Category: Top News Written by Steve Malik Shelton
A group of area small businesses downtown are complaining that movie productions near their business locations, without adequate notice and no real incentive, is costing them business as they struggle in the downturn economy.
They contend that, although film company representatives are required to get their permission to film in the areas where their businesses are because it affects the customer traffic, this does not always happen and their businesses are left out in the cold.
Larry Mongo, who owns Mongo’s, a popular bar and restaurant downtown and also leases retail space for several shops in the Himelhoch Building on Washington Blvd., says he did not receive monetary compensation for the disruption of his business as a result of film production until he vigorously complained and even threatened to file a lawsuit.
Mongo said the first incident occurred in October of 2009, when the Highland Park film crew for the movie “Red Dawn” closed down part of the street and sidewalk. Mongo claims that his and other businesses in the area were not notified about the blocking of the thoroughfares and how it could impact their businesses. “How was the movie company given permits to film before they notified all of the businesses in the area?” said Mongo.
“It doesn’t make sense.” According to Erica Hill, the former director of the Detroit Film Office, it is incumbent upon film crews to contact all businesses in the area that could be affected by movie production and to make sure that they are properly informed. This was verified in a recent conversation with Tony Garcia, location scout for the Michigan Film Office. Although he qualified it by stating the amount of money paid out to businesses affected by film crews is negotiable and there is no set price.
“Anytime there’s a film crew on location and there’s a business that could be affected by it, it is up to the film production company to go out and get the permission from the business owners themselves,” said Garcia. “In most cases now as part of the new Detroit application, it actually requires location agreements to be signed with each business owner.”
Sommer Woods, who is the current director of the Detroit Film Office, concurs. “Our policy is that when a business is impacted, representatives of the film company are supposed to get with these businesses to make sure that they do not have a loss of revenue,” she explained in a recent telephone interview. “What you had with ‘Red Dawn’ and the early filming in Detroit was the city was not prepared for this business. They were overwhelmed and it was not done properly. But I don’t think that the film industry has a negative impact on businesses, but if they do, it is an agreement that has to be worked out between the production companies and those businesses within the city.
“Now you have some businesses within the city that don’t always have a loss of revenue; but it’s an opportunity for themThompsonto be able to leverage the film industry and for them to gain additional revenue.”
But Mongo is adamant that his businesses were negatively impacted on several occasions by film crews in the downtown Detroit area. He wishes that the city was as dedicated to making sure Detroit businesses are compensated as they are in making sure the film companies get what they’re after. Mongo said he was not contacted by them, but had to initiate the dialogue which eventually led to him as well as Mildred Windham, who owns a clothing boutique in the same building, being compensated for loss of revenue.
“There is a paper trail,” said Mongo. “How many times have movie people been given permission to film without any signed letter from affected businesses? Also, some of these permission papers are signed by businesses well after filming has started at their locations.”
The owner of Hilal Books, which is located in the immediate vicinity and on the same side of the street as Mongo’s business, also reported that he had not been contacted by film company production people, per Detroit Film Office and Michigan Film Office policy.
Woods said there is no city ordinance as it relates to street closures in the city of Detroit. “We have a perimeter in place, but there is o law,” said Woods.
According to Mongo, the fact that there are no uniform laws or city codes to regulate business compensation, implementation as well as the necessary follow-up is a major part of the problem. “There should be an official and standard scale that should be paid to all businesses in the state of Michigan based on the size of the movie budget,” said Mongo. “And I’m not greedy. I don’t want to be paid a penny more than businesses are receiving in Grosse Pointe and in Birmingham from the film companies. Why should they be allowed to film in Detroit and pay less than they are paying elsewhere? The City of Detroit should set the standard for how much money is to be paid.”
By offering up to 42 percent in cash rebates to movie production companies, at one time Michigan’s film incentive program was the most lucrative in the nation. Gov. Snyder, however, introduced new cuts to what some considered a sweetheart deal for the movie industry. Under the new regulations, the 42 percent cash incentives are replaced by an annual cap of $25 million. Ryan Kazmirzak, a spokesperson for Gov. Snyder, says such measures were necessary to balance the budget and to stop leakage of taxpayer funds without the desired results. Kazmirzak maintains that the 42 percent tax credit is actually a subsidy whereby the State of Michigan literally writes a check.
“Michigan is actually paying out money to Hollywood film producers,” said Kazmirzak. “And we came to the conclusion that the film subsidy right now is unsustainable.”
He went on to explain a major problem with the 42 percent film incentive was that there was no limit and, thus, if a movie company spent $1 billion on film production, the state would be required to pay out $420 million in subsidies.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 October 2011 15:57
Category: Top News Written by Marcus Amick
Ever think, what really defines an icon?
Longevity? Popularity? Legacy?
The answer likely will differ depending on who you ask. That is, once you get past the obvious such as historical figures like Martin Luther King Jr., entertainment legends such as Madonna, and sports figures like the great coach Vince Lombardi.
