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Jan Worth-Nelson told us that high-quality writing and photography have always been staples of "East Village Magazine."
Courtesy of East Village Magazine

This year marks the 40th anniversary of East Village Magazine.

The nonprofit magazine has been bringing community news to people in Flint since 1976, a labor of love for its founder, the late Gary Custer.

East Village Magazine has hung in there to become one of the nation's oldest community media outlets. 

Wealthy Street used to be a predominantly African American business district, but Robinson told us there are only two black-owned businesses there today.
flickr user Steven Depolo / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

One proven way to give local businesses a boost is by grouping them together and building a brand. Think Detroit’s Greektown or Corktown, or Little Italy and Chinatown in other cities.

Jamiel Robinson is working to make that happen for black-owned businesses in Grand Rapids.

Robinson is founder and curator of the group Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses.

“Pedal to Porch is a neighborhood bike ride that includes stops along the route where residents of the neighborhood use their front porch as a stage to tell their story,” Cornetta Lane told us.
Courtesy of Pedal to Porch

 

The Knight Cities Challenge is an opportunity for 26 Knight Foundation Communities across the nation, including Detroit, to answer the question:

What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?

At stake is a share of $5 million in grants.

Participatory budgeting is "a democratic process in which residents directly decide how to spend part of a city's budget," Michelle Monsegur told us.
flickr user Costa Constantinides / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 


What if you were given a chance to vote on where your city spends its money?

There are many cities or wards doing exactly that. – people in the community annually choosing whether to spend money fixing sidewalks, paving streets, putting up an art installation, or maybe sprucing up a park.

It’s called "participatory budgeting." This week officials from the Cambridge, Massachusetts budget department are in Michigan talking with Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor officials about how it works.

Courtesy of Lynne Golodner

The Next Idea

I grew up in a suburb of Detroit and went to school where most of the kids looked like me. During the Jewish holidays, teachers didn't assign work because so many of us were absent. There might have been five or six African-American kids in my high school, and no one wore a hijab in public.

I’ve always been curious about the way other people live. My journey as a journalist and author and writing professor has taken me to find common ground in people different from me. I visited a mosque, attended a candlelight service in a Catholic church in Ireland, and spent a plane ride to Israel having a deep, powerful conversation with a Palestinian man going to see his family. As I developed my writing craft, I continued to seek out stories that showed the similarities in people, the beliefs we share, and the customs we have in common.

The corner of Puritan and Livernois in Detroit.
screen grab / Google Maps street view

Detroit has seen a lot of new changes come its way in the past five years, with the revitalization of Midtown, the growth of businesses downtown, and some small businesses becoming more stable in other pockets of the city. 

The city will now get $4 million in a national civic commons initiative to help fund projects in the respective cities. Chicago, Memphis, and Akron will also receive money for projects in their cities. 

Screen grab of "Parts Per Billion," a documentary produced by Alex Douglas and Nicholas Ferguson

The red carpet is being rolled out this Thursday in Flint.

It's the Flint Youth Film Festival, a chance for you to see the work of mid-Michigan's young filmmakers.

We were joined today by Donna Ullrich​, director of the Flint Youth Film Festival, and filmmaker Alex Douglas, a Flint resident and recent Mott Community College graduate who submitted two films to the festival.

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

Sue Schooner has never taken a social work class, nor has she ever had children. But that didn’t stop her from creating and leading Girls Group, an organization that empowers young women to complete high school and be the first college graduate in their families.

The creation of Girls Group led to a change of heart for Schnooner.

Courtesy of Diana Nucera

The Next Idea

Take a moment to think about how much you rely on the Internet.

It’s pretty safe to say many of us find it hard to imagine not being able to get online to communicate, access information, or explore.

flickr user Lee Carson / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

A new theater group in Michigan is bringing a fresh approach to funding and producing plays.

It’s called Kickshaw Theatre and its first production, “The Electric Baby,” is at the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth in Ann Arbor.

Friends School Detroit / via Facebook

A new online directory aims to give Detroit’s grassroots groups a higher profile.

The Detroit Community Organization Mapping project, or d[COM]munity map, went live in December.

It maps and profiles the city’s neighborhood associations, block clubs, and social service providers.

Courtesy of Detroit Soup

The Next Idea 

There was an article in the Detroit Free Press last month about a family’s efforts to raise money through a GoFundMe campaign. The goal was to fix up a decaying home so that their mentally disabled relative didn’t have to move into a nursing home. As the article pointed out, the family asked the public for help, “and much of the public reacted with outrage.”

This hurts my heart. As someone who’s been working for the last five-plus years on building a non-profit in Detroit, I have seen firsthand how reluctant – even afraid – we are to help people here.

