Dec 2016 / Jan 2017

Story by Ingrid Sjostrand

Bus shelters aren’t the most visually appealing structures in a city and Ferndale was no exception – until recently, thanks to the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority (DDA), in collaboration with the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART).

In August, they completed the first installment of the “Put the Art in SMART” project by renovating the bus shelter on West 9 Mile, right off Woodward Ave. Not only does it have a fresh coat of vibrant red paint, it features a rotating collection of art in place of old advertisements and — most notably — a green, living roof.

The project began as collaboration from DDA design committee volunteer Dustin Hagfors and Chris Best, co-owner of Rustbelt Market, with the help of Cindy Willcock, operations manager of the DDA. “The idea to replace the ‘Get Tested STI’advertisements, which were no longer under contract, and make the screen into a revolving art gallery was what jump-started the plan,” Hagfors says. “Through collaboration with Cindy and Chris, we were able to develop an idea that brought some vibrancy to the community.”

Through connections at SMART, Hagfors, who has a master’s degree in urban planning, arranged a meeting where he and Willcock pitched the idea to Madonna Van Fossen, SMART’s Oakland County Ombudsperson.

“SMART gave their blessing to our idea for the first shelter and has been very open to all we’ve pitched,”  Willcock says. “[We] ran our idea by Van Fossen and she was very interested and enthused — she even came out and helped us clean and paint the shelter!”

When Best heard about the project, he knew exactly how he wanted to contribute. “I have been dreaming about putting a living roof on these bus stops for three years.  The way these structures are built, they are just begging for it!” he says.

And Best had the expertise too, having built a living roof on his own home seven years ago, which has the same slanted roof structure as the shelters.

These updates do more than just make Ferndale more aesthetically pleasing, Hagfors says.
“It draws positive attention to the great transportation options we have available,” he says. “Ferndale is one of the only communities in Metro Detroit that has multiple lines of bus service available seven days a week, and my hope was that an artistic shelter would not only bring attention to mass transit but also make mass transit cool.”

Willcock notes the importance of a clean, safe place for those waiting for the bus, and has research to back it up. “It’s been shown that these types of enhancements actually help mitigate vandalism to the shelters and surrounding area; in fact, a federal study concluded that more people used public transit systems that incorporated art.” Willcock says.

The project needed to be completed quickly; after approval from SMART on August 10th it already had a prime-time TV spot for the following week.

“The bus stop – or at least its location – kind of picked us! The ultimate deciding factor was that Detroit Public Television was going to be filming ‘Dream Cruise Road Show’ on Nine Mile, right in front of the bus shelter on August 18,” Willcock says. “We wanted to make sure Downtown Ferndale looked great, everything just lined up for us!”

A total of 12 volunteers helped complete the project, including Best, Hagfors and Ryan Williams — who created the “Art in SMART” posters. Ferndale businesses jumped at the chance to participate too, by providing plants and donating money.

“Modern Tree and Landscape LLC saw our post asking for plants, and donated nearly $400 worth!
Without that generous donation, I don’t know how long it would have taken to get all the plants needed,” Best says. “Renaissance Vineyard Church even chipped in with a donation -churches usually accept donations, not give –love that Pastor Jim!”

There are three other shelters in Ferndale, and the DDA hopes to start executing renovation of those in the spring of 2017. In the meantime they will work on developing funding, and Hagfors says he’s already creating some eye-catching ideas for the other shelters.

“As the DDA volunteer manager, there’s nothing more gratifying than having a volunteer take such interest and ownership in a project and being able to help them turn their idea into reality!”  Willcock says. “Anyone interested in getting involved or finding out more about ‘Putting the Art in SMART’ can contact the Ferndale DDA at 248-546-1632 or”

Best is excited for the potential of the project and notes that it couldn’t have happened without the DDA.
“The DDA does a lot for the downtown and this is just another example of that; they acted like the glue to bind everyone together to make it happen,” he says. “Projects such as this continue to set Ferndale apart as an example of what is possible in a downtown. Ambition plus creativity plus execution equals amazing every time.

Ed Klobucher loves Hazel Park, his home town. Protective and proud of its past and excited about its future, he’s been the City Manager since 2002, longer than anyone else in the town’s 75-year history. He oversees the day-to-day operations, the budget, the personnel.