Sure, no automobile even begins to measure up to those mentioned above (not even close). Still, as car enthusiasts we often find ourselves assessing the value of some vehicles by the same criteria — and while opinions might differ on whether the Jeep Grand Cherokee fits the bill of “icon” when it comes to automobiles, the allnew 2012 model takes direct aim at all naysayers.
SHE’S GOT THE LOOK
Take for the starters the look of the new Cherokee SRT8, which despite keeping much of the original design intact that people have grown to love over the years, completely ups the ante on the SUV. Key exterior design features include a new, SRTexclusive, body-color wheel flares and side sill cladding; a one-piece front fascia with new LED multifunction daytime running lamps, and a body-colored front grille with a unique black screen background and chrome bezel inserts.
The front grille is also painted in gloss black and a newly designed underbody belly pan features integrated brake ducting to improve cooling and fade performance. Then, there’s that newly sculpted hood with functional dual black heat extractors for additional engine cooling that ensure no mistaking the Cherokee SRT8 for anything else on the road.
Rear design elements include a new dual-sport exhaust system featuring 4-inch exhaust tips. The 2012 model also feature s new split 5-spoke, 20-inch forged aluminum wheels riding on Pirelli tires.
Inside, the new 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee completely redefines the idea of sport and luxury for an SUV.
It features new SRT-styled Nappa leather and suede seats, with sculpted bolsters and adjustable headrests, an all-new, leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel that features a unique satin chrome rim section, and standard paddle-shift controls flanked on both sides of the new contoured palm rests with easy accessibility to all audio and Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) controls. Heated (front and rear) and ventilated (front) seats are standard.
The new model also features an SRT-exclusive Performance Pages that show instant feedback on steering input measurements, horsepower, torque, 0-60 mph time, 60-0 mph braking distance, g-forces, and one-eighth mile and quarter-mile times, along with expanded engine information for true performance buffs.
If you’re into cool views the Cherokee SRT is also available with a Command View dual-pane sun roof provides twice as much glass surface than a standard sun roof. The new Cherokee SRT is also available 825-watt, 19-speaker premium SRT performance audio surround-sound system from Harman Kardon new for the 2012 model, which is worth the trip to the dealership to experience in itself.
FIRE HER UP
All that said, the real beauty of the all new 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT-8 lies in how it performs on the road, which is “unfrickin’” believable for a SUV. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use that word. Engineered as the most powerful, technologically advanced, high-performance Jeep vehicle ever built, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is powered by Chrysler Group’s all-new 6.4-liter HEMIV-8 that pumps out a heart-throbbing 470 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque.
That’s an improvement of 50 horsepower and 45 lb.-ft. torque over the 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 it replaces.
The Cherokee SRT8 runs from 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds, 0-100-0 mph in the mid-16 second range, and has a top speed of 160 mph, and brakes from 60-0 mph in 116 feet.
The ride and handling for the 2012 Grand Cherokee is night and day over the previous model with enhancements like an improvement of 146 percent in torsional stiffness versus the previous model, which is that solid feeling you get from a vehicle when driving it on the road.
Standard fuel saver technology and a new active valve exhaust system makes the new Cherokee SRT8 a little easier to swallow at the pump with improved fuel efficiency of 13-percent increase on the highway — and an extended range of 450 miles on one tank of gas.
In addition to the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, the SUV also features a standard floor mounted auto stick giving the driver the ability to shift manually if given that urge for a manual.
The new Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 also has a trailer tow rating of 5,000 lbs. and features new SRT high-performance Brembo brakes for more stopping power as well as 45 safety and security features.
To top it off those who buy the new Grand Cherokee SRT8 will receive one day of professional driving instruction from the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which if you aren’t already will surely make you a believer.
• $54,470 (base price)
• Better fuel economy
• More horsepower
• 0-60 mph in 4.8 sec
• New Harmon Kardon audio system
Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 October 2011 15:43
Category: Top News Written by Leland Stein III
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Get ready this Monday night as our Detroit Lions will be playing their first meaningful nationally televised contest in too many years to recount. In comes the Monsters of the Midway (Chicago Bears) to try and do what Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Minnesota and Dallas could not — beat the Motor City Cats. How did the inept Lions get to the point where they are in the national conversation about NFL dream teams? How do we understand what is happening? Is it real?
Whatever the cause or situation, the 4-0 Lions are set to put their effort on national display this Monday and it should answer a lot of questions about where these Lions really stand in the NFL hierarchy.
No matter the Lions outcome versus the Bears, they are moving in the right direction. This 2011 team is for real and the linchpin behind their elevation is general manager Martin Mayhew. Sure, head coach Jim Schwartz is the organizer of the Lions’ on the field dreams, but Mayhew is the architect of the overall team’s collective. Selected by the Buffalo Bills in the tenth round (262nd overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft, the cornerback out of Florida State University played in eight NFL seasons from 1989-1996 and started in Super Bowl XXVI for the Washington Redskins.
