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If there was ever a television story that Detroiters need to have seen, it was tonight’s 7 p.m. “Dateline NBC.”
Hosted by former Detroit-area native and award-winning journalist Chris Hansen, the hour-long show, called “America Now: City of Heartbreak and Hope,” captured a fair view of the devastation and glimmers of optimism we know as residents.
Featuring snippets of interviews with Mayor Dave Bing, Emergency Financial Director of the Detroit Public Schools Robert Bobb, musician Kid Rock (aka: Robert Ritchie) and other luminaries, the show discussed the drastic decline we have experienced in so many areas of the city. It briefly outlined Detroit’s contributions over the decades in the auto industry, music, and other shining examples of homegrown talent, but it also took a fleeting glance at local government corruption, education failures and general lawlessness.
Perhaps the most riveting coverage centered on resident Cordette Grantling, who, over the past 25 years, has taken it on herself to adopt six abandoned children of other parents, ranging from a baby to a prison-experienced teen who’s fathered his own baby. The unmarried mom with no birth children of her own barely ekes by through some government assistance and a part-time cleaning job.
Her take-home pay is less than $500 per month, but she offers a sensible overview and One Day at a Time philosophy as she struggles to feed, clothe and shelter children who are her responsibility by choice. Grantling single-handedly saved these kids from neglect – and even death – by her selfless acts, and continues to stress the importance of education, accountability and safety on the mean streets. She adds to her burden by showing leadership at the neighborhood elementary and other charities, even calmly defusing violence outside of the school more effectively than most cops could.
Cordette Grantling may never be famous, but she needs to be cloned for every American neighborhood. She is living the real life of a hero every day.
Hansen, who rose from local reporting to national fame, is visibly pained to reveal some of the facts and figures; his affection for his home city is apparent. And, at times, he softballs the hard questions to area leaders – perhaps fearing the harshness true answers will reveal. After all, we are still reeling, and the ride downhill has been a long one.
He does delve superficially on the Kwame Drama through a brief interview with former city council aide Sam Riddle, who, unfortunately, comes off rather likable, despite his considerable contributions to the city’s more recent decline. And, the deep damages caused by former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Councilwoman Monica Conyers, among others, was not adequately revisited to provide even a scintilla of revelation for a national television audience. Of course, given that it could easily stretch into an entire series of Detroit melodrama, skipping over the mess in which we are still mired is understandable.
We can’t put the entire populace on anti-depressants.
But viewing of the NBC piece should be mandatory for us all – at least as a jumping-off point for everyone affected by our loss of jobs, the potential bankruptcy of the city and all other aspects, large and small, that take us down. Or, raise us up.
We know that problems, monumental problems, exist, and more lie ahead. It’s time for residents and suburbanites alike to roll up our sleeves and teach and live the same measure of accountability and selflessness that Ms. Grantling does.
Thanks, NBC, for reminding us that we can dare to still hope.
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