Hazel Park (which has a council/manager form of government) was incorporated in 1941, just after Pearl Harbor Day. The Municipal Building reflects Hazel Park’s sense of country and community, with its flags and faded news clippings that tell the stories of generations of veterans.

Hazel Park is Ferndale’s neighbor to the east. The towns share a lot, including part of the school district. But HAZEL PARK slHazel Park is Hazel Park. “We’re a little more blue-collar, maybe a little edgier” says Klobucher. He grew up in the shadow of the Hazel Park Raceway and smiles, recalling the day his mom had a big win. “She won the perfecta and we got new furniture.”

His parents are back in town after a retirement break. It’s good to have them  in an urban environment with access to culture, community and health care. Ed lives here with his wife Diane. Two kids and two adored grandkids fill out  the family.

He shares his office space with Assistant City Manager Jeff Campbell and Office Administrator Linda Yono. They bring a wealth of education and experience in so many different areas, from law enforce-ment and education to urban planning and film production, all of which help as they work for the diverse and collaborative community.

Klobucher speaks affectionately about former Police Chief and acting City Manager Albert Sadow, who was ff1663233_ed_worknot only a mentor but a tremendous role model. He recalls the honor of being Sadow’s road patrol partner. Fast forward to the present and he praises Amy Kruppe, the Hazel Park School Superintendent. “She’s a pleasure to work with.” So many projects and people to discuss, but Ed is particularly proud of “Promise Zone,” a terrific program that “guarantees all residents a tuition-free path to an associate’s degree,” a wonderful opportunity.

Like Detroit and Ferndale, Hazel Park is in the process of a renaissance of sorts. They are trying to create a culinary district, which started with the opening of the wonderful Mabel Gray restaurant. There are more new places opening – announcements to come soon – but don’t forget the long-time favorites: Pi’s Thai, Louie’s Pizza, Brayz Burgers and Country Boy. “We keep what’s great, but we’re open to change.”

The citizens of Hazel Park will make sacrifices for the big picture, but you get the sense that Klobucher wants the folks who’ve invested their lives in his town to feel good about it. “Community resiliency is important to me.”

Great restaurants, small businesses, the Raceway, the Ice Arena, an annual arts fair, great opportunities for students. Good real estate value, outstanding city services, community, a terrific location. It’s easy for Ed to ff1663233_page_2_image_0002sell Hazel Park to the newcomer. “We are that little sliver of Oakland County east of Woodward. Five minutes from everywhere.” The cool new town? The City Manager smiles. “We’ve always been cool, but folks are now finding out how cool we are.”

His plan? Above all, Ed Klobucher wants his hometown to “survive and thrive.” He is cautiously optimistic about the future. Things aren’t perfect, but “I love what it’s been and I’m excited about what it can be. We’re doing everything we can to keep Hazel Park going in the right direction.”

To learn more about Hazel Park, call 248-546-7000 or go to

By David Stone

I knew Michael Ashmore when he was an instructor, under the late Steve Britt in the 1990s. Since then, the Detroit location has moved many times. That’s why it was with great joy that I saw their ad in Ferndale Friends and I realized first, that they were within bicycling distance and second, that Michael Ashmore was chief instructor.

So, let’s meet Sifu Ashmore.

Mike was born in Hazel Park. He went to Webb Junior High on Woodward Heights. Then he went to Hazel Park High School. Afterwards, “I went to Oakland University for a couple of years, and also Wayne State ff16628_wu_staffUniversity for a couple of years.” From 1975 to 1995, he work-ed at Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital. Since 1995, Sifu Ashmore has been teaching Tai Chi full-time. He has taught Tai Chi in many area hospitals: Beaumont, U of M Hospital, Henry Ford Hospital, and others. Now he teaches full-time at the Ferndale school.

Mike originally studied Tai Chi to help curb the degenerative effects of Legg-Perthes disease, a condition in which the upper leg and hip bones loose Calcium and become very brittle, which can lead to the need for a total hip replacement. He originally studied Yang-style, but moved to Wu-Style when Britt opened the first Wu-Style school in the U.S.