What makes Mayhew different than ex-Lions president and general manager Matt Millen is his very real scholarship concerning NFL talent and his organizational skills. Also, after retiring from the NFL, Mayhew attended Georgetown University Law School. He graduated in 2000 with a J.D. degree. Millen brought Mayhew into the Lions organization as senior vice president, but when Millen in 2008 was released, he became the first African-American general manager of the Lions.
Mayhew’s skin color has long since been a non-issue as he has made all the right moves that are moving the Lions’ franchise into respectability in the NFL wars. Mayhew’s drafting, his acquisitions and free agents have all elevated the future direction of the Lions.
When Detroit Lions owner and chairman William Clay Ford announced the promotion of Tom Lewand to team president and Mayhew to general manager, I said way to go. Not only was I confident in the future direction that Mayhew was going to lead the Lions, so were all in the Lions administration. “Martin is a great friend,” Lewand said. “He has been exemplary for this organization since the day he walked into the door. I consider it a pleasure to work with him. I always knew he would be a great GM. I’m not surprised that this thing is moving in a positive direction. This is what I expected three years ago when we started this process.”
Said Lions senior vice president of Communications Bill Keenist: “You will not find person with more character and integrity than Martin. Everything he has done is not surprising. He’s a great judge of talent and he knows how to put a team together.” Said Lions coach Jim Schwartz: “The big thing is we do not stand alone, because he is very good at getting a collective voice. It’s not about just getting good players. Martin has set an environment where the scouts, coaches and administration all have a voice in the final decisions.
“From the beginning after he interviewed me in the selection process I knew there was something special between us. I had great confidence that we could all be on the same page and get pieces in here that would help move this franchise forward.” So far the 4-0 Lions have put the Matt Millen era in the rearview mirror and Mayhew is making all the right decisions.
“I feel great about the process,” Mayhew said. “I can’t say enough about the great job that our coaches and our scouts have done in this process. As I’ve said before, we believe the best thing to do is to take the best player available (in the draft), because we feel through free agency we can fill holes with better quality players.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 October 2011 15:26
Category: Top News Written by Steve Holsey
There is the old saying, “Never let them see you sweat.” Although the context is different, the “soul men” have never minded if you saw them sweat. In fact, they prefer that you did.
These gentlemen, who made a major and lasting impact on the music landscape, stood apart from the average R&B singer because they sang hard and from the gut.
They didn’t believe in sugar-coating their records and live performances in order to appeal to a broader, Whiter audience. Without a doubt they all had, or in some cases have, large White followings, but the attraction is that very rawness.
This week we are paying homage to some — notice we said some — of the greatest soul men in the history of the genre, a genre that is not currently in vogue but will always have a presence. The last young soul man was Gerald Levert.
Since the music and careers of James Brown, Ray Charles and Marvin Gaye have been documented on so many occasions, we are not including them. However, their spirits prevail throughout the story.
ONE OF THE strongest and most prolific soul men was singer, songwriter and guitarist Bobby Womack, whose recording history is awesome. His catalogue reads like an unabridged Dictionary of Soul. We cannot name them all, but savor these gems for a few minutes, and perhaps give them another listen: “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha” “Woman’s Gotta Have It,” “If You Think You’re Lonely Now,” “Lookin’ For a Love,” “More Than I Can Stand” and the duet with Altrina Grayson, “(No Matter How High I Get) I’ll Still Be Lookin’ Up to You.”
Wilson Pickett, who was born in Alabama but at one time lived in Detroit, was a master of the “soul scream.” When he would cut loose, and the music volume was up, the walls sometimes shook. Pickett launched his career with the Detroit-based group the Falcons and sang lead on one of their biggest hits, “I Found a Love.” But the urge to go solo was strong, so he moved on.
“The Wicked Pickett” etched a permanent spot in Black music history thanks to dozens of hits, including “In the Midnight Hour,” “Land of 1000 Dances,” “634-5789,” “Funky Broadway,” “Don’t Knock My Love” and “Engine Number 9.” THE TEMPTATIONS have always been a soulful act — although they can be soft and sweet too — but the key element in their soul mix was the great David Ruffin. He could wail, first in a lower range and then up into the stratosphere. Ruffin seemed to have joined the Temptations precisely at the right time.
“My Girl” gave the Temptations their first No. 1 hit, and from there it was a long ride on the hit express. Among the stops on that ride: “It’s Growing,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” “Since I Lost My Baby,” “(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It’s You That I Need,” “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” “(I Know) I’m Losing You” and “My Baby.”
Far less celebrated is the great Marvin Junior, lead singer of one of the longest-enduring groups in the history of popular music, the Dells. Most people do not know his name, but have heard his blow-theroof- off voice. It is a voice, in fact, that was a huge influence on Teddy Pendergrass, another great soul man.
