Detroit's image: what is it? Who is changing it?


DETROIT – You've seen the T-shirts: "Detroit vs. Everybody."

You've heard the statistics: Detroit has the highest murder rate of any major city.

But have you heard from its people?

We asked a handful of Detroit residents what makes their city great, and they were quick to respond.

"We love to go to Belle Isle and have a good time on the holidays and barbecue," said Mary Bailey.

"I would never miss the Jazz Festival. Ever," said Roy Wilds.

"Sporting events," said Sean Burr. "People go to those a lot. There's a lot of culture here. The Detroit Opera House."

Detroit is known as the Motor City and the home of Motown, but it also hosts the second largest Thanksgiving parade in the country -- and then there's the annual Ford Fireworks.

There's a lot of good in Detroit, but that's not what people who don't live here talk about.

"The stereotype is that this is a city that's crime ridden," Wilds said. "It's violent. Everybody walks down the street with a gun."

Detroit has seen its fair share of murders, financial troubles and political corruption. Still, why is that all that others know us for?

"I think it's an old image," said Larry Alexander, who is with the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

It's his job is to promote Detroit.

"It's because people haven't witnessed and experienced the development and the change that is taking place and that's why we spend an awful lot of our time being sure that we communicate that message on an ongoing basis through our marketing department," Alexander said.

That message is that Detroit is "America's Great Comeback City." Getting people to believe it is challenging.

"There's still some buildings that need to be refurbished and overcome," Alexander said.

Right now, attracting major meetings or conventions to Detroit is a big priority. They can bring outsiders to Detroit by the thousands. Once they're here, they see what Detroit is really about.

"They always leave saying, 'Wow! We just didn't realize Detroit had so much to offer,'" Alexander said.

And here's where everyone can play a part.

"No matter who a visitor touches in this city, we portray a very hospitable environment. We be sure that everyone understands the importance of welcoming visitors to our city," Alexander said.

"We have to promote our city." said Annette Johnson.

"We become ambassadors of our city. We talk good things," said Bailey.

And for those who aren't talking good things: "I wish I could say something, really, but I'm not going to be ungodly," Bailey added. "So you're going to need to come out and see what's going on and be a part of the solution instead of talking about the problem."

Alexander also wants all Detroiters to encourage any national groups or organizations that they're apart of to hold their conventions in Detroit.

You can contact the visitors bureau for help bringing them to our destination and in turn transforming Detroit's national image: www.VisitDetroit.com.

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