Just two months into his appointment as Detroit’s neighborhood storyteller, esteemed journalist, author and Detroiter, Aaron Foley is using this position as an opportunity to tell Detroit’s story, one Detroiter and one neighborhood at a time.
“In the past, when journalists go over to work for the city government, they would go into public relations and marketing. This is not that. This is something new entirely where you use all of the same things you were doing on the journalism side to go out into the community and tell what’s going on,” Foley said of the new position.
Although he calls the position “experimental,” the goal, he said is to provide a platform for the voices of Detroiters, new and old, to be heard.
“As of right now, I’m not even sure what it looks like, but I can tell you there is an opportunity to amplify and uplift the voices of everyone in Detroit.”
Foley, author of “How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass,” represents one of the most influential voices in Detroit due to his ability to be unapologetic in the way that he both celebrates and criticizes the city all while offering solutions.
Peter Kadushin, Mayor Duggan’s Director of Communications, identifies Foley as a great asset and a bridge between city government and residents.
“Aaron brings a unique storytelling style to City Hall. He and the mayor are both dedicated to creating meaningful and impactful ways to give Detroiters and their neighborhoods a stronger voice,” Kadushin said. “We are excited for Aaron to join our team.”
The position, created by Mayor Mike Duggan is unlike any other position with the city of Detroit because it is truly about residents and about telling stories that are far too often ignored by mainstream media.
“The city of Detroit is doing a lot of things. Blight demolition, Land Bank, streetlights and crime reduction those are some of the big things that the city is doing and can be talked about, but there are other things that don’t get as talked about, but still have a big impact,” Foley said.
“Some of the other things like developments in the neighborhoods outside of downtown and outside of Midtown. For example, Livernois-6 Mile. There’s a lot that’s going on, but that just does not get the same attention as Dan Gilbert, that does not get the same attention as Ilitch and the stadium and arena. And that’s not to say it’s not important because it is.”
Foley, former editor of BLAC Detroit magazine, said in this role he wants to fill that gap by creating a website where residents can learn about what is happening in the neighborhoods, not just downtown and Midtown.
“People often ask about what’s going on in the neighborhoods and there is stuff going on, but you would only know it if you lived in those neighborhoods. You know it and the people around you know it, but people on the other side of town don’t,” Foley said.
“So, what I’m supposed to do is make a platform where people can know those types of things.”
Since settling in to the new responsibility, Foley said he receives hundreds of emails from residents who want to share with him their stories. The response, he said is encouraging and he looks forward to learning more about the heartbeat of the city, Detroiters.
Whether it’s the new arena, a new black-owned business opening in Grandmont-Rosedale or “the old lady on the block that’s been holding it down for 40 years,” Foley said he is committed to telling the real story of Detroit beyond of the 7.2 square miles of Midtown and downtown.
“A church going through a revitalization, the people that keep the parks up, or the people that play in the parks — those are, that’s the part of Detroit that I know,” said Foley. “That’s the part I want to share with the rest of the world.”