The Dells began having hits in the mid- 1950s, but after signing with Chess/Cadet in the late 1960s, were elevated to a new level of popularity. That hit surge started in 1968 with “Stay In My Corner” and continued with “Oh What a Night” (both songs were remakes of their ’50s hits), “Always Together,” “There Is,” “I Can Sing a Rainbow/Love Is Blue,” “Give Your Baby a Standing Ovation” and “The Love We Had (Stays on My Mind).”
OTIS REDDING was about as pure as soul could get. He poured his heart into every song he sang. His fans could feel it every second on each record and every moment on stage.
Redding was one of the main reasons for the Memphis sound explosion that started in the early 1960s and carried over into the ’70s with an impact that still reverberates.
For Redding it all began with “These Arms of Mine.” No one, including the great Jerry Butler, had ever heard anything like it. Redding never let up: “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now),” “Try a
Little Tenderness,” “Mr. Pitiful,” “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa” (Sad Song),” the original version of “Respect” and more.
Ironically, Redding’s biggest hit, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” reached No. 1 after his passing.
Sam & Dave, also from Stax, were double dynamite, two for the price of one. Like Redding, they never held back, incorporating everything they learned in church into the R&B world. Sam Moore and Dave Prater benefited greatly from the songwriting and producing skills of Isaac Hayes and David Porter. People will never tire of “Hold On, I’m Comin’” or “Soul Man.” Also great: “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” “I Thank You,” “Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody” and “You Got Me Hummin’.”
CAN YOU think of a singer more soulful and powerful than Eddie Levert of the still-goingstrong O’Jays?
It is said that Levert could sing in a large auditorium without a microphone and still be clearly heard. On “Soul Train,” host Don Cornelius asked him how he could sing with such power. Levert jokingly attributed it to “eatin’ all those greens, cornbread and ham hocks.” The O’Jays have given us a cavalcade of great songs, including “For the Love of Money,” “Just Let Me Make Love to You,” “Back Stabbers,” “Love Train,” “Work on Me” and “Livin’ For the Weekend.”
Johnnie Taylor epitomized soul. He had made records before, with varying degrees of success, but he took off like a rocket in late 1968 with the No. 1 hit that everybody was listening to and singing along with, “Who’s Making Love?” Taylor, like any soul singer worthy of the title, got to the heart of any song he was singing, and applied that same passion and energy on stage.
That first smash was followed by a long string of successes, such as “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone,” “Disco Lady” (with its dance and sex connotation), “Take Care of Your Homework,” “I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)” and the somewhat sexist but funny “Cheaper to Keep Her.” And let’s not forget Solomon Burke, the big man with the big voice and personality.
Philadelphia-born Burke was not just a singer. He was also a preacher and a businessman, an entrepreneur who sold everything from “love potions” to food he prepared to artists on the road with him, especially when racism prevented Black people from being served in southern restaurants.
Anyone who doesn’t know what “soul” is need only to listen to some of Solomon Burke’s records. They have their pick from such essentials as “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” “Cry to Me,” “Got to Get You Off My mind,” “If You Need Me” and “Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye).” Thank God for the gentlemen of soul, the soul brothers, the soul men.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 October 2011 15:19
Category: News Briefs Written by ETECH
On Oct. 5-6, the MGM Grand Detroit Hotel, located at 1777 Third Street, will be the site for the 12th Annual Global Automotive and Energy Summit, hosted by Rainbow/PUSH and Citizenship Education Fund.
This year’s theme is “One Set of Rules: Leveling the Playing Field.” There will be expert speakers and panelists throughout the two-day event.
For registration information, call (313) 842- 3883. Rev. Jesse Jackson is founder and president of Rainbow/PUSH.
Last Updated on Monday, 03 October 2011 16:10
Category: News Briefs Written by Michigan Chronicle
Reading Works is an organization dedicated to raising the level of adult literacy in metropolitan Detroit and promoting the idea that reading does indeed work, in the family and in the workplace. The Depth of the Problem Metro Detroit has suffered exceptional job loss as manufacturing decreased in the last decade and the number of jobs available to unskilled and uneducated labor has declined dramatically. The emerging economy is technology-driven, with demand for employees who read and write well and have computer skills, English fluency and a positive work ethic.
Yet according to the National Institute for Literacy, “Forty-seven percent of adults in the city of Detroit are functionally illiterate, with staggering rates recorded in some of the suburbs as well: Southfield at 24 percent and both Inkster and Pontiac at 34 percent.” These adults are not acceptable employees in the new economic arena and not able to nurture a family learning environment for the region’s children, many of whom show severe deficiencies in reading and math.
A study by the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce clearly shows a dearth in adult literacy services overall, especially for learners at the lowest levels.
Public and private funding for adult literacy and job training agencies is inadequate, inconsistent and unpredictable. Further reductions in public funding for adult literacy programs are anticipated, adding to the burden of service providers who are constantly scrounging for funding, have long waiting lists and are unable to meet the needs of adult learners.
And while increasingly robust efforts are being made on behalf of early childhood preparedness, more rigorous school curriculum, high school graduation rates and remedial help as needed in higher education, there is no cohesive, consistent effort on behalf of illiterate adults.
