TEDxDetroit

TEDxDetroit photo

So there was this gathering a couple weeks ago called TEDxDetroit and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. I debated back and forth about blogging about the event but decided to write this after talking to enough people who wanted to hear about it, so here are my highlights and lowlights from TEDxDetroit 2013.

TEDxDetroit photo

Highlights: There were a number of great presentations and talks. These are just a taste of what I thought went extremely well, but please check the videos as they come out to hear some great talks that don’t get mentioned here.

Detroiters speaking on the real Detroit – The ceremony opened up with the video for Blair’s poem, “Detroit (While I Was Away)” and you can check it out here, RIP Blair you are missed. The next Detroiter who spoke some real honesty was Jackie Victor. Full disclosure I used to work for Jackie, but honestly she brought up the Grace Lee Boggs school, bringing eastsiders together with the members of the Detroit synagogue, and even calling out the organizers to have a more representative diversity of speakers for next year. Matthew Naimi from Recycle Here was awesome, and Amy Kaherl from Detroit Soup always does a great job. Lastly, the Inside Out Literary Project brought youth poets to the event and there were just too many awesome moments. The youth of Detroit have some serious courage to rip their poems in front of a few hundred folks and it was incredible.

Jason Hall from Detroit Bike City

Alternative transportation – There was two very exciting speakers that discussed how the Motor City is steadily becoming a Motor-less City. Jason Hall (pictured) from Slow Roll and Detroit Bike City gave a wonderful talk on how Slow Roll has grown from the community and how going after something you like to do can actually work if you make genuine connections. A touching moment was when Jason dedicated his talk to Hal Williams, who passed away the week prior due to injuries from a hit-and-run with a car while biking. Along with Jason, Norman Witte from Crain Communications spoke on what it is like to be a bike commuter in Detroit. He brought up very good points about making your workplace accommodating to bicycle commuters as well as how to ride through the winter. Both speakers made me really proud to be a bicyclist in the city.

Cobo Hall – Nearly half completed the $300 million renovation of Cobo Hall looks gorgeous. The updated 3-story atrium with the view of the river is breathtaking and where we took the above TEDx photo. The ballroom was sectioned off for our event and still felt open and exciting while simultaneously intimate enough for speakers and attendees. Definitely will make for a great space when the renovation is finished in 2015.

Lowlights: I’m not going to address the issue of access, diversity, or inclusion here; it has already been addressed by better people to discuss these things, this blog from Naomi Scheinerman does a good job in talking about some of the issues.  I’ll just talk about my personal lowlights.

Charlie LeDuff with the unneeded security detail

Charlie LeDuff – Ridiculous, foul-mouthed, strung-out, might be just three words you could use to describe LeDuff’s talk. He was clearly not prepared to give the talk, walked out with a fake security detail, and berated people about the idiocracies of government. I did agree with a few things he said but the man was totally inappropriate for the mixed age group and offered little substance to the conference. If you are unfamiliar with his particular ‘brand’ of journalism, this video is a good preview.

Les Gold – My biggest issue with the entire conference was Gold speaking as the keynote closer. It felt like a warped motivational speech that guys in their mid-life crisis would listen to in a Motel 6, nothing like a TED talk or even something to be memorable. Just an old guy yelling, “Do you want it ENOUGH?” and reminding everyone he makes money off of the media narrative of poor and broke Detroit on a trash reality show.

“Entrepreneurs” – This last one is a shout out to all the entrepreneurs who basically gave their investment pitches about their business to the crowd. There were a number of great businesses that I support personally, but as TED speakers they flopped. Extreme overuse of buzzwords and phrases like “saving Detroit,” “blank slate” and other tasteless terms the entrepreneurial community has decided to describe Detroit. I’d rather you talk to me about how you and your business is different, or how you engage the community you’re supposedly serving, and please stop thinking you’re fixing Detroit. I’m all for building businesses through hard work and the tribulations of small business are immense, so stop talking about it and do it – let the results speak for itself.

Okay so let’s recap – beautiful venue, wide range of speakers, solid showcase of Detroit businesses and people, and fairly well organized from registration to the after-party.

Overall – 4/5 with the recommendation to check it out for yourself and that I’ll most likely attend 2014.

