Dec 2017 / Jan 2018

AS THE EARTH TURNS AND THE COLD advances upon us, the humble but ubiquitous t-shirt becomes mostly hidden under warmer clothing except among the most hardy of us. Warding off the chill, it returns to its utilitarian function for men as an undershirt as it was at its origin. Both sexes sport them when the warmth returns, partly as an item of fashion, but often as a canvas on which we express ourselves. We want to show what vacation destination we visited, concert we attended, bands we love, goofy sayings, political slogans, our favorite sports team, and many other categories of how we want to announce ourselves when people come upon us.

T-shirts (from their shape), as we know them today, have a military origin. A little over a hundred years ago, the U.S. Navy began issuing them to be worn under a sailor’s uniform. The term itself became part of the lexicon by the 1920s. The shirts were quickly adopted by men doing industrial and agricultural work as an inexpensive, lightweight, warm-weather garment.

But, then, Marlon Brando gave the shirts a cultural and sartorial boost by wearing one in the 1951 film, A Streetcar Named Desire, while yelling for “Stella!” Brando sported one in the 1953 movie, The Wild One, and James Dean did in 1955’s Rebel Without A Cause. During that decade, a white t-shirt with a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve identified it with one of the Big Scares of the 1950s along with communists —the juvenile delinquent!

By the 1960s, t-shirts, along with jeans, were associated with another generation of rebels, this time ones with many causes. Nothing rankled uptight adults more than seeing a long-haired youth sporting a pair of Levis and a t-shirt bearing the legend, “Power to the People” (still a good idea) or a clenched-fist salute.

By the next decade and onto today, t-shirts became an accepted item of apparel that can be worn almost anywhere. It’s not unusual to see a diner so attired in a pricey restaurant where previously a suit jacket was required. In fact, put on one of those atop the shirt and you are considered dressed up!

If you’re anything like me, you have so many t-shirts there isn’t room for them in your drawers and closets. I’ve accumulated a particularly excessive number having worked in radio for years where they were issued to the staff with regularity. Every so often, I take the ones that I figure I’ll never wear again or have gotten a little too snug (ahem!) to the Salvation Army store on 4th Street in Royal Oak.

The Salvation Army defines itself as “a Protestant Christian movement and an international charitable organization structured in a quasi-military fashion,” so I try real hard to focus on their “charitable” aspect. We give our cast-offs to them, figuring we’ll be helping less-fortunate neighbors who work at the store preparing items for sale and provide inexpensive used clothing for people in need.

However, it doesn’t quite work out this way.

The Salvation Army and other charities receive way too many t-shirts and other clothing items, more than they could ever retail. After a very short stay on store racks, much of it is compressed into half-ton cubes and sold to second-hand textile processors where they take on another life as wiping rags and fiber for assorted products. Americans are so overloaded with clothing that if charities didn’t have these recycling firms, they would either have to dump the donations or turn us away.

However, t-shirts are a desired item in Third World countries, so the huge surplus are bundled into 100-pound bales and shipped primarily to Africa, but also around the world. According to a recent New York Times article, in Kenya, the locals refer to them as “the clothes of dead white people.” In Mozambique, they are labeled, often with some accuracy, “clothing of calamity.”

Reaching foreign ports, small jobbers break open the bales, compete for the best items, and sell them on the streets to ever-increasing urban populations. So that’s why you might see a Detroit Tigers or Grateful Dead shirt adorning a pedestrian in Kinshasa or Lima.

This is not to criticize the charities which sell our castoffs this way. These bulk sales provide revenue for their many programs. It’s this or the garbage dump for our discards. Americans have way more clothes than we can ever wear and they have to go somewhere.

Now, several countries in East Africa are trying to put a halt to the importation of secondhand clothing because it impedes their ability to create domestic textile industries. However, if they do this, the Trump administration has threatened to terminate the preferential trade status these countries enjoy under the terms of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. The office of the U.S. trade representative says this is to protect American jobs.

If used American clothing is banned from poor countries, those involved in recycling them at numerous levels of sorting, packaging, recycling, shipping, will, in fact, lose their employment. By weight, used clothing is the number-one export from the U.S.!

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where someone, somewhere wasn’t getting screwed?

I’m taking a big bundle of t-shirts to the Salvation Army soon and will watch TV over the next few months to see if it winds up on a demonstrator in the streets of Nairobi or Yangon.

Peter Werbe is a member of Fifth Estate magazine’s editorial collective

By Rose Carver


ENDOMETRIOSIS IS A PAINFUL DISORDER in which the tissue that normally lines in the inside of a woman’s uterus – the endometrium –grows on the outside. It affects your ovaries, fallopian tubes, tissue lining,and other organs throughout your body.

“Honestly, I don’t remember what my life felt like before endometriosis ruined it. I started having severe symptoms in 2006 when I was 25. I am now 36.”

Throughout her long battle with the illness, Douglas delved deeply into the study of her illness, traveling to specialists in Atlanta, and has debunked a few medical misconceptions concerning the treatment of endometriosis.

“Young women are still being told a hysterectomy can cure endometriosis when this is completely untrue,” Douglas said. “I would love to save women from the awful experience of having the wrong surgery.”

The right surgery, according to Douglas, is something called “robotic excision surgery.” The difference is basically cutting the endometrium off of the surface of the organs (excision) versus burning it off of the surface of the organs, which is a procedure called “ablation.” Douglas received the ablation surgery in the past at Beaumont hospital, and while the relief came it was temporary.

“There is such an extreme difference in the long-term success of excision surgery that I cannot understand why the outdated ablation is still being performed.”

Unfortunately, her decision to move forward with this excision surgery comes with a price tag, and she has plunged herself into debt.

“The bills keep coming, and since I was ‘self-pay’ I had no way of knowing exactly how much the surgeries would cost,” Douglas said. “It’s over $30,000, not including travel costs. It’s all more than I expected, and I’m glad I didn’t know because it may have deterred me from seeking care.”

Douglas has been collecting donations from friends and strangers to aid in her financial recovery.

“To receive money from strangers is surreal,” Douglas said. “At first, I thought I didn’t deserve it. But that was depression talking; everyone deserves a pain-free shot at living.”

The best thing about her life after surgery is, of course, the reduction in pain. Douglas says that the most exciting thing about her life post-surgery is that she can lay down on her back, on a bed, without pain. Before she would have to sleep sitting up in a lazy boy or else the pain would be excruciating.

“I look forward to finding out what a body that doesn’t hurt so much feels like,” Douglas said. “Endometriosis does not get the attention or compassion that it deserves. It is a serious issue when someone has to travel over 700 miles in order to stay alive.”

The recovery is long, but Douglas is optimistic. She plans to start creating art full-time once she can endure it, and bring more beauty into the world.

You can donate to help cut down Douglas’ debt by going to the web site:

By: Jill Lorie Hurst

HEATHER HOPKINS’ COOL LITTLE SHOP, 3 WINKS, is a terrific addition to the rapidly growing retail neighborhood on 9 Mile just east of Woodward. I was delighted to have an excuse to visit the store and chat with the owner. She is proud and excited to share her new venture. Opening a store like this is something she’s wanted to do for a long time. When Heather’s mom died a year ago, she started to reevaluate and think about what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. A Western Michigan University graduate, with a degree in interior design and a background in business and marketing, she’s worked in retail for over 20 years. She enjoyed her most recent job at Harold Wholesale, but decided it was time to take a risk.

“It took me over 20 years to be okay with failing if it doesn’t work out.” she smiles. “No matter what happens, I’ve already learned so much. If there’s a next time, I’ll be smarter.” She also has the full support of her husband Jesse, a guitar technician at the Guitar Center in Farmington Hills, who also designs and builds guitars. The couple, who’ve been married for a little over two years, lives in Hazel Park, “right around the corner” from the store. “I couldn’t do this without Jesse.” says Heather. Their dog Austin has a stake in the business too and if you visit their website, you’ll find “Austin’s Pick of the Month.”

