Detroit Connections Map

As part of my hunt for a job in Detroit I worked with my class on nonprofits at Michigan State University to create a map of Detroit connections I had and ones I wanted to make. Through personal connections, emails, social media, and introductions with my professors I was able to meet or interview 10 different individuals involved in different avenues of Detroit communications. I interviewed Richard Feldman with the Boggs Center and Adriel Thornton with Allied Media Projects during the 2012 Detroit Design Festival. I interviewed via email Joel Heeres, Deborah Schumack, and Catherine Jun. I personally knew Issac Miller, Sam Molnar, Ben Alfaro, and Carlos Garcia from previous work and friendships. I was introduced to Joshua Breitbart through my interview with Adriel Thornton and was able to speak with him while he worked in Washington D.C. on behalf of digital initiatives here in Detroit.

Detroit-Connections-Map

Detroit Thought Leader Map

Each interview and meeting created a new branch on my connection tree in the city. I knew I had leads with many different organizations but it took an assignment for me to design the map. Each placement is intentional as are the color ways. For example Carlos Garcia is a secondary connection I was able to make, reaching out to my former friend, who at the time was living Downtown.

I was able to use my newly developed skills in Photoshop and Illustrator to create this map based off of an old transit map. This project wonderfully put together my interests in music, nonprofits, Detroit, communications, and design.

 

 

Top 5 Albums of 2014

Here are my personal top 5 full album projects from 2014. Sure there was plenty more and few honorable mentions are at the bottom but for one reason or another these albums from start to finish stood above the rest for me. There are a few albums I still want to check out but here goes my list of the top 5 for 2014.

(These 5 are in no particular hierarchical order)

Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear

Sia_-_1000_Forms_of_Fear_(Official_Album_Cover)Sia came out from behind the writing desk for Rihanna, David Guetta, Christina Aguilera and more  with this triumphant album in July. Sia’s first studio album in four years showcased her ability to sing over high production songs that she’s done for so many hits while also experimenting freely. She also prefers to perform without facing the audience letting her pint-sized dance phenom Maddie take center stage. In a world with millions of social media followers and instantaneous access to celebrities I appreciate Sia’s ability to stay true to herself and music while creating huge hits and this album.

Hit Song: Chandelier also one of the best videos of the year.
Hidden Gem: Straight for the Knife

 

Black Milk – If There’s a Hell Below

iftheresahellbeloBlack is consistently putting out amazing projects that pushes his musicality every album from Tronic to Album of the Year to last year’s No Poison No Paradise. Each one better than the last, and Tronic will forever be a Detroit classic, period. This is the latest edition Black joins in the revival of Detroit Booty by hip hop heads along with his classic boom bat production. His raps have grown immeasurably as well where you can hear the interplay between the beat production and his writing where he’s able to hold his own against a slew of ‘underground’ heavy hitters: Sean Price, Guilty Simpson, and an Underground King Bun-B. Black’s work ethic is on fine display in this album, can’t wait for the tour and the next album.

Hit Song: Gold Piece ft. Bun-B
Hidden Gem: Detroit’s New Dance Song
Side note: Black also dropped Glitches in the Break this year, which is an amazing album too, just not in my top 5.

 

Prince – ART OFFICIAL AGE

BreakfastCanWaitPrince also dropped two albums this year and I also like the 3RDEYEGIRL album but this one here, I will dance to these songs for years. Prince does what he does best, fusion of funk, hip hop, love songs, with an overreaching storyline of future life. He even poked fun at himself using the Prince character from the famous Chapelle show skits for the cover art of for the single, “Breakfast Can Wait.” Oh and it’s Prince’s 33rd studio album, who does that? Prince does.

Hit Song: Breakfast Can Wait
Hidden Gem: FUNKNROLL

 

D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah

dangelo-black-messiahAlmost 12 years after his last studio album Black Messiah was released surprisingly quickly this year making it the late entry into the 2014 class, but possibly one of the best. Musicality at it’s finest D’Angelo’s interplay with his voice to The Vanguard’s instrumentation/production is something the world didn’t even realize it was missing until you heard this album. It is easily a Grammy album of the year contender.

Hit Song: Sugah Daddy
Hidden Gem: The Door, but you could really pick any song

 

The Black Opera – The Great Year

The-Great-Year TBO as a group has been tackling political hip hop for the better part of the past 5 years. I’ve been able to see this group transform from when they first formed to most recently touring with Jaded Incorporated. Consisting of a number of members TBO’s core members remained anonymous for their first two albums. It didn’t take long though for folks to realize who was behind this force articulating difficult concepts over production from the likes of 14KT, Waajeed, Astronote, and more. They bring political and societal critiques to the forefront of their message and it’s something sorely missing these days from the popular music scene. *Full disclosure I consider a number of the members of TBO friends but they are also my favorite MCs so deal.

Hit Song: Beginning of the End ft. Georgia Anne Muldrow
Hidden Gem: Talking Revolution/Up and Up

 

Honorable Mentions:
The following albums were incredible but didn’t crack my top 5 for one reason or another but will also be albums I can rock with for years to come. Again in no particular order.
Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
Jaded Incorporated – The Big Knock
Dej Loaf – Sell Sole
ScHoolboy Q – Oxymoron
Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica
*Late entry* J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive

07/30 Sound of the Surf

 

Sound of the surf

 

Iron ore freighter

Glides across river glass

Horn echoes.

