Capturing the culture that makes Detroit what it is.

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April 2014

Detroit is Different Podcast: Malik Yakini

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Detroit is Different is about exposing artistry, business, ideas, and dynamic people, places, and things that make Detroit a mecca. The movement is supported by this website, my social networking family (I’m ‘detroitwae’ on facebook, instagram, and twitter add me), an email list, and a podcast.

A podcast is a radio or video program independently produced, and distributed through the i-Tunes network (I subscribe and listen to many, most notably the Joe Rogan Experience). Like most of my interests I feel the podcast world is overpopulated, but under represented. Detroit is Different’s podcast hosts conversations I feel are fruitful.

The Detroit is Different podcast begins with a running start. I hosted a live event, where I recorded a conversation with Malik Yakini. The event was 7 o’clock Saturday Stories.  Yakini is an educator, musician, urban farmer, craftsman, and life long Detroiter.

Malik Yakini playing guitar, Yakini speaking with Hilda Vest and myself at 7 o'clock Saturday Stories.
Malik Yakini playing guitar, Yakini speaking with Hilda Vest and myself at 7 o’clock Saturday Stories.

Our conversation was compelling, entertaining, and insightful.Above is a link to the podcast for you to listen to.  Yakini shared the his thirst for knowledge about the culture of Black people, his journey as a reggae artist, and his commitment to Black people.

Yakini’s music is played throughout the podcast as well. “Rising,” is the song that opens the podcast before our conversation begins. “Rising” features Yakini on guitar, and on Ajuma drums. “Justice,” concludes the podcast. “Justice features Yakini on Bass and Guitar along with Anoor Radin on keys, and vocals feature G Mack, Money Wells, and Saleem Rushdam.

Yakini will be playing music live at Dabl’s African Bead Museum (one the of my FAVORITE places in Detroit, across the street from my HS alma mater Northwestern) 6559 Grand River Ave (where W Grand Blvd, Dexter, & Grand River intersect, Rev. Sampson’s stomping grounds RIP) Saturday May 31 2014 at 5pm. Yakini will be playing music with the Black Star Posse which is a musical collective of artists. The event is free produced by Yakini and Tawana Honeycomb Petty for the community.

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7 o’Clock Saturday Stories: Malik Yakini

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Saturday April 26, 2014 I welcome you to join me for the inaugural Detroit is Different event, 7 o’clock Saturday Stories. 7 o’clock Saturday Stories is an hour long conversation between myself and a guest.

Over time I have developed relationships with a mix of people bridging gaps in gender, race, generation, culture and background. This mix has only expanded my perspective of Detroiters, and the collective Detroit story.

7 o’clock Saturday Stories inaugural guest is Malik Yakini. 7 o’clock Saturday Stories will be held at Le Petit Zinc Restaurant in Detroit’s historic Corktown district at 1055 Trumbull St Detroit MI 48216. ‘7 o’clock Saturday Stories’ is a free event that starts at 7PM and welcomes guests of all ages.

Malik Yakini is a person I admire for his vision, work and dedication. Yakini has committed himself to a family of people throughout Detroit’s community. Visions, work and dedications he’s initiated are Nsoroma Institute, Black Star Community Book Store, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, D Town Farm, and Akoben Reggae Band. Each initiative is genuinely dynamic and fruitful. Every project he’s involved in has empowered, supported, and championed Black people.

Akoben Reggae Band and Malik Yakini with Nsoroma Institute students
Akoben Reggae Band and Malik Yakini with Nsoroma Institute students

Nsoroma Institue was an African centered school based in Detroit city. Nsoroma Institute focused on teaching elementary and middle school students the legacies, traditions, and culture of African people from 1989 through 2011.

Black Star Community Book Store was a book store located in Detroit’s historic fashion district on Livernois Ave at W Outer Drive. Black Star carried a collection of art work, books, music, jewelry and visual art that expressed African and African American culture.

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network was formed in February of 2006 to address food insecurity in Detroit’s Black community, and to organize members of that community to play a more active leadership role in the local food security movement.

D Town Farm was planted in June 2008, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network acquired use of a two acre site in the City of Detroit’s Meyers’ Tree Nursery in Rouge Park as the home for D-Town Farm.

Akoben Reggae Band is a revolutionary Detroit reggae band. Akoben creates music with a focus in uplifting people and freedom.

Malik Yakini playing guitar, D Town Farm Turnips, Grandfather Yakini and grandaughter Niara
Malik Yakini playing guitar, D Town Farm Turnips, Grandfather Yakini and grandaughter Niara

I personally have known Malik Yakini for over 25 years. I was a student at Aisha Shule when we met. Yakini was an instructor (he was my big sister Dara’s math teacher). Then, and today, I’ve always called him ‘Baba Malik.’ Baba Malik has also been a big supporter of my hip-hop artistry. In 2006, I considered quitting rap altogether. It was a performance at his annual Black Star Community Book Store music festival that recommitted me. The crowd reception and appreciation was astounding.