Mike was cured, and continued his study of Tai Chi as a martial art. In our interview, he explained how Tai ff16628_wuthaichiChi, a soft-style martial art, differs from the hard-style martial arts, “You don’t use muscular tension to generate force…you use looseness and coordination of the muscles…stretching the muscles out and then coordinating all the joints in a unified way to whatever leverage goal you are looking for.”

Many people practice Tai Chi purely for its health benefits, so Sifu went on to discuss why it is “so good for your health.” The first thing Tai Chi does is relax the muscular-skeletal system. This improves the circulatory system because “your heart doesn’t have to fight to pump blood through a bunch of tense muscles.” Then they work to improve the respiratory system by teaching “an entire system of breathing exercises that in Chinese are called chi gong. These breathing techniques are designed to saturate the circulatory system with as much oxygen as possible…which again feeds back to the original goal of relaxing and loosening up the muscular-skeletal system.” After that, Sifu Ashmore pointed out, ”we can work on various parts of the body as needed.”

Mike is proud to announce that, due to great demand, they have recently increased the number of beginner classes.

So, whether you want to learn an ancient martial art, regain or maintain your health, check out Wu’s Tai Chi Academy. And remember the Sifu’s words: Tai Chi – it’s not just for old people.

Wu’s Tai Chi Chuan Academy, 3140 Hilton, Ferndale, MI

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Story by Sara E. Teller
Photo Bernie LaFramboise

Ferncare is a nonprofit, free clinic located in the heart of Ferndale. The clinic treats persons without medical insurance or a primary care physician, ages 19 to 64.

Ferncare provides primarily non-emergency care of chronic illnesses, performs routine check-ups, dispenses generic prescriptions and provides lab testing as needed. The clinic also offers benefits counseling, can enroll patients in the Prescription Assistance Program and can help with enrolling clients in the Affordable Care Act Insurance Exchange as well as in Healthy Michigan plans. The purpose of the clinic is to “provide no-cost medical care to the medically uninsured and under-insured residents of Ferndale and surrounding communities.”

Currently, the clinic is only seeing individuals without medical assistance, due to the high volume of demand. “We have so many people without insurance of any kind that we just can’t see under-insured,” says Board President Ann Heler.

Ferncare will soon be undergoing a move from its location at 459 E 9 Mile Rd to 751 E 9 Mile Rd, Suite 2. “We are moving because Credit Union One is selling the whole block to a developer,” Ann explains. “This is the medical suite at the east end of Ferndale Plaza. It is only two blocks east of our present location.”
The clinic will retain much of the same features. “The name, the clinic hours, everything remains the same, the only change is our location. We are even moving the Little Free Library,” says Ann. This feature allows patrons to exchange free reading materials.

Ann is nostalgic about Ferncare’s present location, which came to fruition in September 2011 after having established at the Kulick Community Center in Ferndale in August 2010. “When we moved in, it was only a storage space and so we designed the clinic. With an HRSA earmark grant of $148,000 that we got through Sandy Levin and his team, we created the clinic. Lots of memories for us, as you can imagine.”

She has mixed feelings about the move. “We have been here for five-and-a-half years and, of course, love the location and the building.” But, the employees appreciate the importance of offering their services to members of the community and will continue to provide top-notch care in their new home.

The staff’s last day at the current location will have been on Saturday, November 19th. “As soon as the patients leave, we will begin packing,” Ann says. The actual move will take place shortly after on Monday, November 21, and Tuesday, November 22. The clinic will reopen on Saturday, December 3rd. “We will be scheduling open houses in January after the holiday season,” she adds.

Ferncare will keep its current care schedule, and appointments set during and following the move will not be affected in the transition.

The clinic is open the first and third Saturday, 9AM to 12PM, and the second and fourth Thursday, 6PM to 8PM, of every month for medical care. The clinic provides in-depth counseling the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. In addition, diabetic support workshops are held the first Saturday of each month, 12PM to 1PM. “At this point, we are not canceling any clinics, we are moving between scheduled clinics,” Ann explains. She encourages anyone in need of care to come speak to the staff at the new location after December 2nd.

Appointments can be made and information can also be requested by calling 248-677-2273. All calls are returned within 24 hours.

