Mercedes Mejia

Reporter/Producer

Mercedes Mejia produces interviews for Stateside. She's also and arts and culture reporter. Mercedes relocated to Michigan from New Mexico, where she earned her BA in Journalism and Latin American Studies. She began in public radio as a reporter at KUNM in Albuquerque. She brings extensive video production skills from her work at Univision and Edit House Production.

Finca Marta organic farm in Cuba
Finca Marta

Michigan agriculture businesses are intrigued by the prospect of doing business in Cuba, after the Obama administration re-established formal ties with the island nation.  

Cuba also sees the U.S. as a potential new market.  

But there are still many obstacles standing in the way of increased agricultural trade.  One of them is the low productivity on the typical Cuban small farm.

Mercedes Mejia

Gardenia Valdes Navarro greets visitors as they stroll through the streets of Habana Vieja (Old Havana).

She's wearing a colorful 18th century style dress and head piece and she let me take a picture of her, but usually people who work in this field appreciate a tip if you snap a photo of them.

“The dress represents a mix of African and Spanish culture, which is what we have here in Cuba," she said.

Valdes works for a division of the Cuban government called La Oficina del Historiador  (Office of the Historian).

Cuba, Pure Cuba, cars
Mercedes Mejia

All around Cuba, vintage American cars from the 40s and 50s are still in use, mainly because newer ones are hard to come by. The majority today are used as taxis.

Locals and visitors get around in the almendrones (almonds), as they are called because of their shape, and ride sharing is common.

Mercedes Mejia

Internet is being introduced in Cuba (slowly) and while people are rapidly embracing the technology, many still can’t afford it.

For about $2 per hour you can surf the web. It costs more at hotels. At the hotel Havana Libre, Wi-Fi use is $5 per hour.

Just in the past year the Cuban government allowed Wi-Fi zones in Havana, which can be found around a few parks and main business districts.  Locals sit on benches or sidewalks as they text, send email and use social media to communicate with friends and family.

PURE CUBA: Portraits

Apr 10, 2016
Cuba, Havana, Pure Cuba
Mercedes Mejia

What do Cuban people think about the thawing of relations between their country and the U.S.?

Tracy Samilton and I are in Havana gathering stories about the Michigan connection with the island.

As part of the series Pure Cuba: Portraits, I’m asking residents to share a little bit about themselves and talk about life in Cuba today.

Pixabay

It’s no secret Cuba is hot.

Tourism is up 15% since just last year, when the Obama and Castro administrations announced an historic rapprochement.

This article by Oliver Wainwright describes “droves” of people visiting Havana.  He writes, “it can now be hard to move for the throngs of package tour groups.”

Shane Ford

    

Detroit-based duo Gosh Pith released their second EP Gold Chain.

Josh Freed and Josh Smith are the artists behind the band. 

Their music is difficult to categorize – think heavy beats and drum loops juxtaposed with soft melodies, easygoing vocals and traces of electric guitar.

These self-proclaimed "children of the Internet" say their musical influences are wide-ranging, from folk and rock to hip-hop, techno, and R&B. But it's ragga – often called dancehall or dub – that has won them over in recent years. 

Tattoo artist Carrie Metz-Caporusso applies her first Flint tattoo of the day.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Carrie Metz-Caporusso had an idea: Use her skills to create a one-day fundraiser for the people in Flint.

She came up with a tattoo design to represent the drinking water crisis in Flint, posted her plan on Facebook, and waited for folks to show up.

Watch what happened below:

Wikimedia Commons

There’s an innovative idea from Israel that might be taking root in Detroit.

The idea is to train people in the community to respond to emergency calls.

“And they usually can get there much more quickly because they live next door or across the street, in the same apartment building, whatever the case may be, and get there before the professional EMTs arrive,” says Detroit News Business columnist Daniel Howes.

Courtesy of Jeanine DeLay

The Michigan High School Ethics Bowl competition is hosted each year by A2Ethics in partnership with the University of Michigan Philosophy Outreach Program.

“It is a judged tournament and includes a philosophical discussion and conversation,” said Jeanine DeLay, president of A2Ethics.

Michigan is one of 17 states and one Canadian province with Ethics Bowls and the program is in its third year.

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

Mark Masters of TDM Realtors in Flint says it's hard to keep tenants and even harder to attract new ones.

"I mean one of the first questions I get, it used to be 'is that a good neighborhood' and now it’s 'is that Flint water,'" said Masters.

Last spring he started getting calls from some of the company’s 300 renters that something wasn’t right with their water.

Lauren Dukoff

Michigan native Garrett Borns is better known by his stage name, BORNS. He recently released his debut album, Dopamine.

Before wrapping up his U.S. tour, BORNS will be performing at The Shelter in Detroit on Wednesday. 

He explains the song Electric Love is his contemporary take on '60s and '70s glam rock. BORNS talks about the influence his favorite musicians had on him, like Michael Jackson and Prince.

Courtesy of Flint Eastwood

Flint Eastwood has a new EP out this week. It’s called Small Victories.

The music was recorded at Assemble Sound, a repurposed church in Detroit.

Bandleader Jax Anderson says the studio played a huge factor in determining the sound of this new collection of songs.

On Assemble Sound

Michigan Footgolf Club

A combination of soccer and golf, the new sport of footgolf is gaining popularity across the nation.

According to the American FootGolf League, there are more than 250 footgolf courses across the United States, with 25 courses right here in Michigan.

