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Bringing Up Detroit

Bringing Up Detroit is a new series from Michigan Radio and independent producer Zak Rosen. The year-long series examines the inner-lives of three Detroit families as they navigate the city’s often unpredictable school systems, economy, transportation networks, and neighborhoods.

Support for this series comes from:

Alyssa Nuñez (left) and Brianna Foster-Nuñez, both have a rare form of rickets. They've been to three school in three years.
Zak Rosen / Michigan Radio

 

 

 

Desiree Foster stands at her stove. She’s cooking up some hamburgers and white rice for her two daughters. I’m hovering near her refrigerator when I notice the tattoo on her neck. It has her two daughters' names, Alyssa and Brianna, scrawled across the nape of her neck. Below the names is the serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

    

VIDEO: Dinner with Ms. Chris

Dec 18, 2015

Our series Bringing up Detroit takes you inside the lives of four Detroit families as they navigate the city's often unpredictable school systems, economy, transportation networks, and neighborhoods. 

58 year-old Christina Lumpkin is her family's sole breadwinner.
Zak Rosen / Michigan Radio

This story is part of Michigan Radio's year-long series Bringing Up Detroit, which examines the inner-lives of four Detroit families as they navigate the city’s often unpredictable school systems, economy, transportation networks, and neighborhoods.

An old portrait of Richard Chang, front and center, with his five brothers.
Zak Rosen / Michigan Radio

The Detroit neighborhood where Richard Chang lives has changed. A lot.

 

Chang moved into the Osborn neighborhood in 1980 “because the economy in Michigan was really good,” he says.

That changed dramatically, of course. And now Chang is wondering what the future holds for his children.

 

Marc Grassi watches his daughter, Franca, eat breakfast before her first day of school at St. Clare of Montefalco in Grosse Point Park, Michigan.
Zak Rosen / Michigan Radio

On her first day of school, Franca Grassi woke up, ate a bowl of oatmeal with diced nectarines and maple syrup. She brushed her teeth with the help of a Mickey Mouse iPhone app. Then her parents, Nikki Rittenour and Marc Grassi, drove her to school in their station wagon.

Franca Grassi, Marc Grassi, Mina Grassi and Nikki Rittenour.
Zak Rosen / Michigan Radio

Five-year-old Franca Grassi is only looking for two things in a kindergarten: She doesn't want to be forced to nap, and she wants to see her mom every day. Franca's parents, on the other hand, are a lot more discerning.


“We actually have a google doc spreadsheet of pros and cons of some of the schools,” says Nikki Rittenour from the family’s long, wooden dining room table.

Brianna Foster-Nuñez and Alyssa Nuñez have been to three different schools since 2013.
Zak Rosen / Michigan Radio

 

This fall, it’s looking like Alyssa Nuñez and and Brianna Foster-Nuñez might switch to a new school.

Again.

It’s a pretty common experience in Detroit, where students switch schools 2.5 times more frequently than kids in the rest of the state.

57-year-old Christina Lumpkin heads to work at DTE Energy.
Zak Rosen / Michigan Radio

 

Back in March, I introduced you to 57-year-old Christina Lumpkin and her family. At the time, they were navigating a crisis. Lumpkins’s daughter, Maya, had lost her job at McDonalds, and the family didn’t have any money coming in.


Mika Chang (left) with her sisters Bea, Kallia, Shannon and her nephew, Vincent.
Zak Rosen / Michigan Radio

When we talk about immigrant communities in Detroit, the Hmong don’t usually come up in that conversation. The ethnic group from Southeast Asia began settling in Northeast Detroit’s Osborn neighborhood in the years after the Vietnam War. 

Christina Lumpkin at home with her daughter, Maya and grandson, Jahari.
Zak Rosen / Michigan Radio

Think about most of the news stories you read about kids in Detroit. What comes to mind?

Something about dysfunctional schools? Maybe a crime story?

When’s the last time you felt like a story transported you into the life of a family? Where you really got to know a child? Where you felt what it might be like to be a parent raising kids there?

Beginning this Thursday, Michigan Radio will begin a new series called Bringing Up Detroit, focusing on the challenges of raising healthy, successful children while navigating the city’s often unpredictable school systems, economy, transportation networks, and neighborhoods.