Last month Next City hosted its 10-year anniversary with a first-person storytelling event in New York City, during which seven notable urban changemakers shared their reflections on life and work in cities around the world.
Dekonti Mends-Cole is a 2013 Next City Vanguard and a Strong Cities, Strong Communities Fellow working on blight elimination strategies in Detroit. She is also in the midst of helping restructure the city’s Law Department. A childhood immigrant from Liberia, Mends-Cole took the opportunity to talk about her refugee grandmother’s rosy memories of Monrovia, and how they couldn’t have lined up with the actual devastation then going on in the capital city. Mends-Cole compares this “memory banking” to how Detroiters today view their debilitated hometown, and why officials planning for the city’s future ought to appreciate the power that lies in this reminiscing.
“We have no memory of what Detroit used to be,” she says, referring to herself and fellow non-native planners. “Therefore we have a limited understanding of what the city can be.”
Below is a podcast of the presentation: