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February 2015

Detroit is Different Podcast: Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur

in Detroit is Different Podcast by

Saturday February 21, 2015 Detroit is Different collaborated with Author and Freedom Fight Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur to deliver a dynamic event. Yusef delivered a speech, and artists delivered performance. Detroit is Different’s February feature Yusef Shakur was the guest for the ‘7 O’Clock Saturday Stories’ live podcasting. For the evening Yusef delivered his ‘State of Black Detroit Address.’ Yusef’s address was anchored by performances from poet Raina Baker, spoken word artist KULTURE Ivory, hip-hop artist G Mac, guitarist Jabari Reynolds, and myself.

Detroit is Different Podcast Interview with Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur

Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur’s 2015 State of Black Detroit Address

This all took place at Nandi’s Knowledge Café in Highland Park. An audience of approximately 50 guests attended this event. I opened a dialogue between Yusef and guests seeking to gather his perspective on the current status of Detroit. This is a rich experience, event, and interview. I hope you appreciate the content. Click Play below to listen to the ‘Detroit is Different Podcast Interview’ and/or ‘State of Black Detroit Address.’

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KULTURE & Raina Baker, Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur, Guests at Nandi’s Knowledge Cafe for the State of Black Detroit & Detroit is Different Music and Podcasting LIVE

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Around Detroit: Goodwell’s Natural Food Market

in Around Detroit by

Goodwell’s is an eatery and market in Detroit’s Midtown District. Located blocks away from Wayne State University, Goodwell’s sits at 418 Willis, between Cass Ave and Second Avenue. Goodwell’s has grown to become one of the best options in Detroit for great tasting food that’s great for your health. It also is one of author Yusef Shakur’s favorite places to visit and enjoy in Detroit.

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Goodwell’s Avocado Delight, Shaun Moore-Bey & Yusef Shakur, Goodwell’s Organic Foods

 

Shakur was first introduced to Goodwell’s five years ago. He immediately supported the business. At that time, Shakur was busy opening the Urban Network Bookstore and Café, partially inspired by the Black-owned business with community ties: “I looked to Goodwell’s as a blueprint of how to stay community driven, and nation build with a business.” The day we met for our interview, Goodwell’s was also visited by hip-hop artist Shaun Moore-Bey, visual artist Mark Brown, and community activist Ron Scott. “I love how the Detroiters I know and admire support Goodwell’s,” said Shakur, “The elders visit often, and give me support in passing.”

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Yusef Shakur’s State of Black Detroit Saturday Feb 21. 2015 @ 5PM Nandi’s Knowledge Cafe 12511 Woodward in Highland Park, MI

 

Shakur’s favorite dish from Goodwell’s is the Avocado Delight (Pita sandwich with avocado, baby spinach, veggie sauce, carrots, and onions). The eatery is known for it’s vegetarian chili. It also features soups of the day. Goodwell’s uses all organic food and is one of the few restaurants in the city serving vegetarian and vegan dishes. Shakur also strongly recommends the ginger tea and ginger juice.

When available and open I suggest visiting Goodwell’s Natural Food Market to enjoy an organic and tasteful meal. During your visit don’t be surprised to find Yusef Shakur there writing another book, meeting with Detroiters, or enjoying a meal–for Goodwell’s is the place Yusef loves “Around Detroit”.

My Detroit Story: Writing and Publishing ‘Window 2 my Soul’

in My Detroit Story by

My Detroit Story is a feature in which an in-depth look into a particular event, or series of events that have impacted the life of a Detroiter or Detroit locations existence. February 2015 features ‘the Writer: Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur. Yusef is an accomplished author, speaker, and community leader. He has catapulted to heights of success from the opportunities afforded to him since the release of his 2008 book ‘Window 2 my Soul.’ This is the story behind how Yusef wrote and published ‘Window 2 my Soul.’

“I never saw myself as a writer,” is what Shakur repeated to me during the phone call in early January of 2015 for this interview. Shakur’s plans to come back to Detroit changed as he was called to action. In January 2015 Yusef traveled from Rochester NY, to Baltimore MD, to New York NY, and various parts of North Carolina. Yusef was action planning with Black Panthers, and a series of community leaders. Yusef’s travels, actions, plans, and impact has blossomed within a decade. More remarkable is the fact that within two decades he was incarcerated spending the majority of his adult life to that point in prison.