Ferncare is volunteer drive and staffed, and is always in search of new community members willing to participate. Information on volunteering is available at Ferncare’s website,

New Years Eve has been a humongous celebration across the entirety of the globe, and in the United States, it has been specifically known to be a wondrous party in major metropolises like New York City or Miami.
Add Detroit to the list of party-crazed New Years towns, now! The Drop and the Kids’ Drop are two new traditions that have taken the Motor City by storm. Founded in 2009 by Detroit business owner Tony Piraino and Detroit resident Jerrid Mooney, Motor City New Year’s Eve was conceived to become a major community event, showcasing the center of Detroit with the metropolitan area and beyond. The free family-friendly event by day, and festive gathering for adults at night, grew annually with support from Detroit-based businesses, such as Opportunity Detroit and Meridian Health.

Looking to take the event to new heights, Piraino and Mooney partnered with Michigan-based event producers Ultimate Fun Productions and The Social Connection in 2013. Motor City New Year’s Eve has since grown to become Detroit’s largest and most publicized New Year’s Eve event, drawing up to 25,000 revelers in 2015. Mooney, Ultimate Fun Productions and The Social Connection have continued to host and grow Motor City New Year’s Eve, THE DROP.

The Motor City New Year’s Eve celebration has become the culmination of the ideas and passion of its four team members – who all either live or own a business in the area – and saw an unmet need and opportunity for a positive celebration in the midst of Detroit’s continuing renaissance and revival. This Motor City New Year’s Eve team is proud to bring Detroit and its metropolitan area a proper venue for celebrating the coming New Year with style, substance and a healthy dose of that famous spirit of Detroit, and with it, world-class live entertainment as only Detroit could pull together – plus festive cocktails befitting such an occasion!

This team dedicates the Motor City New Years Eve celebration to that spirit of Detroit and its proud citizens. Symbolically, during The Drop and the Kids’ Drop, the D-Burst sculpture is lowered from the top of the Chase Tower, with the historic Guardian and Penobscot buildings providing a breathtaking background. These historic buildings provide a link to Detroit’s proud past, while the D-Burst evokes a bright New Year and even brighter future.

Additionally, the Motor City New Year’s Eve team believes that there is no better place to celebrate the spirit of Detroit than in the spiritual heart of the city, its award-winning Campus Martius Park, where people of all ages, colors and backgrounds gather from the Detroit metropolitan area and beyond. For tickets and further info, please visit

Story by Adam O’Conner

A new holiday tradition is coming into focus in metro Detroit – aptly titled Holiday Spirits. An inclusive celebration, it comes at just the right time for everyone from all corners and walks of life to come together and hoist a holiday cocktail (or two) in celebration. The Royal Oak Farmers Market acts as the festive backdrop for the joyous occasion, which will be decked out in glimmer and sparkle for everyone to enjoy (everyone 21+, that is, of course).

The event takes place Friday, December 16, from 7:30pm through 11pm, with a special VIP entry available at 6:30pm. Ultimate Fun Productions and Real Detroit Events have combined again to showcase another of their successful soirees – they also produce the highly-successful Royal Oak Beer Fest series alongside favorites such as Sip Savor Stomp, Whiskey Business, Tequila Mundo and many others.

The first-time event, happening just over a week before Christmas, promises plenty of holiday-themed cocktails, entertainment, munchies and more in a fun and social setting. Live entertainment, spirits and liqueurs from everyone’s favorite brands, limited edition and seasonal beers and more will all be expected at the event.

Aside from amazing booze options, the event will also be featuring a handful of local food trucks and food purveyors, plus non-alcohol options from local companies like McClary Bros Drinking Vinegars, Faygo and Mary Ann’s Handcrafted Soda. Small Business Saturday is a movement afterall, isn’t it, not just a shopping day in November?

Besides the surely amazed attendees, another group that will benefit from the event is the Royal Oak Farmers Market itself, as they will be the charity recipient for the event. The Market is a member of the ROOTS (Royal Oak Opportunity To Serve) Foundation, a group that was established by the city to accept donations and endowment for the improvement of city institutions.

If you’re looking for a break from the monotony of shopping malls, crowded bars and fast food stops, this will be just the occasion for you. General admission is priced at $50 and comes with 10 cocktail sample drink tickets, a keepsake photo booth photo, a commemorative glass with event branding, and live entertainment. VIP tickets, as previously mentioned, allows for entry a whole hour before general admission, providing first access to limited offerings and special products from vendors, plus the aforementioned and 15 cocktail samples. Tickets and further info are available at or via any of their social media outlets.