(Photos Courtesy of TEDxDetroit)

New Chapter in Detroit

Skyline of Detroit City

So as far as good news goes, this goes right up there with catching a game-winning homerun – I’ve got a new job in Detroit as the web and digital media manager at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD)! I will be working with their incredibly talented staff to manage their digital communications, social media, and eventually a website overhaul. I am truly honored that the staff at MOCAD want me to join their team and will be starting with them starting in September.

MOCAD exterior
MOCAD’s exterior: Barry McGee, Untitled, 2006. Photo by Corine Vermeulen.

I can’t say enough thanks to the people who helped me get to this point – a special shout out to Leto for the help with the interview, John Kinch and Hank Love for trusting me with this type of work at MEO for the past 6 months, and of course all my amazing professors, mentors, and friends through these past few years at Michigan State. My family has been incredible for me and have let me find my own path through this crazy world while assisting me and trusting me to make something of myself, and for that I cannot thank them enough. I am still taking on freelance work as well for those of you that might need some digital communications work or have someone you know that might benefit from some professional advice, please feel free to share my information.

Garden Court Apartments

In addition to the great news of a job I can now share I’ve found an amazing apartment in Detroit at the historic Garden Court Apartments. Built by the “architect of Detroit” Albert Kahn in 1915 the building is a nationally registered historic place, and was also the setting for the TV show Martin. With roof access and a view of the Detroit river along with access to the riverwalk, this was the place for me from the beginning. I’m happy to say I’ll be living with my girlfriend as we both embark on these first post-college chapters.

I can’t explain how happy I am to be getting back to Detroit and for those thinking this bankruptcy deal is set to doom the city, I remind you of a great song by the famous Gil Scott-Heron updated with today’s scene in Detroit from the band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. It’s now time to build and grow and I am beyond excited to start this new chapter of my life.

 

 

Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability Launch

MMPGS logo

MMPGS logo

Working for Michigan Energy Options through the Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability, a HUD/DOE/EPA federally funded grant, we launched the portal site hosting the information regarding the nine projects in the MMPGS. MEO runs the lead on two projects, one being an energy audit of buildings in the Michigan Avenue/Grand River Avenue corridor, and the other to create an online portal to engage Mid-Michigan citizens. After competitive bids to build the site my supervisors chose Gravity Works Design and Development and we worked with them over the past 6 months to create the portal site. In combination with the web service MindMixer were we launched the community forum last year we are proud that on May 1st 2013 we launched the MMPGS site. Below are some of the finer points from the project along with photos from the respective pages.

Note the photos are a gallery and you may peruse through all of them, links to the respective pages are provided in the descriptions

MMPGS HomepageThe process working with Gravity Works, my supervisors, and the partners within the MMPGS critically taught me how to manage many opinions with the technologies and time available. I worked closely with the Gravity Works team through the information architecture phase by mapping the site and its purposes. I insisted upon creating a fully responsive site to allow for numerous access points for the Mid-Michigan residents and if you visit the site on any browser and any device you will see it properly works with some small adjustments to allow for load times and size of display.

I worked together with the graphic designer to create the official logo set and worked with the wire framing of the site with the lead designer to make sure Gravity Works understood the feel, flow, and depth of what we hoped to get from the site. Over three months time they built out the back-end and they utilize the DotNetNuke content management system. During that three month window I learned the behaviors and best practices for DNN, thankfully after my work with WordPress and Joomla the learning curve wasn’t too bad.

MMPGS-mapMy main work after the back-end was built before launch was to create and manage the appropriate content for every page on the site. I was tasked with finding and mapping all points on the Interactive Map. We created sorting features and I chose the logos, color schemes, and then hand imported geo-tagged locations with the pop-out information and the proper links to all the places mapped. We also included and events category that automatically fills in as the community calendar is filled.

MMPGS NewsAdditionally the site needed a catalog of content that users can explore when they visit the site. Namely I post related news articles on the News page and worked with Gravity Works to create categories for users to filter the news. Once the site went live I have focused on creating traffic to these news articles via our social media strategy utilizing Facebook and Twitter for the most part. It has been incredibly rewarding to see the growth of our social media and web traffic since we launched just over a month ago.

MMPGS Timeline

One of my favorite projects was creating the Timeline content for the interactive timeline. Using the Timeline JS open source scripting I was able to easily import new content and create interactive content for users to learn where the program came from and where we’re going. The timeline is another great example of how we wanted users to be able to interact with the site and also allowed us to be able to continuously import new content and create a more dynamic experience for the users once they’re into the site.

