Detroit

While central business districts in Detroit are seeing the beginnings of resurgence, the neighborhoods are lagging behind. People who live in the city need jobs. To get them, many need new skills. In the second of a series of reports for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, we're following a student who is trying to get the training she needs to help her family.

In the first report, I introduced you to Fatima Mixon. She’s been studying at Focus: HOPE to become a machinist. A few weeks after I first met her at the school, I visited Mixon and her family at home.

Nationaal Archief (Dutch National Archives)

Today on Stateside, we’re getting the inside scoop from former residents of the Brewster-Douglass housing projects about what it was like growing up in the Detroit projects. 

Their answers are overwhelmingly positive.

Ruby Straughter lived in the Brewster-Douglass projects from 1957 to 1972. She remembers people in the projects taking good care of each other.

“If a family couldn’t pay rent, neighbors would throw a rent party and they’d give the money to whomever needed the rent paid.”

She says no one ever went hungry or made fun of anyone else for being poor. Straughter remembers parents were strict with their own kids, and looked out for other people’s children as well.

There was also lots and lots of singing in the Brewsters. People sang four-part harmonies on street corners, in the parks, on porches and in the stairwells, where the echo was best.

But why was music such a huge part of living there? 

The unemployment rate in Detroit is nearly double the statewide rate. Detroit residents need jobs. But too few people have marketable skills. What does it take to go from out-of-work to trained and employed?

For 30 years a group in Detroit has been training people to go to work as machinists, in IT, and beginning this year, in health care.

“When folks come out of here with that Focus: HOPE stamp of approval, you can be certain that you’re getting somebody who should work out pretty doggone well in your workplace,” said William Jones, CEO of Focus: HOPE.

Emil Lorch collection/Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan

All this week on Stateside, we’re looking at the history of the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects in Detroit. If you’ve ever wondered about why they were created or what it was like to live in them, we’d love to fill you in with our three-part series. Here's part one:

If you remember the projects, you might picture the six identical high-rises on the city’s near east side. Those were the Frederick-Douglass Towers, and they were built in the 1950s and finally destroyed in 2014.

FLICKR USER 21INNOVATE / FLICKR

 In the spirit of the Irish on this St. Patrick’s Day, let’s peek back through their history in Detroit, where the Corktown neighborhood wears its Irish heritage proudly.

In an article for the Detroit News entitled, Irish helped form Detroit for centuries, Bill Loomis sifts through the several “waves” of Irish immigrants to Detroit, the first of which came in the early 1800s.

Detroit orders inspections to find broken hydrants

Mar 16, 2015
Downtown Charlottesville fire hydrant
Ben Schumin

Detroit officials have ordered inspections for all 30,000 of the city’s fire hydrants to figure out which are frozen or broken.

The city’s firefighters have reported about 1,000 broken hydrants since the beginning of December.

Jeff Pegg, president of the Detroit Fire Fighters’ Association, said broken hydrants mean big risks for fire fighters and the citizens they’re supposed to protect.

“If the hydrant is frozen, then you have to go to the hydrant down the street,” Pegg said. “The further you go, the more problems, because of the longer distance you have to travel.”

FLICKR USER FOXXYZ / FLICKR

Now that spring is in the air, many people around the state may be planning a visit to Detroit – maybe to watch the Wings (hopefully) in the playoffs, to catch a Tigers' game, or maybe to tour the DIA. 

As Detroit has emerged from the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States’ history, there's been a strong narrative of a new Detroit, attracting energetic entrepreneurs and business owners.

This includes a growing bar and restaurant district along Michigan Ave. in Corktown, just west of Downtown.

Paige Pfleger / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Institute of Arts is debuting a new exhibition about the year Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo spent in Detroit in 1932. It opens Sunday, March 15, but Michigan Radio got a sneak peek at a media preview.

The exhibition is the brainchild of DIA director Graham Beal and curator Mark Rosenthal. This will be the last major exhibition for Beal before he retires this summer. 

Mercedes Mejia

While best known for her self-portraits portraying death and dark subjects, Frida Kahlo also had a love for life, and she loved to cook.

The Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit exhibit will open at The Detroit Institute of the Arts this month. In the same spirit, three Detroit-area chefs are paying tribute to the renowned Mexican artists. They’re guided by a book written by Guadalupe Rivera, Diego Rivera’s daughter, called Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo.

FLICKR USER WYLIEPOON /FLICKR

“We all had white bellies and brown arms. We never took off our shirts because we never went to the beach anywhere, despite being residents of the Great Lakes state.”

That’s an excerpt from writer Jim Ray Daniels' collection of short stores set in Warren, Eight Mile High. The collection is on the Library of Michigan’s 2015 Notable Books List and is Daniels’ fifth collection of short stories, though he has also won many prizes and fellowships for his poetry.

Michigan Opera Theatre

The Michigan Opera Theatre is performing the opera “Frida” by American composer Robert Xavier Rodriguez. It's about the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Here’s why that’s a smart idea for an arts organization:

1. Tapping into Frida Kahlo’s broad appeal

Lots of people love Frida Kahlo. Latinos love her. Women love her.  Artists love her. Gay people love her.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit is seeing more private investment and new businesses in its downtown areas, but some residents in the neighborhoods don’t see how they’re benefiting from that.

On a recent weeknight, I visited ten of Detroit’s popular night spots ranging from the trendy to the tourist spot to the traditional. All but one had something in common, the vast majority of the patrons were white.