From a Ferguson protest in New York City.
user The All-Nite Images / Flickr

    

Peaceful protests continued through the weekend in Madison, Wisconsin, after an unarmed black teenager was killed by a white police officer Friday night.

It's the latest conflict between police and the communities they protect.

Flickr/Martha Soukup

The Next Idea

Living in Michigan, we experience incivility on a daily basis, from simply driving down pot-hole filled roads to attending public meetings to logging into our social media accounts. This has to change, and not just so our Facebook feeds can feel more like a cocktail party -- though that’s not a bad place to start.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There are several major projects going on in Detroit these days. 

The M-1 RAIL line and a new hockey arena are among several projects attracting hundreds of millions of dollars into Detroit’s city center.  

But what about Detroit’s neighborhoods?   

The Kresge Foundation plans to spend up to $5 million to give a boost to Detroit neighborhoods.

Working on one of the benches
user: The Bench Warming Project / facebook

Can a brightly decorated bench make a downtown area more attractive?

A group of artists in Lapeer, Michigan says absolutely!

Artist Jim Alt belongs to the group. He has launched something he calls The Bench Warming Project in downtown Lapeer.

Alt says the goal of the project is to give downtown a collection of public artwork that hopefully could help bring people back to the community. 

He set a fundraising goal of $1,000 on gofundme.com.  So far, the project has raised more than $2,100.

Alt and his team of artists have finished 4 benches, and they expect to have a total of 21 benches done by next week or so.

*Listen to the full story above.

Jennifer Guerra met up with kids and parents from Myers Elementary School as they made their way into New Hope Baptist Church in Wayne. There's more than turkey on the menu with smiles, hugs, and non-perishable household items going to help out the kids and their families---90% of whom are making their way below the poverty line. Myers' school motto is, "Be Respectful, Be Responsible and Be Safe," but State of Opportunity also learns how "be grateful" made it on the list, too.

Tomas Sobek / Flickr

Back in the 1990s, we began to see coffee shops pop up in cities all around Michigan — Starbucks, Caribou, Biggby.

Now, a similar trend is happening with yoga studios, here in Michigan and nationwide.

As the Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton put it:

“To track the economic transformation of Washington, here's a simple rule: Follow the yoga mats.”

How do yoga studios change the cultural landscape of a city? Are these changes positive or are long-time residents being kept away from the table?

user: mrkumm/Flickr

We've talked about a House Bill that aims to stop Michigan's 'brain drain,' but communities throughout the state need to do more to attract and keep young people in Michigan. 

Arnold Weinfeld, the director of Strategic Initiatives at the Michigan Municipal League , said that 2/3 of college graduates look for a location they want to live in first, and then search for jobs within that city. A generation or two ago, the process was reversed.

Because of this shift, Weinfeld said, Michigan communities need to start 'placemaking.'

"Placemaking are the actual actions that a local government, non profit, or neighborhood groups take to create the kind of place that people want to be in."

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson last week debunked the conventional wisdom that Detroit has 40 square miles of vacant land. In her report she found that in all likelihood the number is probably closer to half that.

Which, if you think about it, is still a lot of empty land. 

Which is where the Detroit Works Project comes in -- that's the name of Mayor Dave Bing's revitalization plan for the city. The Detroit Works team has to figure out what to do with all that empty land. To help them find some answers, they're turning to Detroit's residents for help.

They're also enlisting the help of ... a table.

A table, you say?

Yes. But this is no ordinary table, dear reader. The purpose of this particular table is to "disrupt people’s everyday lives," according to Theresa Skora, who helped design it.

"It’s meant to fold up and be put into a car and be taken around," says Skora. Which is why they call it the Roaming Table.  And believe it or not this table – with its nifty green logo and stacks of glossy pamphlets – is key to the city's revitalization plan aka Detroit Works.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

An arts advocacy group is stealing an investment idea from the agriculture world in an effort to get more folks to buy local art.

A statewide arts advocacy group wants to serve up some fresh, local art. To do so, the group is copying an investment model popular in the agricultural world.

Lots of farms in Michigan participate in Community Supported Agriculture. Folks can buy a CSA share in a farm. In return, the shareholder gets a weekly crate of fresh farm produce.

Day of service expands in Lansing

Apr 11, 2011
user brianhef / flickr

This week’s guest for “What’s Working” is Julie Powers, the Director of the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council. Ms. Powers has been involved in the planning and organizing of a day of community service in Lansing, set to happen this year on May 14th. The event is entitled, “Adopt-Your-Place.”

Volunteers will be led by event organizers in such tasks as water testing and clean-up along the Grand River, planting and mulching public gardens throughout the area, clearing trails, repairing eyesores, and generally giving some TLC to local sites in need.