Reading Works will supply that missing piece.
Reading Works’ Collaborative Model Reading Works has set this goal: 80 by ’20.
By the year 2020, at least 80 per cent of adults in metro Detroit – Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties – will read at a ninth-grade level or above.
The Reading Works Alliance(RWA) — the growing number of community partners who support Reading Works — has created a comprehensive model to distribute consistent funding and services to selected, qualified adult literacy providers.
Reading Works goes beyond a supply-drive program that simply distributes funding. The model is demand-driven by motivated learners who see the benefits of significantly improving their literacy skills. And Reading Works’ media partners will campaign to support adult literacy with the public – and public policy-makers.
Reading Works will: • Fund literacy providers that can increase their capacities and show outcomes. Agencies funded by Reading Works will increase the number of adult learners they serve, improve retention rates and provide personal guidance to learners as they advance to higher levels. Measured outcomes will include the number of adult learners who enter programs, how many remain engaged to reach higher reading levels, and how many progress to job-readiness training, vocational training, GED-prep level and secondary education.
• Link literacy providers and other social services. This will remove barriers that prevent many learners from staying engaged and moving forward to employment that can sustain a family. Many learners need help with transportation, child care, health care, vision screening and eyeglasses. These services are currently provided inconsistently and in isolation. In the Reading Works model, funding will be allocated and partnerships formed to make these services available. • Establish a network among literacy providers to share best practices. This will be done with newsletters, conferences, Web site updates and inter-agency communication facilitated by Reading Works.
• Help providers strengthen the connection between learners and skilled work. Reading Works will work with businesses and civic organizations to offer mentoring, job shadowing and apprenticeships as appropriate to the level of skill of the adult learner.
• Provide a mass media campaign to raise public awareness. The RWA will use its high-profile media members to great effect and will encourage community leaders in business, sports, entertainment, media, and the non-profit sector to participate in the social marketing of Reading Works. The public campaign will begin with a splash – and will be ongoing.
The Reading Works Alliance was created by community leaders and organizations who agreed to work together. Those involved come from major media (including the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Media Partnership, WXYZ Channel 7 and the Michigan Chronicle), non-profits, private businesses and educational institutions. And more leaders are coming aboard.
The RWA created its board of directors to steer strategic plans, raise funds, engage technical advisors and award and monitor grants to agencies that meet criteria including skill, record of success and ability to find partnerships and provide incentives for learners to remain engaged in literacy training. The RWA and its advisors conducted rigorous site evaluations of grantees’ capacity, facilities, curriculum, instructional materials and financial documentation.
The demand-driven strategy is a product of more than a year of research, planning and assessment of community assets by the RWA. It has benefited from the counsel and expertise of major community support organizations, such as United Way for Southeast Michigan, Michigan Works, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund. The RWA researched the work of the Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy in New York, consulted with Pro Literacy America and engaged Detroit native James Wile, Ph.D., an international literacy consultant based in Washington, D.C. Funding Goals: Short-Term Urgency, Plus Sustainability Reading Works will ensure that motivated adults in metro Detroit have access to high-quality service providers, conveniently situated, at minimal or no personal expense. To accomplish that, significant new and consistent funding is urgently required. Reading Works will begin funding selected agencies by January 2012 and expand the program in future years.
The RWA recognizes two major challenges to sustainability: long-term funding and management of the program. Funds, volunteers and other resources will be provided via partnerships with philanthropists, foundations, civic organizations and the business community. The RWA will raise $10 million by 2016 to provide stable funding to literacy providers, scale up the program and build an endowment so Reading Works can be a lasting community resource.
The RWA board will act as fiduciary to disburse financial resources and monitor service providers through an executive director position, plus advisors, consultants and volunteer help. The RWA will publish reports and audits on the Reading Works Web site as well as through other media. Accountability and transparency will be priorities. Establishing Detroit as the National Leader In its extensive research, the RWA did not find another initiative with a similar approach anywhere in the country — or anything on the scale of Reading Works. Detroit is well-positioned to be the national leader in addressing the challenges of adult literacy.
Any materials, best practices, case studies and action research, plus qualitative and quantitative empirical research generated through Reading Works will be accessible to the public as shared intellectual property. The RWA has established ties to institutions of higher education, notably including Wayne State University in Detroit and the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
WSU will establish an Office of Adult Literacy, which will be housed on the Wayne State campus. The Office of Adult Literacy will be the hub of a partnership between Reading Works and the university. It will be managed by a WSU adult literacy specialist. The office will develop research opportunities that address adult literacy and related issues, organize local and regional conferences and forums, offer service and service-learning opportunities for students, create a data repository for the academic study of literacy best practices, and build a library of materials and resources for use by service providers and community partners. From this office, the university will take the lead in organizing a national symposium on adult literacy to be held in September 2013. This event will attract interested parties, educators and literacy professionals from the nation and the world, coming together in common cause to identify issues, solutions and best practices.
