Detroit’s Month of Design highlights local designers through September

A new self-guided tour in Detroit’s Lafayette Plaisance park takes you through the history of Black Bottom from its days when it thrived with Black residents and businesses to the impact of its destruction. 

This Detroit Historical Society and Design Core Detroit pop-up tour is part of Month of Design, an annual monthlong series of events that feature designers from all categories of art — whether they design shoes, create murals, produce architectural blueprints, host fashion shows or support small businesses. 

The “Invoking the Spirit: Detroit’s Black Bottom” tour is an audio and visual communication journey that talks about the neighborhood’s once thriving Black community of residents and businesses through the lens of those who experienced it. The tour will remain in the park for a full year. 

“People know what they used to in their neighborhood,” said Malika Pryor, senior director of education programs and outreach for the Detroit Historical Society. “They know their story because it’s theirs. So just offering up space for the people in the community to be the primary voice in the process has just been such an honor and a pleasure.”

Malika N. Pryor, co-curator for the Invoking the Spirit: Detroit's Black Bottom presentation at Lafayette Park in Detroit on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

Pryor said the goal was to bring people back to the place where everything originated in an effort to keep the memories alive. She said she hopes people learn about the area, but also “experience a sense of loss.” 

“In your day-to-day life, when you’re going to work and you’re driving down I-75, you don’t think about it — the fact that driving down Chrysler Freeway, that was a whole residential and business area,” said Dean Nasreddine, manager of community outreach engagement for the Detroit Historical Society. “There were people there. It wasn’t just concrete.”

Dean Nasreddine, co-curator for the Invoking the Spirit: Detroit's Black Bottom tour speaks to attendees at Lafayette Park in Detroit on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

Nasreddine wants tour visitors to remember that the people who experienced the destruction of Black Bottom never left. The predominantly African American neighborhood, which was demolished beginning in 1950 to make way for the freeway, was turned into an “urban renewal” area and  now mainly attracts white residents. 

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