Anchored in public arts and the mayoral election, this documentary explores multiculturalism in Hamtramck and how it transforms the community and residents that call it home.
Nestled within the city of Detroit, Hamtramck both defies and defines America. Founded in 1922, Hamtramck boomed, thanks to manufacturing jobs and immigrant labor from Poland. As industry has left the city, a new community, largely made up of Bangladeshi and Yemeni immigrants, strengthened the city and filled the void left by the Polish community fleeing to the security of the suburbs.
Although, in many ways, the new immigrant story mirrors the old, tensions between the two waves are felt. In debates, such as the right to broadcast the Call to Prayer and the LGBTQ housing ordinance, politics become personal and split the city on ethnic and religious lines.
In 2015, Hamtramck became the first city in the U.S. to have a Muslim majority city council, reflecting the city’s demographics. This year, 2017, they could elect an entirely Muslim city council and their first Muslim mayor.
Where elections express differences in values and ideas, art can be a uniting force for this often fractured city. Hamtramck’s History Museum received a grant for a large-scale mural installation, representing each community that calls Hamtramck home. While the election progresses, members of the communities help shape the mural’s representation of their experience. Through the process of the creation of the mural, we examine the history of each community and their impact.
Hamtramck, USA follows a campaign that not only determines the election of leadership, but Hamtramck’s identity. We follow the mayoral and several council candidates on the campaign trail and examine their experiences and respective identities, which are largely defined by their cultural heritage and Hamtramck’s.
At the end of the election, regardless of who ultimately wins, Hamtramck will need to come together, with a new identity or the remaining fragments of the past, to face the many challenges ahead.