A tight-knit Bangladeshi American neighborhood in Detroit saw its welcome sign defaced last week, an incident community leaders believe was motivated by hate.
The sign, located on the border of Detroit and Hamtramck on Conant Street, was found spray-painted front-and-back with what appeared to be random markings on the morning of Nov. 6.
While the sign has since been restored, the community remains insulted by what they perceive as an attack against their identity.
“It’s not just a sign. It’s our identity, it’s my existence,” said Dr. Rabbi Alam, president of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor Michigan Chapter, according to Click On Detroit. “We believe in co-existence.”
Metro Detroit is home to the third largest Bangladeshi community in the U.S. Last year, community members came together to help older adults during the height of COVID-19.
Banglatown traces its roots to the late 1980s, when Bengali markets and restaurants began to replace Polish businesses that preceded them. Today, the neighborhood is home to a large population of immigrants, and the numbers are still growing.
“Most of the shops here are owned by Bengali owners,” Fabia Firoze, a visiting Bangladeshi American from Ann Arbor, told Model D. “So it’s a good place to get together and meet all the Bengalis here in Michigan.”
Alam, a first-generation Bangladeshi American, said the vandalism is simply unacceptable. The fact that the site also serves as a play area for children only raises the community’s concerns.
“This is so unbelievable. You come, and you can see our kids here. This is the playground. We just are trying to live our life here,” Alam said.
The vandalism has been reported to police.