The Reading Works executive director will partner with the Wayne State Office of Adult Literacy and manage the Reading Works initiative. The director will assist and assess local literacy providers, help agencies link to social services, coordinate fundraising and publish regular data-driven reports.
Measuring Success: It’s Not Just About Numbers
Reading Works’ most important outcomes will be evident in compelling personal success stories as adults learn, gain confidence and contribute to the community. Detroit Free Press Columnist Rochelle Riley has been writing about adult literacy for a decade. She once shared the story of a woman who dropped out after being called “lazy and stupid” by a high-school teacher. “The class laughed,” the woman said. “I cried.” At age 33, after her daughter was born, she entered the Mercy Education Project, one of the literacy providers affiliated with Reading Works. She wanted her daughter to see her as “a positive woman in her life … and a woman of education.”
After her learning disabilities were diagnosed, she made progress, earned her GED, and then enrolled in higher education.
Reading Works will generate many more inspirational stories. It will reflect the great spirit of metro Detroit, its commitment to urban renaissance, and the grit and determination of its people.
Last Updated on Monday, 03 October 2011 15:52
Category: News Briefs Written by Michigan Chronicle
On Sept. 22, officials at the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) broke ground for a new 40,000 square-foot Student Fitness Center on the McNichols Campus. It marks the first new, freestanding building on the campus in more than 40 years, according to UDM president Antoine M. Garibaldi. “It is most appropriate that the new facility’s primary focus will be on the health and well-being of our students,” Garibaldi said. “UDM emphasizes the importance of developing a well-rounded individual, with a focus not just on the intellectual, but also the spiritual, social and physical well-being of our students.”
The fitness center, located on the east side of the Engineering Building, will feature a two-court gymnasium for recreation and intramural sports such as basketball, volleyball, badminton and floor hockey; an elevated three-lane track; a group exercise room; men’s and women’s locker rooms and restrooms; a lobby and student lounge and a “smoothie bar.”
“The new Student Fitness Center will provide more opportunities for our students to enrich their college experience, providing both health and social benefits,” said William C. Young, member of the UDM Board of Trustees, and president and CEO of Plastipak Packaging, Inc. and Absopure Water.
The new fitness center will echo the collegiate Spanish architectural themes found on the university’s other buildings.
The center will face the Kassab Mall, in close proximity to the university’s new tennis complex and pavilion, practice fields, residence halls and historic Calihan Hall. The center is expected to open next fall.
This latest development is coming on the heels of the appointment of Garibaldi as UDM president. A national scholar in higher education, Garibaldi’s career spans more than 35 years as a tenured professor, accomplished researcher and educational administrator. He served as president of Gannon University and was the first provost and chief academic officer at Howard University in Washington, DC.
Last Updated on Monday, 03 October 2011 15:38
Category: Top News Written by Bankole Thompson, Chronicle Senior Editor
Starting Oct. 1, an estimated 12,000 families will be off the State of Michigan’s welfare rolls because Lansing is saying it must do budget cuts and we must live within our means in a tough economy. So the state moved to put a stricter four-year limit on cash welfare benefits saying it will grant exemption to those with disabilities who can’t work, relatives of a disabled spouse or child, and those who are 65 and older and are not receiving Social Security or other benefits.
Advocates for the poor and vulnerable say that is an excuse because the “least of these” are often not part of the agenda of government in the first place. Which ever side you are on in this debate, one thing is clear: Detroit is expected to account for almost half of the estimated 12,000 welfare recipients who will no longer receive benefits from the state. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing told an audience of students, faculty and business leaders at Wayne County Community College District downtown campus last week that the city is putting together a contingency plan — working to locate grants — that could aid those living in the city who would no longer be receiving welfare benefits, among other things.
Notwithstanding, the politics of welfare and who gets what has catapulted urban farming to the center of discussions of survival in this tough economy.
Is urban farming the answer to an economy in Detroit that has left some jobless, homeless and others with no other means to make a living for their families?
Malik Yakini, a longtime Detroit advocate, entrepreneur, educator and pioneer of Africancentered education, said while urban farming is not the whole answer because “the situation we face is a very complex situation, it is part of the answer for the economy we are dealing with.” Yakini, whose brainchild, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), has caught the attention of students from area colleges, including the University of Michigan who are studying models of transformation in urban centers like Detroit, said urban farming is critical for Detroit’s economic survival at this time.
“Food economy is the first economy of every society,” Yakini said. “If we are able to provide a significant amount of money from the food we produce, it can stimulate the economy because of the potential to hire more people to work on urban farming.”
What Yakini is doing is becoming a template for sustenance and survival because “in order to solve our problems we have to have a multifaceted approach.”
That approach has led Yakini and his staff to establish D-Town, a four-acre organic farm in Detroit’s Rouge Park, which has become the site of visits from college students, residents politicsand others who see urban farming as being under-utilized.
“So far the response to the produce has been very good because people like the idea of fresh produce,” Yakini said.