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Yusef Shakur, Seven the General, and U of M students

 

Yusef Shakur spent nine years of his life in prison. While incarcerated he met his father, and transformed his life. Yusef’s Father encouraged and challenged Yusef to change mentally, physically, and spiritually. The name ‘Little Jo-Jo’ in which he embraced as a founding member of the ‘Zone 8’ gang changed to become, Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur, the freedom fighter (Bunchy is in honor of the legendary LA Black Panther Bunchy Carter).  Entering prison Yusef’s skills in writing and reading were limited at best. He left prison with an unsettled passion for reading and writing that carries on today.

In prison Yusef was respected and recognized as a knowledge base for information on African traditions, Black revolution, organization, and leadership. This reputation spread throughout prisons in Michigan. The network of resourceful information travels distances as inmates write one another, transfer facilities, and share associations. Yusef’s resourcefulness as a young Black man sharing the stories of Black leadership in a place filled with the despair of so many Black men, was motivational.

As word spread about Yusef he was introduced through letter to an inmate at another prison, Kwasi Kwamu (A mutual friend of both knew the enlightenment of Yusef and Kwasi was a balance that was meant to be together. Kwasi and Yusef have strengthened a friendship that carries on today). In support of Yusef initially Kwasi suggested books, music, and information to sharpen Yusef’s skills. Yusef soaked up all that Kwasi offered, and more. Kwasi witnessed the maturation and growth of Yusef as a writer and voluntarily published Yusef in the ‘Freedom Network.’ The ‘Freedom Network’ was a newsletter produced by Kwasi and Greer Bey (Jesse Long-Bey RIP 2013) as a periodical that provided inmates with revolutionary ideas and concepts. “The Freedom Network was to all of us (inmates) what college professors think of the New York Times,” Yusef Shakur. Kwasi took an exert from a letter written by Yusef and published it in the ‘Freedom Network.’

“My confidence grew when I saw that I was published in the ‘Freedom Network,” Yusef Shakur (There after Yusef submitted more content to the ‘Freedom Network’ with limited content being selected). “It was tough to be published in the ‘Freedom Network.’ Kwasi and Greer were very talented and skilled writers who reviewed hundreds of writing from a collection of inmates monthly,” Yusef Shakur.

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Restoring the Neighbor Back to the Hood Rally, Yusef Shakur & HS Students

 

Leaving prison in 2003 Yusef set a goal to carry on writing and reading. In 2006 he had a chance meeting with urban novelist Michelle Moore. Yusef introduced himself to Moore, and told her he’s an aspiring author. Within months, Moore and Shakur met again. Moore asked Yusef “did you write your book?” Shakur had no answer for Moore. He had not begun writing his book. “After she asked me all those questions,  and I didn’t have an answer as to why not … I felt horrible,” Shakur.

Moore’s questioning of Yusef triggered an immediate action in him to begin writing his book. Yusef began writing in November of 2007 and finished in April of 2008. “It felt great completing the writing of my book. That’s when all the learning began,” Shakur. Yusef received mixed reviews of support from family and friends when he began acting upon moving forward with his book. Many people who committed support were hard to find when monies, editing, artwork, copyright, and other necessities were needed. A mutual friend introduced Yusef to an editor who charged him more for the editing than the printing cost. “I told her … it was the first time I was robbed without a gun. I failed to do any research, and planning and learned some very costly lessons,” Shakur.

“In the summer of 2008 I ordered 1,000 books for $2,000.00. I was laid off soon after, and seized the opportunity to sale my book. I visited Car Washes, Barbershops, Beauty Salons, and all places where I knew our people were. The first true break I had encouraged this. Soon after my lay-off I visited the Motown Museum on W Grand BLVD, not far from my Mom’s house. John Mason of ‘Mason in the Morning’ was hosting a live radio broadcast. I approached Mason, and shared my story, he was very receptive and invited me on his show the very next week. On the show I shared my story and Mason has been a supporter ever since,” Shakur.

“The toughest thing about writing, and publishing ‘Window 2 my Soul’ has been the business. I wrote the book from an anti-capitalist mind state so I’ve always given my book to people at no monetary cost. This has come at costs to me. So I’m still learning the type of entrepreneur I will be in support of my people,” Shakur.

