DETROIT used to be the industrial heart of America and home to opportunity. Now it is one of the most violent cities in the world.
In the devastated inner city, the 85 per cent black population either preys on each other or prays the country's first black president can save them. Because hope is all they have left.
Hope is why Earline Mason, who lives in one of the worst gang and violence-plagued areas of eastside Detroit, carefully maintains her small front lawn with a whipper-snipper.
Amid the chaos of her existence, where half of the houses are now abandoned, burnt-out or bulldozed, and where the street signs are routinely removed to confuse the cops - should they ever bother turning up - Earline still believes.
Half of the working-class population has fled to newer, safer townships at Detroit's outer edges, leaving the inner city to the gangs and those who are too poor to get out.
Earline's house, worth $85,000 eight years ago, is now valued at $10,000.
But she will not give up. She has a sign on her lawn backing Obama in the 2012 presidential race, believing he will come through.
Even though Obama has never directly addressed his country's black population, fearing it would alienate white voters, she believes he is worried about her as an older black woman trying to maintain dignity in a dangerous slum.
"Yes, of course he thinks of me," says Earline.
"They want to blame everything on Obama, but this was all happening before he got in there. It's not his fault."
Everywhere is ghetto. You know it not just by the firebombed houses and collapsed porches and boarded-up ruins, but by what hangs on in the rubble.
Jerome Almon, believes Earline is deluded.
He does not think hope is coming.
"You know you're in a ghetto when there's no proper stores but on every corner there's a church and across the street is a liquor store and across from that is a fast-food place and a nail salon and a funeral home because of all the shootings," he says.
Almon, who served with the XVIII Airborne Corps in 1991's Operation Desert Storm, welcomed Obama in 2008, believing it would be a turning point for the ghetto in which he was raised. Four years on, he says things have gotten worse.
He does not blame Obama directly but says that blacks (the term African-American is now rarely used) sat back thinking his victory would automatically transform their lives. It hasn't worked out that way.
Blacks own nothing in these parts except for crack houses and churches, says Almon, as we cruise the unbelievably devastated city.
The Lebanese own all the fuel stations, the Iraqis have all the small stores. The small fast-food joints, called Coney Islands, that sell the fried chicken and melted cheese steaks and fries, are run by Albanians.
"It's some of the most fattening, unhealthy food on the planet," Almon says. "The Albanians won't eat it. But they know if it's unhealthy, we will.
"The (Iraqi Christian) Chaldeans have four churches in Detroit and thousands of stores. We blacks have got thousands of churches and four stores. Who's smarter?"
At an intersection, foot soldiers from Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam work the pausing cars.
They wear bow ties and sharp white shirts, selling the organisation's newspaper, The Final Call, and small bags of fruit.
The idea is to inject some ideology, and health, into the streets, to bring about what Farrakhan calls the "resurrection of the black man and woman of America".
But the organisation's demand for strict self-discipline has little appeal in the ghetto, where drugs and sex are the currency.
The priorities are back to front. Incredibly, it is common to drive past what appears to be uninhabitable shacks, where children are living, and see late-model Cadillacs parked outside, with after-market $5000 rims.
"The kids think all this is normal," Almon says.
"They rarely leave their neighbourhood and they certainly don't go to other states or other countries. Everyone thinks it's normal. That's why nothing's done."
If Harvard produces academics, no one should be too surprised that the ghetto produces gunslingers, crack dealers and "baby mammas".
"For a girl, her prospects are to have a baby or two by the time she's 18, low self-esteem, growing messed up because there are no real men in the ghetto," Almon says.
"And everyone's looking at her like a piece of meat. If she lived in the (outer) suburbs, she might be a doctor or an engineer. Here, she'll be a ho, a drug addict or a baby mamma.
"As for boys, you might as well tattoo a prison number right on their chest at birth. They are going to prison.
"You've got young, dumb, ignorant young guys raised by young women, with no men around. I cannot think of a worse scenario. They have the mentality of a child, the emotions of a woman and the destructive power of a grown man.
"Put a gun in their hands, you know what happens. What's the chance of some white guy shooting Kid Rock or Justin Timberlake? It ain't gonna happen. But black rappers Tupac and Biggie (Smalls, aka the Notorious B.I.G.), they're dead."
Almon, like many blacks, wishes Obama would - just once - speak directly to them.
"I want him to come out and say: 'Stop embarrassing me. Stop killing each other,"' says Almon. "It's always been bad in America but it's far worse now. There are more guns, there is more poverty, the police are more vicious because they're scared, too, and the economy has gone to hell. "This city is Planet of the Apes and it's every gorilla for himself."
The Detroit murder rate in 2011 was 346 deaths, compared to 714 in 1974. But since that time, the city's population has dwindled from 1.5 million to 800,000. The murder rate has not dropped at all and Detroit is routinely named among America's five most violent cities.
Until the early 1980s, Detroit had the highest-earning black population in the world. An unskilled labourer could earn more than $100,000 in the city's car plants. The wages have since plummeted and car companies are demanding employees have two years of college education.
Motor City, as Detroit is known, is coming back after massive federal bailouts, but young ghetto men cannot get the jobs or do not want them.
The crime lifestyle is perpetuated.
Almon is angry with his own people, believing the high levels of black criminality reflect on him personally.
"You feel like you've got a bullseye on your back and a price on your head," he says.
The case of black kid Trayvon Martin, shot dead in Florida in February by self-appointed street guardian George Zimmerman, sent a needless reminder to black America that they are always being profiled or watched with suspicion.
"I always need to adjust my behaviour," Almon says. "If I'm not in a black neighbourhood, I dress not to scare people. Because if they see a black guy coming, they're scared.
"I don't like it, but the truth of the matter is I understand it. It used to be that black people were scared of white people in America.
"Now it's whites scared of blacks and it's because of the crime."
Obama has pragmatic reasons for not appearing to be a "black" president.
Black leadership falls to old stagers like the Rev Al Sharpton and the Rev Jesse Jackson, who always turn up when there's a high-profile killing or a perceived injustice.
In Almon's view, these men are not leaders but "race hustlers" who place responsibility anywhere but black society, which sends the wrong message to the ghettos.
"Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson blame white people," Almon says.
"Every time they get their name in the paper, they're just selling their products. They ain't no different to the black people who sold their people into slavery for bags of salt and beads.
"Black people, we got to grow up. It's very difficult to be believe that 50 years ago you had Dr King lead his movement against the mightiest government on Earth, and his followers, regular people, had such dignity, so well dressed, such respect.
"Look at us now. No dignity, no pride, or respect. We are far, far less educated. How is that possible?"
Almon's views do not have wide appeal in the ghetto. For Gwendolyn Chapman and her daughter Ebony, who live in a tough, drug-riddled eastside area, it's the city's services - police patrols, streetlights and rubbish collection - that have failed.
But having a black president means all is not lost.
"Yes. I still have hope," she says.
"I think he's a good president. He made things happen." She cites his recent court victory on health care, but you won't need health care if you're dead. Gwendolyn mentions that a body was pulled out of here the day before, one street away.
"I want Obama and that's all I got to say," she says.
Late last week, Republican candidate Mitt Romney spoke to the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, saying: "If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you're looking at him." He was jeered.
Willie Bryant, 54, fixing up his uncle's house behind Hitsville, home of the Motown museum, says Detroit is becoming a ghost town.
"Unemployment is at all-time high and the city has lost 50 per cent of its population," he says.
"I don't know whether it's because of the city, the state or federal government. Something's got to be done. It's a Third World city now. I'll vote for (Obama) again because of who he's running against," he says.
"I still have hope. I live off hope."