MMPGS Partners

Our Partners page was highly important to make sure we properly highlighted the MMPGS partner organizations, supporters, and of course recognize the work of the entire program. After working with Gravity Works to create custom responsive columns I was able to fit in all the logos that reworked the secondary level partners into equal sized logos, the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission as the main fiduciary partner at the top, and then the supporters of the project along the bottom. It is always a tough call to create some sort of space for the partners to be highlighted and as you’ll notice on the homepage and in certain sidebars we have a great rotating image gallery showing each logo briefly so that users know who is involved with the project, even if they never visit the Partners specific page.

This project was so large in scale it really taught me how my studies prepared me for large scale projects. Setting out with a clear vision, working though wire frames, user experience testing throughout the process, and making creating all the original content has me appreciate full on launches so much more. With the State News redesign we were fortunate that the content was consistently being created and we just had to lay over the new design, with this project I can now say I’ve worked through a launch from start to finish and for that I am very grateful.

Cleaning up the vinyl collection

vinyl collection in crates

vinyl collection in cratesThis past week has been all about reorganizing and de-cluttering my life. Namely getting the heavy items of my life, books and vinyls, into a more manageable quantity. One of my more obsessive habits is getting vinyl records whenever the opportunity presents itself. During Record Store Day on April 20 I spent money in East Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Detroit record stores getting nearly 30 records and thoroughly taxing my credit card. With that last purchase I eclipsed the 270 total for my record collection and filling my converted bookcase/DJ station, so it was time to organize. So with a single Sunday last week I set out to thoroughly catalog all of my records by artist, album, condition of case and vinyl, and genre. I created my own spreadsheet and quite literally worked my way through all the disorganization that had amassed over the past year. Rediscovering a few serious gems I had forgotten, alphabetizing each crate by genre and cleaning too many records to count I was finally able to get down to under 200 records I wanted to keep.

the records I'm getting rid of That did mean a total of 74 records are heading to the store and then reuse center. Most of them are in fair condition with some I hope to sell, “King Heroin” by DJ Jazzy Jeff might be the oddest find I’m parting with – something about Jazz doing a PSA record is just too weird. That being said if anyone is hoping to get some records I will part with these for little to nothing even if you’re needing them for art projects or the like. I’m happy to say that I cataloged ever record now and am about to undertake the even more daunting task of organizing my much larger digital collection. I’ve mindlessly backed up and lost so many songs and albums that I have trouble even remembering what albums I still need to find again and the ones I have multiple copies. Books and clothes are the next projects as I try to sell old speakers, a bookcase and finally my first CDJ mixer/turntable unit. I’m ready to push myself to get as minimal as possible in anticipation of the move to Detroit and I can’t wait to start the next chapter freshly organized.

Challenge Detroit Finalist

Doyle Marsh

This past weekend was a whirlwind of excitement for the future for me. Professionally at Michigan Energy Options we had a great week and weekend, individually I had one of the most intense interviews days of my life with Challenge Detroit so let’s get into it.

To recap the professional pieces the Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability website is now live! I worked with Gravity Works Design & Development in Old Town, Lansing on the content creation and front-end development of the site. Integrating into the site the interactive map, events calendar, and posting news articles are just a couple pieces I was tasked with completing before launch. There will be a more detailed professional piece in my portfolio shortcoming but I’d like to talk about the really exciting portion of the weekend.

Challenge Detroit Finalist

Doyle Marsh This weekend I had the extreme privilege to be a finalist for the Challenge Detroit program. After numerous efforts to get votes and a rigourous application process the 75 finalists gathered at the DoubleTree Hotel in Downtown Detroit for a 2-day interview and networking session. Thursday May 1st we had lunch and were introduced to the founder Doyle Marsh (pictured) before we embarked on a marathon of interview sessions. I had the privilege to interview with ePrize, United Way Southeastern Michigan, Macro Connect, and Marketplace Homes. All of the interviews went extremely well thanks to my efforts in bringing questions, notes, and my resume (printed on fancy paper) to each different company. I tried to make an impression for all my interviews so that I was memorable because each company met with 5-8 finalists and each finalist had 4-5 interviews. The nonprofit sector was represented very well with many people excitedly speaking about United Way and the 8 Mile Boulevard Association interviews.