Heather has gifts geared toward dog and cat lovers of course, but what is amazing as you look around is she truly has something for everyone. “Gifts,” as opposed to “presents”; presents are something someone needs or has requested, while a gift is something I think you’ll enjoy based on things I know about you, shared the business owner.

There are cards, soaps, candles, scarves, holiday ornaments. Practical things with a frivolous twist, like the “Glammer Hammer,” an emergency escape hammer for the car. Cake mugs with recipes on the cup. A fun, rainy, Saturday treat for the kids. Need a last-minute gift? There are gift baskets in the $55-60 range, and cute secret-Santa give-ables for about $20. Michigan crafts are represented, and she also displays products that benefit a number of nonprofits.

Heather speaks of each product with knowledge and enthusiasm. She shares a particular favorite, strands of beautiful, handmade fabric birds: “Birds of Joy and Happiness.” No two are the same but they are said to bring joy, good luck and prosperity to their owner. Heather: “I love the message, and supporting a local artist.”

I see things at 3Winks I’ve never seen in another gift shop. “Growing up, I never wanted to be like everybody else.” She brings a unique eye and a big heart to her little store. “I enjoy helping people find the perfect gift. To think outside the box. Hopefully a store like this encourages thoughtfulness.”

203 East 9 Mile Rd, Ferndale
Tues.-Sat. 11-8, Sun. 12-5

By David Ryals

AS MEMBERS OF THE FERNDALE ARTS AND CULTURE COMMISSION (FACC), Tim Brennan and Sharon Chess were charged with creating a community band. In February 2015, Sharon set up a FaceBook page and named it Ferndale Community Concert Band. The interest in the idea was inspiring, and they knew they were heading in the right direction. They separated from the FACC that Spring, and became a recognized 501c3 non-profit organization.

Now, beginning their third season, they are excited to welcome 20 new members, bringing them to a resounding 83 members. Their members are exceptional musicians, having various talents and degrees in teaching or performing music and longevity. Twenty-five members are alumni of the Ferndale Schools (FS) Music Program, from 1969 to students who are now Freshman through Seniors in the FS program.
The fascinating part about FCCB is, as a group, they have become a community of individuals who share the passion for music, people and community. The friendships, camaraderie and mentoring for each other is unlike anything Sharon and Tim have ever witnessed or experienced in other organizations.

Being part of this organization has been a wonderful opportunity for all of them.

One of their flute players, Ms. Anne Dwyer, put it best, “The opportunity to interact with and learn from this wealth of musical knowledge is like finding a million dollars in my attic – it’s a treasure in my own house.”

Though Sharon does not play an instrument or read music, her passion for music and those who are talented and gifted in music touch her heart and soul. She is the band’s biggest cheerleader, as she listens through every rehearsal and performance.

Her job as Director of Development is to create awareness and opportunity for members and the whole organization. They now have several smaller ensembles within the band who are invited to play at area events. The organizers of such events in turn donate to the band, welcome assistance for a non-profit with a slim budget.

They gladly accept donations for the band, and encourage everyone to join their email list. Immediately following their concerts, the FCCB offers a bake sale, and many of the members put their culinary skills to work and contribute to the sale.

Other opportunities are blossoming. A new event being produced by Quicken Loans, Winter Wonderland, has reached out to the FCCB to be a part of an innovative way to bring people to Downtown this winter.

The Ferndale Community Foundation, Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce, Woodward Dream Cruise, Downtown Development Association, Social Connection and Ultimate Fun Productions are a few of those who have helped to recognize and support them in this endeavor.

The FCCB is extremely excited to announce they are the recipient of a grant for 2018 from Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. The Council invests in organizations which encourage the growth of arts and culture in any community.