Story by Jazmin Weaver
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise

There are a variety of reasons not to have a car of your own, whether it’s an environmental concern, the cost of insurance or a lack of parking space, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be just as itinerant. In a world where urban mobility is a type of freedom, things justgot a little easier for members of the Ferndale community this year. Zipcar, the quickly growing car-sharing program made its way to our city back in April.

For those unfamiliar with the program, Zipcar provides the service and convenience of having a car on demand. Their purpose is to be a hassle free-version of renting that is also more cost effective than car ownership. Zipcar offers flexible options of renting a vehicle by the hour or by the day, for a period of up to seven days. To become involved in this rental program, all you have to do is become a member, also known as a Zipster. There is a one-time $25 application fee that covers the cost of a driving record check. There are special membership deals for students and businesses who choose to become involved.

Membership offers access to the Ferndale fleet of vehicles as well as any of the other locations around the nation. The yearly fees are low and there is no monthly commitment. The rates vary by vehicle. Zipcar differs from other types of car rental in that the driving rate includes insurance, gas, and 180 miles of daily mileage. A gas card is tucked away inside the vehicle in case you need to fill it up before returning it.

Zipcar is one of the quickest ways to rent a car. Applying is simple and can be done online, over the phone or on the Zipcar app. Upon acceptance, all members are mailed a Zipcard. The Zipcard is a key, literally; by tapping it on the card reader located on windshield of the car, it unlocks. The actual key is tethered to the steering column and never needs to leave the car. The return is just a matter of parking the vehicle in its reserved spot so that it’s ready for the next customer.

Unlike other rental services, there are no hours of operation. That means that the cars are available for use 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The mobile app can be used for everything, from joining, to reserving a driving time slot, to locking and unlocking the doors of the vehicle. Reservations can be made months, or even minutes, in advance, allowing Zipcar to easily sync with your schedule.

The company was founded in 2000 and has been growing ever since. It became established in Detroit in 2013, where the size of the starting fleet has nearly doubled in size during the last three years. The car-sharing program was approved by the Ferndale City Council in February, after evidence of its success was noted from its growing popularity in Detroit.

Currently the Ferndale fleet is composed of a single car and there are plans to add a second car for the West Side. The car has a designated parking spot near Woodward and 9 Mile Road in order to be accessible.

Zipcar is just the beginning of increasing mobility options for our community and the metro-Detroit area if the program proves to be a local success. More information and answers to frequently asked questions can be found at

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Story and Photos By Malissa Martin

Children learn certain habits from their parents. One habit Kym Stewart, 48, learned from her father was community service. “My family has always been involved in the community. I’ve always gotten myself involved in different activities,” Stewart says. The Charter Township of Royal Oak resident says she started going to the library to see what activities she could do with the kids. “They told me to get on the library board, so I got elected to the board.” Stewart explains.

After awhile, Stewart realized she could do more. Her brother Shawn owned a nonprofit organization called UleadByExample. However, he was busy taking care of their sick father so he passed the leadership to Kym. “I always let him know this is your organization. I’m not going to change the name. I’m not going to change anything about it, but if you want to come back or step back up that’s fine too,” Stewart explains. She teamed up with her long-time friend Timothy Bell to assist with running the organization.

Almost immediately, Stewart, a mother of five adult children, began working with the kids in her community. Initially Stewart worked with teenagers by taking them on different field trips and “just hanging out with them like the big brother, big sister program. Then I saw that the younger children weren’t getting involved. That’s where it just led elsewhere, because the younger children grabbed my attention and they wanted to know and do different stuff.” Stewart explains. She mostly works with kids ages 5 to 16. “I’ll say about maybe twice a week I’ll get around 45 to 55 kids.”

The first on-going activity Stewart created was round table conversations for the kids to be able to discuss issues that directly relate to them. In addition to roundtable conversations, Stewart started a tutoring program. The tutors, including Stewart’s youngest, attend Kalamazoo Valley College. “They come down maybe once a week or maybe every other week depending on who calls,” Stewart explains.

