I went to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference over this past Labor Day weekend. The ISNA conference, the largest conference for Muslims in the U.S. of A happens every year and I’ve been a few times. Honestly though, I wasn’t initially planning to go but this year but when I found out that it was going to be in Detroit, I figured I’d go. I have never been to Detroit!
Like everyone else, I know the hardships that Detroit has gone through and so part of me wanted to go just to give Detroit support – I wanted to check out the city and spend my money there. I thought it was cool that a conference like ISNA with its thousands of attendees was going to be in Detroit, putting money into the city’s economy.
The first thing I did after getting all checked into my hotel? I went out for some coffee of course. I went to Great Lakes Coffee Roasting that first night since it was open late. They roast their own coffee and, besides having a few cafes in Michigan, they supply coffee to cafes/restaurants of Detroit. I loved the vibe of the place and my espresso drink was really good. I made sure to go to this place one more time the morning I left, partaking in breakfast (waffles!) with a mocha that turned out to be awesome.
The next day, I had breakfast at another coffee shop, Astro Coffee in the Corktown district. This place is almost like Modern Coffee in Oakland in the sense that they have coffee from different roasters that they rotate. They were serving Ritual Coffee (from San Francisco) and Heart Roasters (from Portland) when I went.
I went to the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) afterwards. It’s a pretty cool museum, covering a lot of different kinds of art, to the Renaissance, to Islamic Art, to Modern Art. I have to be honest, I wasn’t expecting such a serious museum. The coolness was enhanced by this random cafe area in the middle that’s pretty hard to describe except that it integrated the old with the new. They didn’t have too much in the way of coffee (I’ll skip the pre-brewed stuff made with packets of already ground coffee, thanks!) but sat down with a soda just so I could have an excuse to hang out there for a while.
After a couple of hours of soaking up culture in the museum, I went for, um, coffee at Anthology Coffee. I almost didn’t visit this place as I didn’t know they had their own cafe apart from roasting and supplying coffee to several places in Detroit. Their cafe is bare bones, in a part of the city that was undergoing construction. I actually wasn’t even sure I was in the right place when I parked my car but there were a couple of folks sitting outside of an open door sipping coffee.
I had just a cup of coffee from there but it was so good and trumped the drink I had earlier in the day from Astro Coffee. Really, I can’t stress how good my coffee was at Anthology. I meant to go back before I went to the airport but couldn’t fit it in, which was unfortunate.
Besides the coffee and the museum, I got to see parts of Detroit through a volunteering event I took part in (which will be another blog post) and by hanging out in the Detroit Jazz Fest, a massive event that happens every year and happened to be walking distance from the conference. It was really nice to sit and watch an act, not only listening to some great music, but to witness so many people gathering together to see all of the different musical groups that were on all the stages.
I know things aren’t all puppy dogs and sunshine in Detroit but I’m grateful I had the opportunity to check out the city. Its citizens, who were all mostly really nice people love it in a way in which I see people’s allegiance to Oakland.
By the way, I know it doesn’t sound like it but I did attend the conference. Promise.
Random: When I came back to the hotel my first night after going to Great Lakes Coffee, I parked my car in the garage and was walking the very short walk to the Westin when one guy said “Assalamalaikum, what are you doing walking around so late?” He asked if I needed help to get to where I was going because he was genuinely concerned for my safety. I assured him all was good as we were just outside of my hotel. He was a native of Detroit and gave me some advice about where it was okay to go: “See that building?” He pointed to one that was a block away. “That’s the federal building. Don’t walk past that.” Noted, bro!