Mercedes Mejia

Reporter/Producer

Mercedes Mejia produces interviews for Stateside and All Things Considered. 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.

Every year the Michigan Humanities Council invites Michiganders to participate in a statewide initiative, the Great Michigan Read. This year’s selection, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age, explores a crucial moment in the northern Civil Rights movement—the events leading to the trial of African American physician Ossian Sweet and his family.

On September 9th, 1925 Dr. Sweet and his wife Gladys moved into their new home, crossing the color line into an all-white neighborhood on the east side of Detroit.

Two days later, a crowd of whites gathered in the street to drive the family away. Dr. Sweet and 10 others chose to stay, armed and barricaded inside the house, to defend against the mob. Tensions reached their limit and someone fired into the crowd. Two whites were shot and killed, and the 11 people inside the Sweet home were charged with first degree murder.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke with Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice.

Thanksgiving will be celebrated across the country tomorrow. Many of us will spend the day with friends and family, but it’s not always time spent peacefully and harmoniously, especially when our plans for the holiday are challenged.

Michigan based writer, Wade Rouse has been bringing us stories about the holidays throughout the year. Today, he reflects on Thanksgiving traditions and how important it can be to be open to change.

Wade Rouse lives in Michigan and is the author of "It's All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine.”

If you think about it, class is a tricky word. What does it even mean? How do you define it?

Michigan Radio reporters and producers take a look at how social class impacts our lives - from the way we plan our cities and neighborhoods, to the way we’re treated in a courtroom.

We also hear from folks around the state as they share their thoughts on class.

Part 1

This idea of class – class warfare, class resentment. It’s everywhere. And yet, how are we defining class?

Ifmuth / Flickr

Detroit’s financial troubles have been in the news quite a bit recently with Mayor Dave Bing announcing a plan to lay off 1000 city workers and the looming possibility of the state assigning an emergency manager to take over the city’s finances. Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry took a look back at Detroit's history of financial problems.

Technology surrounds us. It seems we’re always connected to something…the internet, cell phones and social media. It can be difficult to unplug sometimes.

As part of our series Before Tech, Michigan writers share stories about their relationship to technology.

Today, writer Natalie Bakopoulos tells us about her college days, before the phenomena of social media.

She is an English professor at the University of Michigan.

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

We've been talking a lot about class, what it means, and how we define it.

We took a trip to St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. They’re called the Twin Cities, but they're different.

In Benton Harbor forty-three percent of families live below the poverty line.

In St. Joseph it’s six percent.

And, families in St. Joseph earn more than twice as much as their neighbors across the river.

Here's a video produced by Meg Cramer and Mercedes Mejia who spoke to residents on both sides of the river.

What does Republican Paul Scott's recall mean for Michigan politics and around the nation?

Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service joined Michigan Radio's Jennifer White to talk about the aftermath.

The Michigan Education Association put a lot of money behind the recall effort, but the margin for the vote was very slim.

“If you look at the money spent the pro-Scott forces like the Michigan Republican Party and the state chamber of commerce actually out spent the MEA 2 to 1,” said Demas.

According to Sikkema, Michigan is not alone when it comes to voter's discontent with Republican lawmakers.

He said, “Ohio you saw a rejection of the collective bargaining reform championed by Governor Kasich. Arizona the state senator who introduced the very controversial immigration bill was recalled. So, there’s a larger national context here where there’s a real question whether Republicans are over reaching. ”

Cars, agriculture, tourism, it’s all fair game for people who want Michigan to tap into the Chinese market.

But what does that really mean and who really stands to benefit?

Governor Rick Snyder recently led a Michigan delegation to China.

He says strong economic ties between Michigan and what is now the world’s fastest growing economy are essential to Michigan’s economic growth.

Part 1

Technology surrounds us. It seems we’re always connected to something…the internet, cell phones and social media. It can be difficult to unplug sometimes.

As part of the series, Michigan writers will share stories about their relationship to technology.

Today,  writer Wade Rouse tells us about his rather close relationship to his favorite piece of tech.

Michigan Municipal League

The Occupy movement has expanded beyond Wall Street. A number of cities in Michigan have Occupy demonstrations, including Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Lansing.

Lansing Mayor, Virg Bernero says he's been "..protesting Wall Street since before it was fashionable." He welcomes the demonstrators.