However, the response in terms of active participation is not as strong as he would like it to be among African Americans because agriculture is identified with slavery and sharecropping, even though the D-Town farm is an act of self-reliance.
This past weekend, D-Town had its Harvest Festival showcasing organic vegetable plots, beehives, hoop houses for year- round food production and a compost operation. The event also provided a playground for children who visited the farm with their families.
“It’s one of our largest events,” Yakini said. “It’s a consciousness raising activity that benefits the community in terms of the cooking demonstrations we have. We teach people how to prepare fresh vegetables.”
Despite the advent of relatively cheap fast food that is luring a lot of people because of its convenience, maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires fresh food. “Our food culture is being lost compared to how my grandmother cooked,” Yakini said. “We have a whole generation of young people growing up without the extensive knowledge of how to prepare fresh food.”
The urban farming debate continues in Detroit and recently attracted the attention of Rev. Jesse Jackson who called the concept “cute but foolish” because, according to Jackson, Detroit needs investment and industry, “not bean patches” to solve its economic woes.
Yakini said Jackson’s remarks mischaracterize the urban agriculture movement.
“People are wise enough to know that we need a variety of ways to utilize land in Detroit,” Yakini said. “We are not suggesting that urban farming should replace industry. There is no singular solution to the economic problems. We still need industry.”
There have been other conversations around urban farming at the government level but Yakini said, “What they are talking about is planting Christmas trees, not food production. I think because we do have so much vacant land it gives us the opportunity to have food production in Detroit like they do in Havana, Cuba, which has created an example of urban agriculture around the world.”
He believes that if much needed resources are dedicated to urban farming, Detroit has the potential to produce 10 to 20 percent of the produce that residents consume that will help address the economy because “there is money in the food system and the processing industry.”
The other aspect, he said, will be “institutional support” — enlisting organizations and groups as clients such as the school system, and other institutions. But it is not only urban farming that Yakina and others are concerned about in creating a social enterprise that addresses food security.
They want to be actively involved at the local government level and influencing policy that supports equitable distribution of food, ensuring that food policies are in concert with the demands of consumers and that there is a proactive approach to address any structural bias that lends itself to “food injustice.”
That, he said, explains why the organization is working to create a retail food co-op store “because as the economy is in decline it’s becoming more and more apparent that the supermarket model is not the best model that keeps revenue in our community. It extracts revenue.”
Urban farming creates an alternative economy with the possibility of job creation.
“We need to rethink this whole idea of the economy and look at things locally,” Yakini said about an issue that has ignited debate in the wake of the collapse of Wall Street and the big banks.
But Yakini is not alone in his thought.
In 2008, I sat down with Archbishop Desmond Tutu for an interview and he echoed a sentiment that is at the center of the politics of local economies and has been a rallying cry for those who have called for a more extensive examination of the current economic system because of “unjust policies” toward the poor and less fortunate. “We are meant to live in a community of interdependence. If we continue to treat others as outsiders — and as you see, when they are outsiders, they will tend to get the thin end of the stick — then we will be in trouble. I hope that although we will be speaking from a position of weakness, we should be saying, ‘No, we want a fundamental revamp of the economic system,” Tutu said.
While the economy is still sending people to the unemployment lines in Detroit and across Michigan, what should happen now that hunger is bound to increase? “We would encourage everyone to start growing something,” Yakini said. “That way they can reduce the amount of money they are spending on food.”
Last Updated on Monday, 10 October 2011 12:29
Category: Top News Written by Michigan Chronicle
Tools for Schools drive collects almost 50,000 supplies for kids in need.
In its first year, Comerica Bank’s Tools for Schools supply drive made the grade, providing more than 49,000 supplies for local students in need. In partnership with Operation: Kid Equip, Comerica collected donations of school supplies at its 197 traditional banking centers in Michigan, which were distributed to deserving schools across the state. In Metro Detroit alone, almost 35,000 supplies were distributed to various schools in need throughout Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, including schools in the Detroit Public School District.
Reinforcing Comerica’s strong commitment to Michigan, the supply drive was held as part of a Back to School campaign aimed at providing students the tools they need to succeed this year.
Rhonda Davenport, senior vice president and regional manager for Comerica Bank, said the community’s support of the drive was impressive. “This drive could not have been successful without our customers, employees and others who donated supplies. I’d like to take this opportunity to say ‘thank you.’ “It’s great to see our colleagues and customers come together and provide support for children in their community,” said Davenport. “With so many people stretched financially due to the economy, the expense of school supplies can present an added burden to many families. We’re thankful that together we could help relieve some of the burden.”
A recent survey from the National Retail Federation projected parents with children in grades K-12 would spend an average of $603.63 on back to school shopping this year. “We know it’s been tough times here in Michigan, and some of the items students need can be costly,” said Davenport. “We want to make sure we’re doing our part to help kids in our community go back to school prepared.”