After the stress and excitement of interviewing four times in 6 hours the finalists were treated to a wonderful dinner and presentation from Veronika Scott who has developed an incredible model for manufacturing winter jackets that double as sleeping bags for Detroit’s homeless community while also employing Detroit women as seamstresses to empower them to change their place from homeless shelter to home owner. You can check out more of her story here. After a much needed night of rest (and a quick drink at Anchor Bar) we had an early wake up call for an incredible bus tour of the city from D:Hive.

Heidelberg  House Fire Oddly enough for timing after the requisite trip to the River-walk and photo by the Renaissance Center we traveled to the Heidelberg Project. Over the night previous, somewhere between 3-4am the ‘knick-knack’ house suffered a major fire. We arrived as the firetrucks were pulling away from the scene and the back of the building was still smoldering. A very poignant quote our tour guide brought up was the Detroit flag emblem sayings, Speramus Meliora and Resurget Cineribus – “We hope for better things” and “It will rise from the ashes.”  Most people on the tour were immediately struck with sadness and I know I was brought near tears as I took the photo you see to the left.

But as every exciting period comes a hard-laden truth, the weekend was a place where young people built, learned, and participated in a mini-challenge with the current year 1 Challenge Detroit Fellows. I know I gave out more than 40 businesses cards to other finalists and of course my interview companies and immediately joined the networking group built for the finalists to stay in touch. It is exciting to see the amount of work and dedication that Millenials like myself share about Detroit and to finally be in a space where everyone wants to see Detroit thrive instead of nay-sayers or business elites looking for their prize I knew that with-out-a-doubt Detroit will be my home for the next decade and I cannot wait to begin my building and work there. I hope it is with Challenge Detroit, but I know that I will be there regardless of how the last round of decisions and hosting shake out.

I’m grateful for the opportunity and cannot thank my friends and family for supporting me through these past 2 months as I have worked to become one of the finalists for Challenge Detroit, and hopefully one of the fellows for 2013.

Carnival

05/30

Carnival

 

The sun pulled my eyelids open

Turning west for the first time on a long drive

My head wobbled awake with the beams of light

Shaking sleep from the ducts in my eyes.

I witness a haphazard carnival

Parking lot half abandoned

Trucks with rides still holding some of them

Half transformer.

Laugh at the six people on the ride

Creaking under the strain of mid-Spring rust.

I recall the last time I tasted an elephant ear.

 

The doughy crispy flakes shuttled down my sweatshirt

Honest laughing without a care

Months before my first drag

A year before my first drunken face plant

Processed meat and cheese layering into belly

Only to be turned the wrong way over on the rides.

Blazed in red and green and yellow and purple lights

Sirens of top 40 hits and carny laughter

At the putrid green faces we all made.

Together a cadre of newly minted teenagers.

Lost in the parking lot of wonders.

Honest in our screams in the haunted house.

Bored at the yo-yo ride,

Scheming in how we could best the carnival games.

Subsequent loss of money those games.

Try to make the most from ten bucks

Worth of vacuuming and mopping and dish washing.

 

We were an amoeba of untethered hormones

Lusting after the full figured senior girls

Though quick to avert eyes on the chance they ever looked our way.

We knew we weren’t cool, it was fine.

Still able to make the night ours.

Pool tickets to win soon-to-be-broken trinkets

We shook the ground with our laughter

Bruising our abdomens overfilled with food we would later regret.

Slink off to talk to girls our age

Only to be made fun of upon our prompt returns

Sheepish grins and overly detailed recollections

Of just how hot so-and-so had gotten over the summer.

 

I recall those days now

Like an old man chewing his teeth pocketed pipe.

Puff fumes on the idea of fun and honest play.

Shadows of memories,

Friends lost to other high schools, college, kids, jail, marriage, the west coast, the east coast, drugs, alcohol, life, death.

I close my eyes

Reach into those memories to hear our laughter one more time.

 

MK 04.08.13

 

Build

It’s a little late but here is 4/30. My conference with Mobilize, College to Careers Pathways Detroit 2013, was amazing but took out some serious poetry time. Here’s to catching up on a wonderful Sunday evening. (And very rough pieces to get caught up)

Build

Start.

From the middle.

Where the belly touches the hip bone.

Make sounds.

Build new from the squats

Femur bone a perpendicular angle to knee cap

Push to the sky. Inhale.

Now dip.

 

Start.

From the bottom.

Toes planted ankles airborne

Bounce on the balls and breath

Tight from the diaphragm

Raise mass higher and release.

Feel the calf a rubber band

Stretch.