Beyond my ken / Wikimedia Commons

One of the greatest skyscrapers in Detroit is on the auction block.

The Fisher Building and its next-door neighbor, The Albert Kahn Building, have fallen into foreclosure as they struggle with fewer and fewer tenants.

Dan Austin is with the Detroit Free Press, and he runs HistoricDetroit.org.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Pension cuts are kicking in for roughly 12,000 city of Detroit retirees.

The 4.5 percent reduction is a result of Detroit's bankruptcy. Pension fund spokeswoman Tina Bassett tells the Detroit Free Press that about 1,450 retirees with very low incomes have qualified for financial help from a separate fund. Some people will get as much as $180.

Earl Lloyd became the first black player in the NBA on October 31, 1950. He broke the NBA color barrier three years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

The Associated Press reports that Lloyd died Thursday at age 86.

Lloyd made his 1950 NBA debut with the Washington Capitols, just before fellow black players Sweetwater Clifton and Chuck Cooper played their first games.

You can watch clips of that game in this video produced by the Golden State Warriors:

Paige Pfleger / Michigan Radio

What's the future of Detroit's neighborhoods?

That was a question discussed by a panel at the 2015 Detroit Policy Conference

The panel included former city councilman Ken Cockrel, TechTown Detroit's Bonnie Fahoome, Victoria Kovari from the city's Department of Neighborhoods, and Tahirih Ziegler from the Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corp

Chez Chloe

Detroit-made mini lava cakes will soon be featured on Air France flights starting March 1.

Parisian-born Chloe Sabatier is the owner of Chez Chloe in Detroit where she specializes in traditional French lava cakes. She was stunned to learn her cakes would be on-board flights Air France flights from Detroit to Paris.

Flickr user Sean / Flickr

Almost 40% of Detroit households don't have Internet. That’s second in the nation only to Laredo, Texas.

Detroiter Brandon Moore is only a recent Internet adopter. The majority of his neighbors don't have Internet.

He says before he became connected, "it was kind of a feeling of being left behind, or left out. Not being able to experience everything that everyone else was talking about."

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

At a meeting of business and civic leaders, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan outlined a number of concerns and looming issues facing the city.

Following a speech at the Detroit Regional Chamber Policy Conference, Duggan was interviewed by Free Press Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson about challenges ahead.

When the news came yesterday that Northland Mall, that early suburban icon, would close forever in 30 days, I was with former State Senator Jack Faxon.

Faxon, who once represented the area in the legislature, said, “How ironic. It was the start of the end of Detroit, and now it is the end of Southfield.”

earl53 / Morguefile

This week, Jack and Emily talk about another state considering a right-to-work law, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s budget proposal and a new grant to boost skills training in Michigan.


Vanessa Miller / Detroit Bus Company

The Detroit Bus Company launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for their Youth Transit Alliance.

The Alliance, which began in 2013, helps get kids from the Southwest Detroit neighborhood of Springwells to after-school programs, then safely back home afterwards, for free. 

FLICKR USER AMERICANARTMUSEUM / FLICKR

Writer Bill Loomis calls the stove “America’s first mass-marketed, had-to-have durable good.” According to Loomis, 19th century Detroit was known as “the Stove Capitol of the World.” His story appeared in The Detroit News.

Twenty years ago this fall, Curtis Ivery was appointed chancellor of the oddly named Wayne County Community College District. The place was a mess. One of its campuses was closed, funding and facilities were wretched, and many thought it wouldn’t survive. But as Ivery, who had grown up poor and black in Amarillo, Texas, once told me, “whenever anybody told me I couldn’t do it, I did it.”

City of Detroit

In what officials call an effort towards greater transparency, the city of Detroit launched a website that offers access to many government documents that were once difficult to find. 

"People have questions on how the government works, and it's frustrating when it's difficult to get answers to those questions," said Garlin Gilchrist II. 

FLICKR USER SARRAZAK6881 / FLICKR

Coliform bacteria and boil-water alerts, rashes on kids, and water that tastes and smells horrible are some of the side effects associated with Flint’s decision to disconnect from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and switch to the Flint River while it transitions to a new system.

Conditions in Flint grew so terrible that environmental activist Erin Brockovich caught wind of the situation and turned her team’s attention towards Michigan.

The cause of this water crisis? Money.

TODD FARNUM

Since it opened in 1928, the Penobscot Building has been one of the architectural crown jewels of Detroit’s downtown. It was the eighth-tallest building in the world and the tallest in Michigan until the Renaissance Center hotel tower was built in 1977.

Generations of Michiganders knew that the top of this Art Deco tower was marked by a red neon light. But big sections of that light have burned out.

Todd Farnum, owner of Green Light Detroit, plans to climb the 47 story building to fix those lights.

user FatMandy / flickr

A judge says Wayne County must take steps to improve the condition of its current jail.

An opinion from Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny says problems with the old jail have gotten worse while the county focused its efforts on building a new jail. Kenny says the completion of the new jail is not "imminent."

flickr

A $20 million vision to turn Detroit's Chandler Park into an ecological laboratory is underway. 

"The goal is to create the first urban conservation park in Michigan," said Maggie DeSantis, president of the East Side Community Network, which is facilitating a collaborative effort of several community organizations to revitalize the 200-acre park on Detroit's east side.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan felt a bit like a Monty-Python sketch this week as the Snyder administration looked on the bright side of a gaping budget hole and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s State of the City oozed optimism. Jack Lessenberry and Zoe Clarke discuss whether things really are as bright as they say or if dark clouds are looming.


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