“I’ve been playing soccer my whole life, and I also enjoy golf so it was just a perfect fit,” says Jon Aron, president and founder of the Michigan FootGolf Club.

HMN Photography

A year ago, Ypsilanti singer-songwriter Chris DuPont found himself coping with depression and questioning his faith.

DuPont spoke with Michigan Radio's Mercedes Mejia about his renewed outlook on life and the stories that inspired his new album, Outlier.

DuPont is also the music director at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Ypsilanti. 

Holding it Together

Mercedes Mejia

The barbershop has long been a place for conversations about life, politics and neighborhood gossip.

Now, there’s a group in Detroit using that forum to get kids to think about college. The effort is dubbed the Barbershop Chats, and it's gaining recognition for the way it engages young African American boys and men.

Don Harrison/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

  One of the most striking features of the waterfront in Marquette is the Upper Harbor ore dock. Built in 1912, the pocket dock is still in use today.

Maritime historian Frederick Stonehouse says the city of Marquette began because of the discovery of iron ore back in 1844 in the Ishpeming and Negaunee area, about 20 miles west of Marquette. The city developed as the shipping port for the delivery of iron ore.

Jo Christian Oterhals/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Divorce is complicated. Even more so if there are children involved. But, for Carter Cortelyou there was another layer to his divorce that made it difficult for him to talk to about it, until now.  

In 2009, his wife came out to him — told him she is a lesbian. Since then, Cortelyou has gone through grief, isolation, financial challenges and re-entering the dating world unexpectedly.

“My first thought was there goes our 25th wedding anniversary (laughs), we were 24-years-married at the time and…there goes our 25th.”

With VHS camera in hand, Michigan native Jerry White Jr. and friends recorded over 400 hours of experimental video art and comedy sketches in a Detroit-area public access TV show they called 30 Minutes of Madness.

Ara Howrani

Jill Jack has been making albums for more than two decades. This year she was named "Americana Songwriter of the Year" at the Detroit Music Awards.

She will be performing at the Ark in Ann Arbor as part of the venue's 50th anniversary Made in Michigan showcase happening on Saturday, July 25.  

Jack talks with Stateside's Mercedes Mejia about her first gig at The Ark, about her latest music and how giving up playing at bars actually helped her career.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Ahya Simone doesn’t particularly like the word transition when she describes being a transgender woman.

Simone was born and raised in Detroit. From an early age she was drawn to the performing arts, singing in church choir and, eventually, while attending Cass Technical High School in Detroit, learning to play the harp.

But it wasn’t until she was in college at Wayne State University that Simone decided it was time to get real, and start living her truth.

Here's a video of Ahya Simone performing with her harp. 

Jinx! / Flickr

Our special series "Poetically Speaking" highlighting poets and poetry in Michigan continues. 

Julie Babcock grew up in the late 70's and early 80's when playgrounds were full of sharp, hot metal and asphalt. 

Costa Sirdenis

When the City Meets the Sky is the latest album from the Marcus Elliot Quartet, dedicated to Detroit and to the leaders who helped shape the next generation of jazz musicians. 

Stephanie Baker (left photo)

Maureen Abood left her big-city job in Chicago to follow her heart to culinary school.

After training in San Francisco, Abood came back home to Michigan and has dedicated her life to cooking and writing about Lebanese food.

Christine Rhein is the author of Wild Flight (Texas Tech University Press), a winner of the Walt McDonald Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in many literary journals, including Michigan Quarterly Review, and have been featured at Poetry Daily and The Writer’s Almanac

"I wrote this poem in response to the heroic work accomplished at Gene Codes Corporation, in Ann Arbor, following 9/11," she says. "The poem, a weaving of programming language with poetic language, explores the event’s impact on the software developers and beyond."

Troye Fox / UWM Photography

Margaret Noodin has made it her life’s work to fight for the future of the ancient Native American language Anishnaabemowin.

This is the language of “the People of the Three Fires”—the Odawa, Potawatomi and Ojibwe. These people came to the Great Lakes thousands of years ago.

As part of our series Poetically SpeakingScott Beal brings us “American Spring,” his brand-new poem that explores the current tensions surrounding police violence in America.

Sara Schaff

Our series "Poetically Speaking," highlighting Michigan poets, continues. 

Benjamin Landry completed his MFA in creative writing-poetry at the University of Michigan and is a research associate in creative writing at Oberlin College. His collection Particle and Wave (University of Chicago Press), was shortlisted for the 2015 Believer Poetry Award.

Brenda Fitzsimmons / The Irish Times

As part of our series "Poetically Speaking" we're highlighting Michigan poets. 

Thomas Lynch is the author of five collections of poems and four books of essays.  His essays, poems and stories have appeared in The Atlantic and Granta, The New York Times and Times of London, The New Yorker, Poetry and The Paris Review and elsewhere.  

Owen Carey

As part of our series "Poetically Speaking" we're highlighting Michigan poets. 

 

Crystal Williams is a Detroit native. She is the author of four collections of poems, most recently Detroit as Barn, finalist for the National Poetry Series and Cleveland State Open Book Prize. She is the Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Bates College. She is also a Professor of English.

 

About her poem Enlightenment Williams says:

"The poem is about resilience, acknowledging the turmoil around us and is about, ultimately, finding a more enlightened way of considering our failings, challenges, and opportunities for growth."

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