Black Star Community Book Store also hosted a fundraiser I held for my first album ‘Preaching to the Choir’ in 2007. It was one of my favorite shows ever. The honorable JoAnn Watson, Rev. Ortheia Barnes, Blues Man Paul Miles, Eric Campbell, Nadir Omowale, Early Mac, Idris Weusi, and a collection of kids I rapped with all joine me. I rehearsed and wrote a rap with the kids. I coined the group ‘my little homies.’ I raised a strong amount of money. Even better, the rap with the kids was too much fun. Maria, Jendayi, and Tamia all held me down (then they were all in elementary and now they’re preparing to take the ACT). My cousin Devin Laster, sister Dara Harper and Father Greg Frazier all submitted visual art I auctioned off as well.

Finally, I’ve recorded music with Baba Malik and his son Andwele ‘Money Wells’ Yakini.

Malik Yakini is a very perceptive and intentional speaker. I feel opening up 7 o’clock Saturday Stories with him will be remarkable. Please join us for this creative conversation.

This event will also be audio recorded and released as a podcast on the i-Tunes network Tuesday April 29 2014.

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What if … Don Barden Owned a Detroit Casino

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Daily, Downtown Detroit welcomes thousands of guests visiting the MGM Grand, Greektown, and Motor City Casino. Today, the casino culture has ingratiated itself throughout America’s Midwest. Throughout Ohio, Michigan and Indiana 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, dollars and coins of broken industrial mecca’s are stabilizing casinos.

Casinos in Detroit have become a part of Detroit’s nightlife, entertainment culture and fine dining. In less than 20 years, three businesses have shifted the business identity of Detroit.

In 1996, Proposal E was a lead cause on the November ballot. Many Detroiters joined the cause gathering signatures and support to legalize gaming in Detroit. It was a big political issue. Michigan lawmakers outside of Detroit, business developers connected to Detroit, municipal and state politicians, and residents all made up the diversity of stakeholders in Detroit casinos.

Don Barden
Don Barden

In a resounding effort, Proposal E passed. Casino gaming was legalized in Detroit. Immediately following that, a frenzy of where, when, and who would receive the exclusive rights to Detroit casinos ensued. This politicized, polarized, and produced a climate that was fitting for Detroiters.

Then, Mayor Dennis Archer, along with a collection of supporters (primarily from the suburbs of Detroit) took on Detroit residents (abundantly made up of grassroots activists who led the charge to legalize gaming in Detroit). This chess match of will, wit, ignorance, and arrogance, I believe, helps define the complexity and fabric of Detroit. It’s fitting that a process involving business and political functionality became a personal matter. I feel, throughout my lifetime, Detroit politics have been destructively myopic.

Michael Jackson & Don Barden, Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer
Michael Jackson & Don Barden, Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer

Don Barden (R.I.P.) was an entrepreneur born and bred in Detroit. I met Mr. Barden in passing a number of times.  His demeanor and charm reminded me of a smooth maitre d’. Barden was most known to me and many Detroiters as the owner of Barden Cable. Before Comcast, (ughhh) everyone had Barden. (FYI: If you were willing to climb a telephone pole and hook it up you didn’t have to pay for it, but you ain’t read that from me).  Along with cable television, Barden’s business diversified in many ways. In 1996, a casino in Detroit was his business at heart.

Mayor Archer rejected Barden’s bid for a Detroit casino. This shocked Detroit! There were multiple reasons we believed Barden would build a casino in Detroit. Barden was born in Detroit. Barden was the only Black developer bidding on a casino, in a city that at the time was 85% Black (Barden would have held a majority interest in his casino, there are some Black people with percentiles of a percentage of casino ownership in Detroit). Barden brought in Michael Jackson as a co-developer of the casino as well. Barden also agreed to build an amusement park on the casino premises for families to enjoy.

What If Detroit …

I imagine if Barden would have won his bid for a casino he would have broke ground on a permanent casino as opposed to the temporary casino structures initially opened in Detroit. I think a permanent location would have been needed because of Barden’s amusement park. This development would have taken longer, but led to a grand opening.

Partnering with Michael Jackson heightens international attention and fame. Leveraging this partnership, I believe, the casino would have an entertainment theme. Naturally, the gala events honoring the 25th Anniversary of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, Motown’s historic Motown 50, and Aretha Franklin’s birthday parties would be held at Barden’s casino.

Michael Jackson’s collection of rare and exotic animals would lend an attraction to the amusement park. I enjoy the Detroit Zoo, but have always wished for it to be more interactive. I see horse, camel, and even elephant rides available for younger children. The excitement of an interactive Zoo for younger children would be mirrored by the excitement of rollercoasters and water slides for myself and other older kids.