She’s also hosted Poetry in the Park every other Friday this past summer. Poetry in the Park gives the children the opportunity to creatively express themselves. “An example I use for the children is: If you want to grab the microphone and scream at the top of your lungs, that’s your expression.” Stewart explains.

Other activities Stewart has presented for the kids include: Fieldtrips to museums around the Metro Detroit area, Love Your Children’s Day Dance, pumpkin carving, and a Halloween party. “My last event was the Halloween party. I had well over 200 people there and I had the pony rides, bonfires, arts and crafts. Again we had some more pumpkins set out…music, food.” Stewart has already begun planning Christmas events for the children, including a Christmas party. “I adopted six kids for Christmas, I’m doing coats for kids and we’re going to giveaway five turkeys to families in need.”

Since taking over the nonprofit Stewart says she’s seen changes in the children in her community. “The kids get along a lot better, they problem-solve a lot better, they’re engaging with their parents a lot more, and trying to get their parents out more.” Stewart says.

Events and activities for the kids are paid for primarily by Stewart. “I have volunteers that work with me, but it’s mainly just me providing for them.”

Giving back is something Stewart says comes naturally to her and she has no plans on slowing down. She sees it as an investment into her community with the kids reaping the rewards. “It’s just different events where I get all the kids and parents together where they can spend time with their children and just show the children some attention. Over in Royal Oak Township it’s known for at-risk children where they’re always getting into something. So I wanted to give them another outreach, something else that they can do.”

For more information about UleadByExample contact Stewart via Facebook at Kym Uleadbyexample Stewart, email, or by phone at (910)729-8269.

Story by Rose Carver

The protest at Standing Rock has become a symbolic representation of a hopeful environmental future, as well as one of healthy government dissent.

For the hundreds of Native American tribes (dubbed “Water Protectors”) that have gathered on the land to protest the oil pipeline, it is about protecting the water in the nearby Lake Oahe from the potential for contamination due to a pipeline break, and protecting the ancestral land it would run through, desecrating it ff16614_sr_campin the eyes of those who have dwelled there for centuries. It is a precarious situation for all parties in finding common ground, and it touches on many facets of the world at large; including a government that claims to protect vulnerable populations from the interest of private companies, and to hold true to the treaties and agreements that were made with America’s Native People.

Alan Benchich is a long time activist. He served as delegate for Bernie Sanders at the Democratic Convention, and has been a resident of Ferndale for the last year, moving here from Detroit where he had a 38-year career at GM.

Benchich has been an advocate for environmental, economic and social issues for the last 45-years. He claims that if one needs proof of the interests of big corporations being held over the interests of community, one needs to look no further than this very state. Benchich points out that because of the state’s location, sitting in the middle of the largest mass of freshwater in the world, there are constant environmental threats.

“Fracking, the situation in Flint, the water shut-offs in Detroit, the 60-year-old Line 5 oil pipeline that runs under the Mackinac Bridge, Nestle’s company’s sucking aquifers dry on the west side of the state,” Benchich said, “and the source of the threats are corporations whose main concern is profit.”

“You only have to look at Kalamazoo, where the largest inland oil spill in the country occurred in 2010,” Benchich said. “The company, Enbridge, said that the line was completely safe just one week before the enormous spill occurred.”

Benchich felt drawn to show his support to the Water Protectors at Standing Rock because he felt the importance of what was at stake, and so he made the trek to North Dakota to join up in their ranks. Benchich organized a small, local caravan of supporters who traveled to Standing Rock for a week, around Thanksgiving.

The protest is taking a powerful stand against the assumed power of the almighty dollar, but their peaceful protest isn’t without considerable resistance. “When I saw a video on line that showed militarized police using pepper spray, rubber bullets, long range acoustic devices (LRAD) that cause permanent hearing damage and water cannon against unarmed citizens, it was more than I could take,” Benchich said.

Benchich was welcomed into the Oceti camp, which is one of four camps, and the nearest to where the pipeline is being built. He said that the Water Protectors are absolutely devoted to defending the sanctity of the water on their land, and even though the harsh North Dakota Winter is starting to set in, they will not be deterred. “It is hard to describe the energy at Oceti. The camp is a camp of prayer, peace and respect. Weapons, drugs and alcohol are not allowed,” Benchich said. “There is a spirituality that transcends and permeates. Every morning in the cold, pre-dawn darkness, there is a call to prayer at the sacred fire that continuously burns.  Hundreds of people walk down to the waters edge and are led in the prayers of various native peoples as the sun rises. At the risk of sounding corny, there is a sense of tranquility and love.”