"It costs money to arrest people and to cordon off areas. And so our goal was to not arrest anybody, and we made that clear when they got here."

Michigan Municipal League

A vote on a bill to build a new Detroit to Windor bridge crossing has failed in the Senate Economic Development Committee. That means the bill won’t be presented to the full Senate. Here to look at the politics surrounding the bridge and what options the Snyder administration has now are Ken Sikkema former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

Mercedes Mejia

The City of Benton Harbor says the beach season at Jean Klock Park was a success this year.

But some residents are upset that 22 acres of park land is now used by Harbor Shores Golf Course (see slideshow above to get a sense of how it looks).

The City of Benton Harbor says the golf course has created jobs and provides revenue for the city, but some people argue it’s not enough.

Julie Wiess is with Protect Jean Klock Park.

 “It’s gone through with very little scrutiny actually, of the numbers that have been presented as far as job creation, as far as the amount of development or revenue that will be generated from this development and it’s all pie in the sky and no one has really taken a sharp pencil and figured whether this is realistic," said Wiess.

Tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., a group of Benton Harbor residents will argue in federal appeals court that the golf course developers should not have been given permits they received to build on park land.

Harbor Shores Development is already operating the championship golf course; the opponents say the environmental permits allowing the development were not fair.

user: AMagill / flickr

Third quarter fundraising results are being reported by those in the race for Michigan’s U.S. Senate seat. Here to to look at why the money matters are Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

We also talk about Governor Rick Snyder's comments about his decision to run for a second term.

 

The Cuban hip-hop group Obsesion is in Ann Arbor this week.

Alexey Rodriguez Mola and Magia Lopez Cabrera mix African and Cuban rhythms with hip-hop and world beats. They will perform on Thursday, October 6 at the Michigan League Underground.

Here’s a song titled Tu con tu ballet from their current album “El Disco Negro de Obsesion."

Rapper Magia Lopez says her Afro-Cuban culture is what inspires her.

“The hip-hop culture is very much rooted in the 'barrios,' and in Cuba the majority of people are black, although we have mixed races, so we talk a lot about race issues, what we see and our reality as Afro-Cubans," says Lopez.

user: Widjaya Ivan / flickr

This week we are talking about the politics of language. In the third part of our series we examine how internet technology is being used to disseminate those political catch phrases and messages we all hear and quickly repeat.

Cliff Lampe is assistant professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He says politicians are using social media to their advantage.

user: James Jordan / flickr

The autumnal equinox happened today at 5:05 a.m. ET. It marks the beginning of autumn in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern hemisphere.

It’s the time of year when temperatures start to drop and the days start to get shorter.

Every year there are two equinoxes, one in March that marks the beginning of spring and one in September that marks the beginning of fall.

National Geographic explains:

The autumnal equinox and vernal equinox are also the only days of the year when a person standing on the Equator can see the sun passing directly overhead. On the Northern Hemisphere's autumnal equinox, a person at the North Pole would see the sun skimming across the horizon, signaling the start of six months of darkness. On the same day, a person at the South Pole would also see the sun skim the horizon, beginning six months of uninterrupted daylight.

Equinoxes explained:

user: feuillu / flickr

Today we continue our series on political language. In part one we spoke to a linguist about the power of language and the effect it has on our view of world. In part two, we’re going to look more closely at the political strategy behind language use. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Craig Ruff, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants. Don't forget to check out the extended audio below.

Language is being used more strategically in politics than it has been in the past. Ruff says:

user: mattileo / flickr

The Republican Senate Majority Leader, Randy Richardville, says he favors a right-to-work law that would only apply to teachers and other unionized workers in education. Here to explain the political implications of such a law are former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, Ken Sikkema, and political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, Susan Demas.

 

user: Christopher Woo/flickr

Political rhetoric can be confusing and combative. We hear lots of political phrases that we quickly find absorbed into our everyday conversations. But what influence do these powerful words and phrases have on us? Over the next few days we’ll be taking a look at the politics of language. In part one of our series Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Dr. Sarah Thomason, Chair of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Michigan.

user: Ed Yourdon / flicker

Gov. Rick Snyder outlined his plan for making Michigan a healthier state. The plan includes the utilization of technology to help track health statistics and to guide people into making healthier choices.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Victor Strecher, Professor at the University of Michigan’s Center for Communications Health Research. Strecher has been working with Gov. Snyder on developing the new health initiative and talks about health issues in Michigan and changes residents can make to improve their health and well-being.

user: vitualis / flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder presented a health address on Wednesday that outlines his plan to improve the health of Michigan residents. Here to take a look at the politics behind the plan are Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants. How are Democrats and Republicans reacting to the governor's plan?