Michael Jackson & pet lion, Rollercoaster, Don Barden & Bella Marshall
Michael Jackson & pet lion, Rollercoaster, Don Barden & Bella Marshall

Matching Don Barden in style and savvy was his wife, Bella Marshall (R.I.P.). With Marshall I shared a few longer conversations about creativity and bringing things to action. I gathered a better understanding for the endurance and vision Barden had through Marshall. She was extremely theoretical about reaching goals and settling for less was unsettling for her.  Many women I meet acknowledge the marriage of Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter and Beyonce Knowles as a power couple to aspire towards in business and relationship.  Detroit for years had that example in Don Barden and Bella Marshall.

Marshall’s influence on the casino would have been political and cultural. Politically, I believe, Marshall would have been instrumental in developing passages for the roads of travelers to meet the destination of the casino easiest. Culturally, I think Marshall would have been instrumental in developing a marketplace inside the casino that captures the essence of Detroit fashions, foods and nightlife. Till this day, every time I visit casinos in Detroit, I feel it’s clean and welcoming, but not Detroit.

Finally, I imagine the success of Barden’s Detroit casino would have pressured the other two Detroit casinos to take chances on hiring, contracting, and working with Detroit developers with business models catered to Detroit. I think the current business models look to make the Detroit casinos adapt to Las Vegas concepts. Business is a copycat model towards success. In copying Barden’s model of success, opportunities for more savvy Detroit business people with Detroit ideas would have been created.

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Around Detroit: Le Petit Zinc

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Le Petit Zinc is a restaurant located in Detroit’s Corktown district (1055 Trumbull Detroit MI 48216). The ‘Zinc’ specializes in authentic French cuisine. The entrepreneur and owner is Karima Sorel. Karima is a visual artist, world traveler and personal friend. “I want people to feel alive and taste the world visiting Le Petit Zinc,” Sorel.

Zinc A

The Le Petit Zinc offers diners a variety of crepes, salads, croissants and baguettes. Open from 10am – 4pm Monday through Saturday; and 9am – 3pm on Sunday’s; Le Petit Zinc serves breakfast as well. Complimenting breakfast is a full service café with espressos, coffees, cappuccinos and mochas. Le Petit Zinc menu offers a world experience, at a reasonable cost. Visit online and see what you’d like to order when you visit  www.lepetitzincdetroit.com .

I think it’s a very colorful and cool place to visit. Le Petit Zinc is a change of pace from heavier food, and the industrial look of most modern restaurants. Sorel’s artistry fills the restaurant with her visions of traveling the world.

Zinc B

Le Petit Zinc also plays an important role in Detroit is Different. Monthly I am hosting an event at the Le Petit Zinc, “Seven O’Clock Saturday Stories.” The event will be a conversation between myself and a guest welcoming an audience. Le Petit Zinc offers a great feel and look for this live event/podcast recording.

Seven O’Clock Saturday Stories premieres Saturday April 26 2014 at 7pm at Le Petit Zinc 1055 Trumbull Detroit MI 48216. The inaugural guest is Malik Yakini of the Detroit Food Security Network. This event is free and welcome for all guests.

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Around Detroit: Ernie Harwell Exhibit

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In 1966 Ernie Harwell began donating Baseball memorabilia to the Detroit Public Library. At the time Harwell was a young sports broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers.

From 1960 – 2002 Detroit Tigers broadcasts were led by the charming southern drawl of Ernie Harwell.

Harwell passed in 2010. His legacy and impact on the Tigers, baseball and Detroit remain significant.

Ernir Harwell Collection A photography by Mark Mastropietro
Ernie Harwell Collection photography by Mark Mastropietro

Ernie was born in a small Georgia town. He began his broadcast career for a minor league baseball team in Atlanta. In 1948 Ernie moved up to Major League Baseball, and began calling games for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Harwell’s older brother was a librarian.  Upon his brother’s encouragement, Ernie began donating baseball memorabilia, books and artifacts to the Detroit Public Library. For over 40 years generous donations grew into an expansive collection.  Today the Ernie Harwell exhibit embodies the history of baseball.

The Ernie Harwell collection is at Detroit’s Main Public Library. Dawn Eurich manages the Harwell collection. The Harwell collection is a part of the Burton Historical collection. Touring the exhibit is free for all library card holders (all ages and Michiganders are welcome for a tour). Upon my visit, I found the most compelling artifact to be Roberto Clemente’s bat.

Ernie Harwell Collection photography by Mark Mastropietro
Ernie Harwell Collection photography by Mark Mastropietro

I find Harwell’s commitment to the Tigers and baseball motivating. I also appreciate the way he’s shared his enthusiasm for baseball with Detroiters. As an avid sports fan, music enthusiast and movie buff the Harwell collection is admirable.

I suggest you visit the collection. Take photos, and experience a piece of Detroit Tiger history. Here’s the link to the exhibit ErnieHarwellCollection  .

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