REPORTING FROM DETROIT
Carron L. Pinkins says that when he visited the neighborhood where he grew up on Detroit's East Side, he barely recognized it.
"The places where I played as a kid, where I walked and hung out are, well, gone," said Pinkins, who moved from Detroit after high school and lived for years between New York and Massachusetts. "There are houses that were abandoned and torn down. It was heartbreaking to see how dramatically the city had changed. It almost brought tears to my eyes."
Yet Pinkins, a 41-year-old lawyer, made the decision four years ago to give up his law practice in Worcester, Massachusetts, and return to his native Detroit with his wife and children.
"I looked at Detroit and felt a need to get involved in turning the city around," Pinkins said, in an interview with BET.com.
"I got tired of hearing all the negativity about the way the city was being portrayed," he added. "I wanted to give back to the city that had given so much to me. This is the city I love. I figured that if I didn't come back to try to make a difference, who will?"
In doing so, Pinkins was going against a formidable trend in terms of population movement. Since Pinkins' childhood, Detroit had lost roughly a quarter million people by the time he graduated from law school in 2005. He is one of the few who have returned, determined to re-establish roots.
But it went further than that. Not only did he get a job working in the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit, he also purchased a home in the city's comfortable Sherwood Forest section and began mentoring high school students in his off hours. He also decided to run for elective office.
"I saw so much mismanagement by public officials," he said. "I was angered because I felt the elected leaders should be ashamed of themselves for presiding over a city that had suffered so much. I felt I could make a contribution by running for office."
After an unsuccessful campaign for a seat in Michigan's state Senate in 2010, Pinkins is running this year for the Detroit City Council. It is an open seat representing the city's northwest neighborhoods, an area where no incumbent council member is running.
"Detroit needs long-term solutions that focus on the fact that you can't cut your way to prosperity," he said, explaining that budget cutting represented a short-term fix.
"We need new revenue, and we have to start with making the streets of Detroit safe," Pinkins said. "We have to recreate a city that is so safe that people who are here won't want to leave — and a city that will attract others."
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(Photo: Courtesy Carron Pinkins)