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Bus Ride Brings Detroiters, Suburbanites Together

The promise of joining people divided by race or geography in Metro Detroit has already become reality in one place – the regional bus system. Those traveling to-or-from Detroit using public transit are by necessity linked together physically as travelers. But the trick for some riders is to join with fellow passengers in their hearts and minds. On a SMART bus outbound from Detroit along Gratiot Avenue Kirkann Moseley takes in many of the same sights she says she’s seen for nearly a quarter-century of riding this bus route. She says she’ll always be a Detroiter, but felt compelled to also become a suburbanite. Moseley said, “I was one of those people that really did want to stay in the city because I was born and raised in the city. But the taxes were just so astronomical and the insurance. So I found that I could move to Clinton Township, have a home built, and it would be cheaper.” Yet Moseley says the people heading from the city to shop at suburban stores or, like her, simply going back home, develop a bond after years of traveling the same route – whether they’re white, black, Detroiter or suburbanite. She said, “We have all been riding the bus together. We didn’t always know each other. I may have looked at one and said oh, they don’t look like they’re very friendly. And I may not talk to that person. But as time goes on we sit, we talk and we laugh. And we find out wow, they’re really not so bad after all.” Across the aisle and a few rows back one of those “bus buddies,” Monica Fishner, is riding home from her long-time job in Detroit. Fishner says she still receives complaints about her choice to work in the Motor City instead of some establishment closer to her home from relatives who know Detroit mainly from unflattering stories in the media. Fishner said, “When I go up north and visit with friends and family up there, that’s usually where I get the most – oh my gosh Detroit, y’know, and oh you work in Detroit. They have this picture of I don’t know what. I tell them if you come downtown, it’s a good experience to be downtown. You just have to be careful. But I think that applies to any place.” Fishner says the trick to dispelling sterotypes is to look across the aisle and follow the lyrics of an old song – “reach out and touch somebody’s hand.” She said, “I think some of the people are afraid. And they’re afraid of what they don’t know. And I think if they weren’t afraid and just took that step forward, it’d be okay.” The bus crosses 8 mile, a regional dividing line rider JeVan Brown knows well. He says his parents gave him a home in Mt. Clemens but friends warned him that no one who was black, like him, would be welcome north of 8 mile. Brown says he finally tired of telling people that concern was simply not true for him. He said, “Maybe over the years you might run into conversations that suggest that, yeah. There’s nothing you really say. It’s just, I’m where I’m at and you’re where you are, y’know” On the other side of the bus Brown’s remarks make Kirkann Moseley shake her head. She says she, too, heard similar concerns from friends living in and outside of Detroit. So Moseley – an African American – says she decided to take matters into her own hands while attending a class on leadership at Macomb Community College. “When I go to my class out of 35 people there’s four black people,” she said. “And my normal reaction is to go sit with those I’m familiar with because I am comfortable with them. But I purposely don’t sit with them. I’ll go sit with people that I don’t know them in an everyday setting. Because I have to go outside my box. And y’know, after a while it becomes comfortable.” Riders sitting near Moseley smile and nod in agreement, noting the same thing happens inside the bus. In fact there’s an unspoken epiphany in the air. If people trapped together for an hour at a stretch on a bus can join together in understanding and eventually friendship, perhaps people living together in a single region can do the same – no matter which way they’re traveling across 8 mile.