The FCCB Home Town Holiday concert, on Sunday, December 17 at 3:00 P.M. will be held in the Ferndale school auditorium, and is free to all those who attend. This performance is not your traditional singalong of carols. A new tradition will begin with this concert; they are encouraging everyone to wear an ugly holiday sweater or tie, and join them in a Santa march scheduled for the same day.

The FCCB has also been invited by the Clarkston Community Band to join them and the Rochester Community Band in a single performance in the Clarkston High School auditorium on March 4, 7:00 P.M. The facility is state of the art, having been recently renovated. This invitation, once again, shows the respect gained in such a short period of time with in the world of community bands.

Their Music Director, Ed Quick, is excited to lead an incredible collection of talent and devoted musicians, and smiles as he raises his baton to begin each rehearsal. They couldn’t do it without him.

Continued support and opportunity will increase the Ferndale Community Concert Band’s longevity. Check them out on YouTube and at

By David Ryals

CATHLEEN RUTSY RECALLED THE TEAM’S ORIGINS WITH JOY. “The Ferndale High School robotics team, IMPI Robotics, was founded in 2007, with its first competition during the 2008 season. Some of the mentors were working with a Royal Oak team, and the teacher mentor let us know that the 2007 season would be his last. We had nine seniors on the team qualify for FIRST scholarships! (FIRST, a robotics program founded by Dean Kamen, stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”)

Ferndale also had a team that folded, so we approached the school about a mixed team of Ferndale and Royal Oak students. They supported the idea from the beginning, giving us the closed wood shop room to build in. Royal Oak has since restarted a team, so IMPI Robotics has only Ferndale students now.”

Though the team had a lot of support from the beginning, the transitions made involved far-reaching challenges. Rutsy said, “We were also working with a group in South Africa. We would brainstorm, design, and build identical robots at each location. For the championship event in 2008, ten students traveled to the U.S. from South Africa. Our South African students asked for a team name that would represent their country, so we picked IMPI Robotics. “Impi” is a Zulu word for an armed body of men; in this case, armed with technology and we have young women.

During the economic downturn, the South African team folded, but the students still keep in touch to this day, even traveling to South Africa and Europe to meet. When one of our original students married, her husband secretly invited the South African students, and they traveled to the US to surprise her.”

Through all its challenges, competitions and collaborations, the team has consistently stayed true to its initial aim. Rutsky said, “the main aim of the team has always been to wage a war on technology illiteracy through FIRST robotics’.” But the team has other objectives such as: supporting local charities, encouraging students into STEM careers, obtaining additional corporate sponsorship in an effort to attract more minority and disadvantaged students, start FTC (First Tech Challenge) teams, and get additional mentors. The team has received 501(c)3 status and our main objective never changes but the team evaluates which objectives have been met and identifies new objectives on a yearly basis.”

The standards and work-load has only gotten higher for the team. Rutsky said, “The students perform demonstrations – one for Governor Snyder at his Economic and Education Summit, help mentor FLL and FTC teams in the district, have a student-run team for Relay for Life, have volunteered for the annual Ferndale Clean-Up and the Rainbow Run, to name a few of their achievements.”

The team has been able to support and stabilize their burgeoning growth through a few different avenues. Rutsky said, “All of our engineering mentors are unpaid volunteers because our companies realize that the best way to get STEM employees is to ‘grow’ them. Our companies give the team both financial support and the engineers time off to run the team. In just mentor time alone, the value to the school district is about $250 thousand per year. Over the years we have increased our sponsor support. FCA, Ford, IBM, Schaeffler, and Hydro are our main corporate sponsors, which is how the team is funded. We regularly ask our sponsors, parents and community for more mentors.”

With all of the hard work and dedication of the team Ferndale High’s robotics team is beyond bright. Of its future plans and aspirations, she said, “Our students have already shown that they will continue to do good in the community, so all of the things they are already doing such as charity work, demonstrations, and mentoring will continue. In addition, the students are starting an FLL (First Lego League) team in Ghana, arranging a STEM “science fair” for the high school, and working toward increased underrepresented student involvement. I’m sure the students will come up with other good ideas – they are so proactive and are always thinking. And they have a great awareness of community.”