Benchich describes a vibrant scene, with people from all over the country and the world pitching in and helping out however they can, and their peaceful endurance is history in the making. Representatives of hundreds of different tribes and nations had arrived a few weeks before Benchich did, and there had been a council fire gathering of the elders of the seven tribes that make up the Great Sioux Nation. This was the first gathering of its kind since the 1850s. With such nonviolent intentions, it is hard to imagine the violence that occurs when the authorities arrive.

“The cops not only used water cannons on people in freezing weather, they added anti-freeze, a toxic substance, to it to keep the water cannon from freezing up,” Benchich said. “Snow has now covered the camp, and the North Dakota winter is setting in.  The authorities will try to freeze out the water protectors. They will not plow the road and are trying to stop supplies. I was recently told that businesses in the area were instructed not to sell propane to the water protectors. But they will not leave. The Water Protectors are committed to stopping this pipeline. They are committed to protecting the sacred.”

If one feels drawn to join the protest on the frontlines, be forewarned. Benchich recommends that you dress for the Arctic, and to go only if you have a skill to contribute, are able to both be self-sufficient and to contribute work.

By Jill Lorie Hurst | Photos by Bernie Laframboise

“Stand for Love”, “Make Hate Extinct”, “Remember, We’re In This Together”


These were among the signs carried by folks who gathered on a cold Sunday in November to walk together in the Ferndale Love March. A day about camaraderie and conviction, respect for each others safety. Speaking up. Listening.

There was a definite police presence. Helicopters hovered overhead. It was good to see residents waving to the police, who waved back. A lot might go wrong when a group this diverse gathers. But things went well. ff16613_parade_wide“Wow,” I thought. The Chamber, or the City or whatever organization planned this thing did an amazing job.
And then I learned something that made me even happier I was there. The idea for the march started when three friends – Mindy Domke, Allison Alexander and Laura Hameson Rice – were having a conversation about their post-election fears and concerns. They wanted to speak out in a meaningful way, and thus, the Love March was born.

Originally, they thought they’d walk together from the Planned Parenthood office on Woodward to ff16613_parade_l8Affirmations on 9 Mile Road. They started a private Facebook page to let friends know in case they wanted to get involved. Then they decided (in the true spirit of Ferndale and this country) to make their Facebook page public. In less than 24 hours, over a thousand people expressed an interest in walking. And on November 20th, the head count tally was 1213 walkers with more joining in at Geary Park.

The march route had to be adjusted as it wasn’t possible to close down Woodward on such short notice, so people gathered at Affirmations and walked to Geary Park. The women had nine days to make this event happen. Not easy. Domke, Alexander and Rice were hit by the huge responsibility of keeping the city safe, ff16613_parade_2and also bearing responsibility in that the march itself would be a reflection of Ferndale. A lot of work, a lot of putting out fires and listening to the “many strong opinions of what the event should be,” said Mindy. “That’s why we love Ferndale. It’s a passionate community.”

She says the City itself was nothing but helpful as they planned. In regard to the many voices? “Luckily, we were able to come to a respectful understanding.”

At the end of the walk, people huddled together in the cold to listen to poised and eloquent Sidnie Jackson, a Ferndale High School student. Then Mayor Coulter spoke. Uplifting and encouraging. Coulter: While the election “exposed divisions”… “it’s our job to heal them. The power of the people is greater than the people in power.” Inspiring and comforting words.

Were our organizers happy with the outcome that day? Yes, said Mindy. They were awed by the diversity of the crowd and the level of cooperation. One woman, a new citizen approached the three friends. She was ff16613_parade_1crying. Explained that she is a new citizen. A citizen who was feeling alone and afraid. She told them that the gathering made her hopeful. I’m sure she wasn’t the only one who walked away feeling better, more connected than she did when she approached the group on 9 Mile Road.

I hope we do it again, come out of our houses, away from our computer screens and look at each other. Walk together. Have a conversation like the one that led to the Ferndale Love March.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, who would’ve been a great Ferndalian, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.