Detroit I am moved yet conflicted by Mr. Lincoln’s words, as I want to be proud of Detroit. However, I am torn and distressed by Detroit and it’s conditions in which people are forced to live. For this reason Detroit torments me.

Bill Couzens

To be proud of Detroit as it stands today is not to address its extreme conditions.

For instance, in the work and movement toward preventing cancer-causing environmental exposures, the one thing advocates have discovered across the board is that if you want to see cancer thrive be poor.

While cancer seems to know no boundaries rich or poor, young or old, cancer seems to have its most successful wars when poverty is involved, for those who are poor are least likely to have access to good nutrition, suitable living conditions and health care.

Poverty must be considered when looking for ways to prevent cancer.

Detroit seemingly only expands its health care to meet the rapidly growing needs of poverty related illnesses.

Detroit is under siege; talk of prevention to someone standing in the midst of what seems like a third world battlefield would seem like an out-of-touch fantasy.

But poverty should not be the reason to not discuss prevention.

For poverty is not a reason to not bother, but is in my mind every reason to bother.

Detroiter’s have this uncanny instinct to long be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel even when those who may be leading the line have long lost their flame.

However, the time has come for Detroiter’s to stop following the candle without the flame but rather to turn around and go to the light.

Detroiter’s deserve the confidence to know that government is on their side and working for them, not against them.

That confidence will not come until Detroit’s leadership is redefined.

Detroiter’s need to understand they deserve prosperity, they deserve leadership that will take them to the top, not push them to the bottom.

Detroiter’s are facing the height of a century-long battle of poverty, fighting with little more than a sense of hope and integrity which, while admirable, is not sufficient considering the make-shift wild west town in which they attempt to survive.

And while easy to do, Detroit’s issues are too many, too complicated and too longstanding to start blaming.

Its is far too arrogant to sit back in the comfort of one’s home and start circling Detroit’s imperfections.

The reality is that Detroit is a city where there are children and the elderly who have no shelter and go hungry. Its not humane.

Detroit’s gifts are it people, people who have hope, a sense of community and the unspoken connection as Detroiter’s.

People with a conscience do need to speak up about Detroit. Whether they are from Detroit or not, what is happening in Detroit is not humane. They need to say out loud what’s happening in Detroit is not right, that in America it needs to be different, that it can be better. If leadership were to commit to making it better for it citizens, the rest will come.

To ignore the dark depths of Detroit’s poverty is to ignore the needs of individuals that are not faceless. Detroiter’s do have faces, they have lives and families, and they are human.


Detroit leadership on all fronts, beyond elected officials, needs to engage and call on all helping hands to save the doomed city.

Detroit needs the best brains on board, problem solvers willing to work out of their comfort zone, leaders from neighborhoods, corporations, faith based, government and healthcare organizations.

The walls must come down to advance Detroit as a city and to save its citizens. For too long we have been speaking and working within our own comfort zones.

Round tables of executives at clubs, while well intended, are not the recipe for bringing change to Detroit.

We need to not only bring down walls but cross barriers to unify to all of us who wish to see a healthier Detroit.

Detroit needs a collaborative model that will include all of Michigan, its citizens, industry and government and community, collaboratives made up of individuals and organizations. For too long those models have been about special interests, profit and power.

Detroit’s new chapter must be about empowerment for all, opportunity for all.


Will be speaking in Detroit February 08