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Mercedes Mejia

Reporter/Producer

Mercedes Mejia produces interviews for Stateside. She's also and arts an 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.

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

Religion and politics are always a combustible mix.

During the long debate over gay marriage, many people of faith and their leaders argued that it violated their deeply held religious beliefs.

Now, more are speaking out against our nation's immigration laws and their enforcement by the Trump administration. And they're using religious convictions as the reason why. 

Today, some faith leaders gathered in Washtenaw County to make a passionate declaration of support for protecting immigrants from deportation.

Josephine Mandamin(center) with fellow water walkers near Harrow, Ontario.
Courtesy of For the Earth and Water

The Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes on the planet. But their future is uncertain.

Every year, a Native American group called the Mother Earth Water Walkers treks hundreds of miles around the Great Lakes to raise awareness of water issues in the region.

This year, the group is making its 2,000 mile trip from Duluth, Minnesota to Matane, Quebec.

Stateside producer Mercedes Mejia caught up with the group near Leamington, Ontario, and learned that the walk is more than a call to action. For many, it's a spiritual journey that connects them to each other and to other indigenous communities.

John Holk & the Sequins in performance
Stateside Staff

It’s might not be a musical genre you’re familiar with,  but "psychedelic country rock" is how front man and founder John Holkeboer likes to describe John Holk & the Sequins.

The honky-tonk inspiration was all about timing. Around the time Holkeboer gathered a group of talented musicians to play together, he was was dabbling in “country-sounding stuff.” But today’s sound emerged organically, he says, over the course of two full-length albums. Their latest is “Where You Going?” released in 2016.

Lizzy Shell is a newcomer to Michigan’s music scene. 

The singer/songwriter has roots in Ypsilanti, but grew up in Tempe, Arizona.  Now, she's back in Michigan and out with her debut album Seed.

In the interview Shell talks about her faith, struggling with depression and dropping out of college. For Shell, healing came through writing and making music.  

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

Escape rooms keep gaining popularity. 

You might have heard of them. The interactive game where you and a bunch of friends, or complete strangers, are locked in a room and have to solve a series of puzzles to get out -- oh, and you only have about an hour.  

The scenarios are endless. Think Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones or Jail Break. 

Patton Doyle is the co-founder of Decode Detroit, an escape room with a tech vibe located in Ann Arbor.

Courtesy of Theo Katzman

 


Theo Katzman is coming back to Ann Arbor for a one night open air concert featuring a few of the area’s beloved musicians. While Katzman is still the drummer and guitarist with the funk/fusion band Vulfpeck, he’s been promoting his latest solo album, "Heartbreak Hits."

Frontier Ruckus
Noah Elliott Morrison

Enter the Kingdom is the 5th LP from Michigan's own Frontier Ruckus.

Rolling Stone calls it "a serious and thought-provoking record."

As part of our Songs from Studio East series, we look at how the band continues to evolve musically while still holding on to their roots.

It took four years for Frontier Ruckus to come out with their newest album.

Courtesy: Seth Bernard (left), Sean Carter (right)

Independent musicians in Michigan are up against a fast changing music landscape.

Despite the challenges that come with producing, recording, releasing and touring, one music label is cultivating a community of artists who help each other succeed.

"All of us are using music as a way to build community, to empower youth and to uplift good work already happening here," said Seth Bernard. He's is the founder of Earthwork Music, a collective of artists with similar interests, but ranging in musical styles.

Ben Foote

As part of Michigan Radio’s Songs from Studio East series we are exploring music that combines both contemporary and traditional music from around the world.

The West Michigan band “Cabildo" blends rock, folk, cumbia and ska. 

Julio Cano is from the Patagonia region of Chile. He's the lead singer of the eight member collective and he a guitarist. Cano draws inspiration from Latin American roots music like the ubiquitous cumbia style dance rhythm.

Mary Whalen

After three years of writing, arranging and recording, Red Tail Ring’s Michael Beauchamp and Laurel Premo are out with their new album.

It’s called Fall Away Blues. It blends new folk songs on subjects ranging from gun violence and fracking to our deepest relationships and changing sense of place. It also features some old traditional ballads and tunes.

Temesgen Hussein of East Lansing with his begena harp.
Ben Foote / Michigan Radio

As part of our Songs from Studio East series we're exploring music that combines both contemporary and traditional music from around the globe.

Today we meet Temesgen Hussein of East Lansing. He was born and raised in Ethiopia. And he’s one of just a few outside that country who plays the begena.

It’s used mainly in religious festivities almost exclusively, but Temesgen is breaking with tradition and introducing the begena to contemporary music.

Courtesy of 5iveit Entertainment

As part of our series "Minding Michigan," we explore mental health issues in our state.

Today, we introduce you to Patrick Cleland, better known as Rick Chyme.

He’s a rapper from West Michigan who's been collaborating with local artists from around the state and has several project in the works.

Mercedes Mejia

The vast woods, rivers, and wildlife of Northern Michigan captured Hemingway’s heart and imagination early in life. 

“Michigan always represented a great source of freedom for Hemingway. Everything that he’s associated with – outdoorsmanship, hunting, fishing, that all came from his time in Northern Michigan,” says Chris Struble, president of the Michigan Hemingway Society.

Hemingway home
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Ernest Hemingway spent his boyhood summers in Michigan, and the last 20 years of his life in Cuba. 

Today, Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s Cuban home, is undergoing a major renovation, overseen by a Michigan construction company known for its historic renovation work.

Mercedes Mejia

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton and I were in Havana to cover the connections between Cuba and Michigan and opportunities for the future.

The Michigan Agribusiness Association has been wooing Cuban officials for years now, hoping to sell Michigan-grown produce in a new market.  

Jodi Westrick

One of the big treats of doing Stateside live from the Charles H. Wright Museum was the live music from the Marcus Elliot Quartet. 

Elliot talked with Cynthia Canty about getting hooked on jazz,  teaching jazz at Troy High School and influences from his travels around the world, plus much more.

Mercedes Mejia

When you think of Cuban exports, you probably think, cigars, sugar, and rum.  But Cuba exports something of much greater value to third-world countries:  doctors.  Cuba has trained 23,000 foreign physicians for free at the Latin American School of Medicine near Havana. 

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

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