On our way here I was struck by the new Chrysler advertising campaign on the skyscraper between the two cities, visible from the freeway. The Chrysler building says ‘We are born makers’. In many ways there is a cruel irony about this – yes we are all makers but in cities like Flint and Detroit the opportunity to make, has been taken away from many people, the people in this tower might feel like makers… but there are people who down the road are surrounded by dereliction and destruction.
Yet its also a reminder that we are all makers, that for the residents of these cities, as much as they may feel like a few big factories would solve their problems, we all have an ability to create and make for ourselves.
I came across 1 Chronicles 22:15-16, where David commissions the building of the temple for the glory of the Lord. He says,
'Moreover, there are many workmen with you, stonecutters and masons of stone and carpenters, and all men who are skillful in every kind of work. Of the gold, the silver and the bronze and the iron there is no limit. Arise and work, and may the LORD be with you.'
This is a reminder of the potential that all of us have to create with the different skills we have and to work for the good for the city and for the glory of God. We all have skills, there is so much purpose to be found, but without finding this and without the opportunity to make and create, we are robbed of something which makes us human.
It does not feel this simple for many of the people of these cities, to just ‘go and create’. We are all born makers, but we are not all born equal. For some there are creative enterprises all over Detroit, people moving from Brooklyn to set up design companies, distilleries, bakeries, potteries, printers etc. as well as social enterprises. For others, particularly some of the poorer black communities who make up the majority of these cities, this can feel way out of reach. What is clear to me is that it is sometimes not enough that we are makers, we need to help each other to realise this economically, investing in each other, working collaboratively in a way that all thrive, not only the few. We have to make real the equality that we say we believe in.In the Detroit Institute of Art there is a mural by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Done in the 1930s it shows the car industry that was booming in Detroit (and indeed Flint). Rivera paints hundreds and thousands of workers, depicting the potential and the glory of hard work of people of all races, in the field as well as in the factory. But exploring
the mural further, we see that Rivera also points at the way in which the few can exploit this, putting others in danger. His message not only to Detroit, but to a capitalist world, is that when the workers thrive, all thrive, but where they are exploited, all of humanity suffers. We are all born makers, the question is how happy are we with the world we are making? Is everyone free to make and create? Or just some of us? Our cities seem to magnify the creative industry, for better or worse, so what is our response when we really listen to it?