 

Start.

Palms upward towards the sky

Fingers in diamond shaped

Triceps pulsing higher

Push to the needle atop your spine

Careful to lower your wrists.

Weight. Wait.

Release.

 

Start.

Shoulder to finger tip an arrow

Parallel to the floor

Hips turned wide

Feet buried into the mat

Reach fingertip to wall

Balance like this

Like the earth needs you to push it down

Keep it spinning

Breath.

Mobilize Conference: College to Careers Pathways Detroit 2013

C2CP sign

C2CP sign

What a wonderful weekend it’s been! Learning from the many movers and shakers in Detroit has been a rewarding and revilitalizing experience. Millennials as our generation has been named have come together for idea generations sessions, proposals for funding to build in Detroit, and a general good time in the middle of downtown Detroit during the Tigers home Opening series.

Starting the conference on Friday evening we heard from Phil Cooley, Slow’s Bar-B-Q and Ponyrides founder. Being a keystone to development in Corktown he brought a very nice vibe to social entrepreneurship and partnership building. It was nice to hear someone who easily could have come in and made money and moved on feel so passionate about the success of Detroit and is continuing to reinvest in new projects and endeavors. Incidentally the Tigers Opening Day also was occurring at this point (a very nice win over the dreaded Yankees).

Day 2 was a wonderful example of idea generating and sharing. Utilizing technology Mobilize had us vote upon ideas generated live using clickers. Questions such as “What can be done in Detroit to make it more attractive for Millennials to work and live?” brought up some great ideas on bike sharing programs, increased safety measures, and creating community forums bridging citizens and new Detroiters.  Lunch was a pleseant luncheon with Brittany Guerriero from the United Way Southeastern Michigan. We were able to speak on the abilities to grow leaders and fundraising  Our day then continued with speed networking with representatives from Summer in the City, MEDC, Suburbs Alliance, and GM. A thorough day of networking and building.

Lastly, we have kicked off Day 3, the Proposal Day. I’ll be pitching my idea with Chelsea Gallagher and the Students for Education Reform Michigan State University very shortly and will hopefully write about how it all went. I’m sure that every idea that wins the competition will be incredible because everyone here is driven and wants to see the city succeed and regardless of how our proposal goes I now feel revitalized and able to grow in the City.

Observations on the One

Way rough draft, and a little late, I promise I wrote this yesterday, just getting around to posting now. Thanks

Observations on the One

Scent is a treasured sense.

Some forget that I treasure it and will abuse it upon entering

Some forget that their backpacks

Laced with the kindess of trees does not in fact mask any scent.

Most remember the unsaid rule

Sit one to a bench

Until its too full.

Then stand.

 

If you sit in the back long enough you’ll see the differences

Transit center in the shadow of the capitol

Shuffiling people to dialysis appointments at the Hospital.

Students, loud and on their phones

Shuttling to buy three season old clothing at the mall.

Turning back

Families who’ve spent the day

Window shopping and pretzel snacking

Only to shuffle back to the shadow of the few tall buildings

Not really skyscrapers

More like skypatters.

Able to lift a few suited men up high enough to feel superior

Only to know we can see them

Jacket twisted in the wind

That the One creates as it barrels down Michigan Avenue.

MK 04.04.13

Glass

A little rough but number 2/30. Here we go April, here we go.

Glass

On the day after the last freeze

When puddles are mirrors

Diesel trucks heave their last shards of salt

Cascade over the curb and mix into sidewalk cracks.

I crunch the last shimmering  salt crystals of the year.

There was a black squirrel

All mangled and innards strewn on the street.

Shards had ground his coat grey

Ice had flattened the body.

Down the street a woman bends

So far over I fear her balance will fail

Her dog lapping around a few feet away,

She is ageless at this angle

Red knit hat and full length down black jacket.

20 something picking up a phone

30 something picking up a forgotten child’s toy

40 something picking up dog feces

50 something picking up glass shards.

Big pieces that glinted in the sun

I get closer and see a vodka bottle

Has seen better times.

A faint memory in the night of coarse noise.

I imagine her dog jumped on a bigger slice.

That the kids who threw it last night didn’t mean to turn

Glass ground into pebbles lost in the salt.

I want to say I’m sorry to her.

Want to pick up every shard and pebble of glass

And salt.

I keep walking,

Making sure to only crunch the salt crystals.

 

MK 04.02.13