Tires peeling on Jefferson

Ambulance sirens

Brakes applied to avoid tickets.

Clicks of garage gate opens.

Barbershop catcalls,

Dogs shitting

Curses of owners

Rustle with plastic baggie.

Gate crashes closed with car in lot.

Truck trailer screeches open

Clinks the load of beer

Trailer door slams closed.

Tiny wheels of backpacks click

Clack down the sidewalk

Behind the swish of scrub pant legs

Horn of empty freighter.

30/30 in 2014

National Poetry Month April

It’s that time of year again! April is National Poetry month and I am making a real effort after the worst winter of my life to come out of hibernation strong with poetry events, writing, and reading.

Via Poets.org

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets throughout the United States band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.

To start I’ve begun writing for 30/30 slowly with a few drafts of poems that will be posted here shortly. Since its the 3rd my goal by the end of the day is to have all three posted and although rough cuts I’ll come back and edit. I know many of my friends are using Facebook for their 30/30 collection and I love opening it up in the morning and being flooded with notifications and new poems. I however am still wary of Zuck taking my proprietary rights and the whole issue of writing for writers instead of yourself and own needs.

Natasha T. Miller spoke on that very idea via her Twitter account yesterday and it made me decide that this space was the best to write, collect, and edit my pieces for the month.

T. Miller Twitter post

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 8.37.42 AM

I’ll make sure to get a piece done every day and hopefully up on this site by the end of the day. It’ll be a struggle but the structure is a good thing. I’ve tried now three years running and last year was fraught with personal difficulties. This year however I’m in a much better space, have no finals, and have quite a bit more material to unpack since my 7 months being back in Detroit.

I am also judging the Ann Arbor Youth Poetry Slam Finals later tonight, attending the PCAP release of this year’s literary journal this Saturday at 1515 Broadway, and starting a new writing group at the Hamtramck Free School. Overall this week and month has been stacked for me to getting back to writing in earnest and with some built in checks to get new stuff written.

Here we go.

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.

 

 

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.

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.

January – The Month of Shows

So many people hibernate and disappear from their local scenes during the winter, and I find this disheartening. I mean the snow is out, sure, the cold can be biting, I get it, but come on people, we live in a world where temperatures fluctuate and if we hole up for parts of the year you are only going to miss out on some of the best parts of the Michigan music and art scene.

For me January was one of the most rewarding months for shows, having performed in Homegrown for the fourth year, hosting the Middle of the Mitten Music Festival, and seeing the one and only Shigeto kick off his spring tour at MOCAD in Detroit. Details below on each event.

Homegrown – January 24th

Mike KulickBeing a part of Ann Arbor Wordworks for the past 4 years has been one of the best experiences of my life. Being challenged and impressed daily by my group mates I was very happy to be able to put together Homegrown:Poems from the Ann Arbor Underground this year.  Our show was held at the Lydia Mendlessohn Theatre on the campus of University of Michigan. One of my favorite theaters in the area we had an incredible show that featured guest poets and rising musical star Dan Henig. Sounds by the famous DJ Cataclysmic of Tree City and The Branch Out Collective made the show jump. Oh and I did a few pieces of poetry too.

To everyone that was able to make it, I truly thank you and look forward to making 2013 a successful year for my own performing of poetry.

Wordworks

Middle of the Mitten 5 – January 24th-26th 

Middle of the Mitten

The Kick Off party for of MOTM 5 was taken by Homegrown (who isn’t overbooked these days) but I was thankfully able to make the entire show for Day 1 and Day 2 on the 25th and 26th. We worked really hard these past few months on creating a festival that featured some of the Mitten’s best in rock and folk music.

Highlights from Day 1 was the Lansing Unionized Vaudeville act that included over 15 performers, and a saw fiddler. We also had a sell out crowd at SCENE metrospace.

Day 2 was held in Lansing at The Loft and was a tough and cold night but the stage was hot. The Handgrenades from Detroit tore up the stage as the opening act and it went all night long.  A very successful MOTM and we are currently looking forward to our upcoming spring show, to be announced shortly.

Keep up to date with MOTM Events photos, happenings and more at these places – Facebook, Site, Tumblr

 

 Shigeto Kick Off Show – February 1st 

shigeto

One of my favorite artists, Shigeto, who hails from my hometown of Ann Arbor, I had the pleasure of being just a fan for the last event of January (which I realize technically was February 1st). Zachary “Shigeto” Saginaw has been on steady career growth over the past few years. I saw him in Brooklyn two summers ago, when he called Williamsburg home, at a welcome home show from his first cross continent tour as the drummer for School of Seven Bells. Unaware that he would break out I have had the pleasure of hanging out with Zach and seeing him open his spring concert tour in his new home of Detroit was truly incredible. The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, better known as MOCAD hosted the event with a gallery opening for their own new 2013 series. A packed crowd of everyone from Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Lansing, it felt like a house show with the style of New York Fashion week. Joining Shigeto was Charles Trees, another friend and Ann Arbor musical juggernaut and Bill Spencer.

Shigeto played an unbelievable set intertwined with live beat creation, drums laced with his jazz ancestry and new age sound, and finally a booty shaking DJ set that made every hipster forget how cool they wanted to seem and just let loose.

For those of you who’ve made it this far thank you and I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Shigeto tracks that has been remixed by Charles Trees, Ann Arbor pt 1.