Yusef’s brazen attitude about to build his own has been humbling and encouraging for me. Yusef opened a bookstore in his neighborhood, because other bookstores didn’t choose to carry his book. Yusef gave speeches in his neighborhood at his Mother’s house, because no one allowed him to speak at their events. As an artist, and entrepreneur I think that’s brilliant. “I remember I was trying to get my book into ‘Source Bookstore’ in Northland and I was told to come back in 1 month … I came back, then was told come back in 2 months … I came back, then was told to come back in 6 months … I opened my own bookstore,” Shakur. I find that kind of spirit and confidence to be inspirational.

“I always knew I would publish my own. It was hip-hop music that showed me you can sell product out of the trunk of your own car,” Shakur.

In closing the title of the book was inspired by a song from hip-hop group Dead Prez. The sub title was provided by the ‘Freedom Network’ editors Kwasi Kwamu and Tim Greer-Bey.

That’s the story behind the writing and publishing of Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur’s “The Window 2 my Soul: My Transformation from a Zone 8 Thug to a Father & Freedom Fighter.”

February 2015 Detroit is Different

The Writer: Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur

Tuesday February 10, 2015 MY DETROIT STORY: Story behind the writing and publishing of Yusef Shakur’s ‘Window 2 My Soul’

Tuesday February 17 AROUND DETROIT: Around Detroit with Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur at Goodwell’s Foods

Tuesday February 24 DETROIT IS DIFFERENT PODCAST: Audio Interview of Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur by Khary WAE Frazier

Detroit Native Son: Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur

in Introduction by

I first met Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur in the Fall of 2008. It was a pivotal year in both our lives as creatives. Yusef released his first book ‘Window 2 My Soul,’ and I released my first album ‘Preaching to the Choir.’ Yusef’s book was marketed as a political memoir, and complimented my album ’Preaching to the Choir.’ I created ‘Preaching to the Choir’ as a modern take on Public Enemy.

I met Yusef at a tapping of then Detroit City Councilmember JoAnn Watson’s weekly television program ‘Wake Up Detroit’ (on Watkins Broadcasting WHPR TV33). Yusef was a featured guest along with his comrade (comrade is the term Yusef uses for supporters of calls to action in uplifting African American people) Al Martin. Martin and Shakur were waiting to be interviewed regarding an upcoming speaking engagement. I was waiting to be interviewed regarding a Kwanzaa celebration I was hosting and co-producing. As we waited together Yusef showed me his book, and insisted upon me taking it. I didn’t have any money, and offered to trade him a copy of my ‘Preaching to the Choir’ album in exchange. We agreed to the terms of the barter.

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Yusef Shakur, Yusef Shakur at the 1st Back to School Give Away, Yusef Shakur speaking at the Silent Heroes Award

The very next day Yusef called me, and shared how much he appreciated the album. I didn’t expect him to listen, and after ending the call I felt the responsibility to read his book.

I had no expectations, limited interest, and had not read a book in years.  Judging the book by it’s cover, I saw a sketched image of what looked like O-Dog (Larenz Tate’s role in the Hughes Brother’s film Menace ii Society) on the left side, and a Blackman with locks wearing a Black Panther shirt to the right. I thought the book was a revolutionary journal, assuming ‘Window 2 my Soul’ would be a current version of George Jackson’s ‘Blood in my Eye.’ George Jackson’s ‘Blood in my Eye’ is a mix of opinion, autobiography, and action plans.  George Jackson’s book, like many of the Panther books I’ve read, I find an exhaustive read (he actually has a chapter regarding this track of thought in ‘Blood in my Eye’). I appreciate the message and tone of the Black Panther writings, but have found many of the books, writing, and journalism to be written from a mid to late 1960’s time perspective.

So as I sat down and began reading ‘Window 2 my Soul’ I braced myself for what I thought was revolutionary writing. I was humbled immediately. I completed the book within days. Yusef’s autobiographical narrative touched on many social, psychological, and communal difficulties faced by young Black (I prefer to use the term Black, over African American for many reasons … namely James Brown!) males throughout, but not limited to, Detroit. What impacted me so much about Yusef’s book was the conversational tone he used. I found his writing style layered a context for the many destructive, depressing, and desperate actions he writes about in the book.