The vision of Operation: Kid Equip is to create a community where every child’s basic needs are met. The nonprofit provides school supplies, books and dictionaries to children who are at-risk, while also working to increase awareness of the issues facing school-aged children, to help them succeed in school and in life. “Kids can’t write without a pencil or color without a crayon,” said Menachem Kniespeck, founder and chief executive officer of Operation: Kid Equip. “We’re happy Comerica joined us in addressing this important need in our communities.”
Comerica colleagues continue to give their time to help nonprofit organizations such as Operation: KidEquip. Last year, colleagues provided more than 42,000 hours, or $867,000 worth of employee volunteer labor hours to deserving organizations throughout the state.
For more information on Operation: Kid Equip visit www.operationkidequip.org.
In addition to the Tools for School supply drive, Comerica sponsored and hosted a Backpackpalooza event at its new Michigan market headquarters, 411 W. Lafayette in downtown Detroit.
Volunteers from Comerica Cares, Operation: Kid Equip and CityYear Detroit helped distribute 1,000 free backpacks to local students in need. The backpacks were filled with school supplies such as notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, rulers, hygiene items and a Comerica piggy bank.
Janice Tessier, vice president and manager of corporate contributions for Comerica Bank, was one of the many volunteers on hand at the event.
“The children and families at the event were truly grateful to receive this support,” said Tessier. “It’s an important need that can often be overlooked.”
Eight-year-old Jayla Forest was especially excited to volunteer at the event, which was held on her birthday. Jayla helped distribute backpacks and supplies with her mother, LaTrese Forest, who works as a Comerica Bank facilities coordinator for CB Richard Ellis.
“I thought it was a teachable moment,” said LaTrese Forest on the decision to bring her daughter to volunteer at Backpackpalooza Detroit. “I want her to be appreciative of what she has, and to grow up with a giving heart.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 September 2011 16:48
Category: Top News Written by Leland Stein III
Life is strange. Most people sleep, wake up and eat and sleep and wake up and eat. It is a gift that too many take for granted. As long as things are moving along most of us never think about how and why that happens.
Donshell and Pamela English have come face-to-face with the reality of the everyday function of the body. Not that every organ in the body is not important; however, the English family has had to come to a hallelujah meeting with their kidneys.
The kidneys play a vital role in our health. As the renal organs, the kidney’s job is like a chemist, which is to constantly monitor the quality of the blood. Its main job is to ensure that the blood circulating around our body is pure and are free from harmful organisms like bacteria, viruses, waste products, excess water and many more.
The bean-shaped organs that act like the waste disposal of the body, became the focal point in the lives of Donshell and Pamela. They are both teachers and have been married for 18 years and have two children, Kaylen and Kendall. Donshell was an exceptional athlete at Cass Technical High School, graduating in 1986. He attended Eastern Michigan University, where he was instrumental in helping the team win the MAC Conference Championship and the California Bowl in 1987. He played defensive end and served as team captain.
Strong and athletic, Donshell appeared to have everything a person could want sitting right in front of him. Taking over the Southeastern football program in 2002, in two years he took the Jungleers to its first Public School League (PSL) Division IV Championship, and they were runners-up for the City Championship.
It did not stop there as he guided Southeastern to a two year record of 22-3 (2008 and 2009). English and the Jungleers won a city title in 2008 and took all on an unforgettable ride to the state semifinals and played in one of the most memorable and talked about games in PSL history — a close loss to Sterling Heights Stevenson. At the peak of his successful life, his kidneys took control, forcing him to resign from the game he loved to focus on getting his health in order. “Fourteen or fifteen years ago I was told my numbers were not right,” Donshell recalled. “I did everything the doctors told me to do as far as medicine and other stuff. It all worked out okay until 2007 when I started feeling bad and having pain. Eventually they diagnosed me with diverticulitis. I had to have surgery where they removed part of my colon and I had to wear a colostomy bag for a year. Man my life changed unbelievably.”
Through coaching, teaching, and the kids, he managed to find a deterrent that helped him not dwell too much on the health issues.
“Being a coach in the inner city is a full time job,” he explained. “There is so much more than just coaching needed if you want to do the job right. I had to make sure they were going to class, I had to clothe some of them, feed some of them and be a father or big brother when needed. Football became a safe haven for many of my kids.” Donshell was one of the PSL’s best coaches and mentors until January of ’09. Not feeling too good for a while he finally went to the doctor and his test results showed his creatinine level had climbed to 15. The next morning he had his first kidney dialysis and stayed on a schedule of dialysis three times a week until this past June.
“We were at a meeting and the question came up about a donor kidney, so I raised my hand and said I’d try,” Pamela recalled. “After some tests I found we were a match and it was a no-brainer from there. It was life and death and the quality of life possible for my husband and the father of my kids.
“We never had any doubt that my kidney would take, because we have a strong faith in God. After the surgery. recovery went well for both of us. We have had great support from our church and family. We are trying to live life to the fullest. We are happy!”
Said Donshell: “Everything is working fantastically. It is a true blessing that I’m done with dialysis. I hope to be back coaching next year.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 September 2011 16:23
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