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Guest commentary: Detroiter begins Kenya expedition February 17, 2011

Posted by Anna Clark in Fulbright, Graduate, Kenya.
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Anna Clark

As a 30-year-old who chose to move to Detroit from Boston three years ago, I’m constantly asked, with varying degrees of bewilderment, “Why?” The short answer: I want to live in a city that is in the making, rather than one that is already made. While I’m fond of Boston, it’s a city that is overly comfortable in its habits, with little room to re-imagine how things are done.

Meanwhile, in Detroit, the do-it-yourself ethic is not only fueling the city, but creating a space that is nothing less than a laboratory to experiment with new models of what a “successful” city looks like.

Farms next door to public schools and urban art centers? Here is Detroit modeling how the traditional line between “country” and “city” can dissolve.

Wealthy loft-dwellers living in the same neighborhood as college students, working class families, single renters, and those staying at a homeless shelter? Here is Detroit offering a small picture of cities that aren’t strictly economically segregated.

In Detroit, it is the movement, the possibilities, and the process that is exciting to me. I came here to learn from it and in whatever way I can, to add my spark to the creative fire.

And this, too, is why I have ventured to Kenya. This East African nation is itself still in the making. The country has yet to celebrate its 50th anniversary and it only just recently approved a brand-new constitution. Demographically, Kenya is disproportionately young: just percent 70% of its citizens are under the age of 30.

In the heart of a Michigan winter, I left for Nairobi, thanks to a Fulbright fellowship that is giving me six months to write and to facilitate writing workshops in Kenya’s capital city.

One of those workshops is at the University of Nairobi, where college students and I will focus on fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry and plays.

We’ll share experiences with literature from Africa, and especially from Kenya.