I connect with ‘Window 2 my Soul’ the way I connect with Alex Haley’s ‘Autobiography of Malcolm X.’ Finding a balance of purpose vs. opportunity as a young Black male I’ve found to be strenuous in America. Making a place in an American society that has historically discriminated against, and limited Black men liberally, legally, and socially is a difficult journey. Using my life, and my interpretation of family, friends, and associates for examples has further solidify this belief. Reading Yusef’s ‘Window 2 my Soul’ captured many discussions I’ve had with a mix of people regarding the purpose and opportunity for young Black males in America.

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Khary Frazier & Yusef Shakur Kwanzaa @ the Renaissance, Yusef Shakur and Kids

It was refreshing to read an autobiographical book without polarizing characters. The way ‘Window 2 my Soul’ is written challenged me to read beyond the classic protagonist and antagonist profiles associated with story-telling. Notably the book provides an intrinsic and extrinsic view into the lives of his parents. In the book Yusef examines his parents’ relationship, past, understanding of parenting, and memorable events that changed the course of Yusef’s life. The way Yusef shares the pain he felt when his Mother turned him over to State control, because of the pain she felt for her loss of direction and influence in his life, was a moving narrative. Also during incarceration Yusef reconnected with his Father, also an inmate at the same prison. The rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts between both men are captured epically in ‘Window 2 my Soul.’

After completing the book I eagerly called Yusef, and invited him to be a speaker at my ‘Kwanzaa at the Woodward’ celebration. I asked Yusef to speak on behalf of the Kwanzaa principle Nia, which means purpose. That snowy December day in 2008 has led to a continued friendship of support and collaboration.

Through the years Yusef and I have partnered on a number of events, we’ve welcomed much success along the way in our collaboration. Notably, we produced a ‘Kwanzaa at the Renaissance’ celebration in 2009. It was one of the last events held at Detroit’s historic Renaissance Club (the Renaissance Club was a premier business dining and meeting location founded by Mayor Coleman A Young along with Ford, Chrysler, and GM Executives). ‘Kwanzaa at the Renaissance’ featured a collection of speakers, performers, and guests. Event coordinator Donna Darden, Yusef’s comrade Kwasi Kwamu, and my mentor the Honorable Judge Claudia House Morcom (RIP 2014) helped make everything possible. Over 250 guests filled the Renaissance Club welcoming a Kwanzaa celebration in one of Detroit’s most exclusive locations. Participants included: African Percussionist Maulana Tolbert, Vocalist Ashley Nicole Garner,  Rapper Lola Damone, Detroit City Councilmember JoAnn Watson, Virgil Carr Art Center Currator Bill Foster, Detroit City Councilmember Ken Cockrel Jr and Family, Coalition Against Police Brutality Chair Ron Scott, Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellerman, Pastor David A Bullock, Poet, Marsha Carter, Poet Claretha Peace Bell, Rapper Mio ‘Kaunn’ Thomas, Blue Babies Leader Saba Grebrai, Nsormoa Institute Founder Malik Yakini, Allied Media Conference Chair Jenny Lee, Better Detroit Youth Movement Leader Harlan Bivens, Detroit Nation of Islam Leader Dawud Muhhammad, and Better Man Movement Leader Lewis Colson (RIP 2014), and many, many more guests.

I am glad to share a friendship with Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur. He’s an encouraging figure of possibility, opportunity, and purpose. The month of February 2015 Detroit is Different features Yusef as ‘the Writer,’ I welcome you to continue to read more about Yusef and find out how he has helped make Detroit different!

February 2015 Detroit is Different

The Writer: Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur

Tuesday February 3, 2015 INTRODUCTION: Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur, a Native Son of Detroit

Tuesday February 10, 2015 MY DETROIT STORY: Story behind the writing and publishing of Yusef Shakur’s ‘Window 2 My Soul’

Tuesday February 17 AROUND DETROIT: Around Detroit with Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur at Goodwell’s Foods

Tuesday February 24 DETROIT IS DIFFERENT PODCAST: Audio Interview of Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur by Khary WAE Frazier

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