‘Detroiters stay out’: Apartheid rears its ugly head between city and its rich, white suburbs

Barrriers have been erected over the course of the last year where Kercheval Avenue goes from predominantly black Detroit into a more opulent white suburb

On a quiet morning last December, Dionna Williams and Jason Rice wrapped up in warm clothes and readied themselves to “cross the border”.

No passports were required for this ride. Williams, a customer service representative, and Rice, a nursing assistant, both 33, were taking advantage of the holiday lull to go thrifting. Thinking nothing much of the journey they were about to undertake, Rice got into his car with Williams and tapped “Grosse Pointe” into his GPS.

The couple was headed towards a collection of suburbs surrounding the city of Detroit. But Detroit and Grosse Pointe could not be more different, and driving from one to the other feels like crossing into a different world — from urban devastation to suburban bliss in a matter of minutes. As a result, locals often refer to the act of exiting or entering Detroit as crossing the border.

Back in the car, Williams and Rice followed their driving instructions. But riding east along Kercheval Avenue, they suddenly reached a block in the road. Rice parked, and the pair got out to investigate; their electronic map had clearly missed a memo.

There, in the middle of the road, at the very point where Detroit morphs into Grosse Pointe Park, was a large, opulently decorated Christmas tree. Next to it, a collection of just over half a dozen smaller trees stood, taking up the rest of the width of the street.

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