 

user: mattileo / flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether a new pension tax law is legal. The revenue from that tax is, “an essential part of keeping Michigan’s budget balanced," according to Governor Snyder. Every week we explore what's happening in state politics. Today we talk with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

 

The Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation & Archives

This Friday many of us head into a three day weekend that marks the unofficial end of summer. We might mark Labor Day with a family picnic, one last summer visit to the beach, or maybe with a mad scramble to get that last bit of school preparation done. But what is Labor Day really for? Joining us to take a look is Michigan Radio’s Political Analyst, Jack Lessenberry.

Matt Katzenberger / Flickr

The legislature recently approved a bill that would impose a stricter four-year lifetime limit on welfare cash assistance. The new limits could affect 12,000 families in Michigan. Governor Snyder has yet to sign the bill into law.

In this week's political roundup we talk about the bill with Debbie Dingell, a Democratic Political Analyst and member of the Democratic National Committee and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow for Public Sector Consultants.

Dingell says:

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When something big happens in your life, sometimes you just have to get it out.

Talk to a friend. Share it with your family, or just shout it out loud.

You know, express yourself a little.

Expression through song writing and production are skills that the organizers of Studio on the Go hope to teach kids in Michigan.

Kyle Norris reports the program "travels to schools and community centers in Flint, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo":

Kids use computers and keyboards to make music and beats and then they write lyrics about their lives, and finally record the songs. Kids are given a topic to write about, like "education," “making it” and "family"... The results are songs about their personal struggles along with heartfelt tributes. Some kids sing about what it’s like to have someone they love die or to have a family member in jail. Instructors say the kids learn a combination of technical skills along with life skills.

Michigan Radio's Multimedia Producer Mercedes Mejia and Reporter Kyle Norris put this video together about the program:

 

 

 

 

If Studio on the Go came to your town, what would your "making it" or "family" song be about?

Mercedes Mejia

Since taking office Governor Snyder has proposed many new education reform proposals, including mandatory Schools of Choice, which would allow students throughout the state to attend schools outside of their district.

In this weeks political roundup we take a look at Schools of Choice with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow for Public Sector Consultants.

Michigan House of Representatives

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that sets new congressional district boundaries. The maps were designed and passed by the Republican legislature earlier this year.

Today we take a closer look at the implications of the new district boundaries with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow for Public Sector Consultants.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Demas and Sikkema about who wins and who loses with these changes, as well as what voters should know before they head to the polls in November. 

Mercedes Mejia

When a hand full of Cass Technical High School graduates from the class of '78 failed to call their fellow classmate for a field trip to the old school, Tony Lockard turned to social media.

Lockard  posted a message on Facebook calling for fellow graduates to come out and bid farewell to the old building one last time. He says he got message from people from all over the country.

"One man said that he lived in four different continents, and he’s met somebody from Cass in four different continents. So Cass Tech touches not just locally, it’s a global reach."

Since June, demolition of the almost 100 year old building has been in progress.  The facade of the building facing Second Avenue is the only thing still standing. Lockard hopes people will visit the site one last time and reunite with old friends.

Arvella Watkins says the building was special. She's a '65 Cass Tech graduate.

"Even now I have dreams about going to Cass and running up and down stairs and riding the elevators. ”

You can see video of the old school and hear interviews with Cass Tech graduates, including an interview with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

commons.wikimedia.org

As the state’s largest public employee union begins new contract talks with the Snyder administration, public employees are saying they’ve sacrificed enough. But, Governor Rick Snyder's administration is looking for more concessions.

In our weekly political roundup we talk with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

A CBS poll on Monday shows 66% of Americans want an approach to balancing the federal budget that includes both spending cuts and tax increases.

Michigan Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke talks about his concerns regarding the battle in Washington DC over the debt ceiling and budget negotiations. He says consumer debt is the real problem.

In the interview Clarke says:

"It's the personal debt that's crushing Americans and preventing our economy from rebounding."

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