Story By Andrea Grimaldi

“I woke up one morning and thought to myself, ‘I’m going to die. I’m not going to make it another year.’” Ferndale resident Shanna Stamper realized one morning her weight was killing her, and something needed to radically change if she wanted to live a long life.

A FULL-TIME NANNY FOR MULTIPLE FAMILIES, Stamper knew that becoming healthy would be the only way she could keep working with children, a lifelong dream. Motivated by the desire to stop taking blood pressure medications, and end the aches and other daily challenges caused by obesity, Stamper began a healthy diet and exercise regime. Two years later and two hundred pounds lighter, Stamper could not be more grateful for the progress she has made,and the community standing behind her as she forges ahead.

She started with a membership at the Royal Oak YMCA. “The first day I was out of breath before reaching the front desk,” she recounted. She began with slow progress on the treadmill and stationary bicycle, working her way up to complete a mile, then another, then another.

Stamper began seeing changes in her body and her energy levels. She added swimming to her routine, an exercise that made her feel light in the water and protected her bones and joints as she shed the weight. Soon, she didn’t need the blood pressure medications, and her ailments began to improve.

Stamper joined TV Fitness, on Woodward Avenue with Ryan Carruthers, and began the process of toning her body. She joined countless online communities centered around health and happiness. Sharing her journey online and reading about other people going through the same experiences and frustrations helped her realize a healthy life is completely attainable.

She was friended by strangers who saw her progress and were inspired by her journey. With each recipe exchanged and every supportive message sent and received, Stamper stayed true to her health and path.

Within two years of consistent dedication to her health and fitness, she lost over 200 pounds without surgery or medication. “People are so hard on each other and themselves. You can be your biggest discouragement.” This past spring, Stamper ran her first Triathlon. She spent months preparing and training with the goal to simply complete the race, only competing against herself. Stamper surpassed that goal by placing fourth place in the women’s division and earning a medal, one of her proudest feats.

Stamper did not place goals on her journey – “it wasn’t about the number on the scale or how clothes fit, although those are obvious benefits too,” Shanna explains. “I feel like I’m back in control of my body.” After shedding so many pounds, Stamper began plateauing, losing less weight each week despite working as hard as ever. Rather than getting discouraged by the numbers slowing, she focused on the changes she felt daily.

“Life still isn’t perfect,” Stamper explained. “I still have days where I crave pop or have pizza for dinner.” But the main drive is seeing how far she has come. Coming from a place where she could drink ten sodas in a day and now having overcome those cravings is the inspiration to keep going. “It isn’t an overnight process, and I will have to stay committed for the rest of my life. But I’m committed.”

Stamper has incredible gratitude to the friends and support system that has helped her along the way. Support pours in from Facebook health groups, coworkers, church friends, and especially her partner and best friends. The people closest to her texted support daily, and reminded her of her progress when she couldn’t see it. Without the support and kindness, she says she could have never stuck with it.

Stamper also enjoys supporting others through their journeys, and loves exchanging exercises and recipes with others. It is a long and difficult journey to undertake, and reaching out to local groups and friends is a great way to keep on track.

Story By Jon Szerlag

VANDALISM IS MORE THAN JUST A CRIME OF DESTRUCTION of property, especially when it is personal property. for one oak park family, a pumpkin thrown at their window after Halloween had them rethinking their ongoing efforts to transform their home into a local extravaganza and holiday landmark
for the community.

For some, Halloween may be just a day for a quick scare and for children to get candy. For others, it is something more. It is a tradition that seems to be faltering, moving underground as the popularity of Trunk-or-Treat and other similar events take the stage for a safe alternative to going door-to-door shouting “Trick or Treat!”

For the Schaller family, October — especially the night of Halloween — is something to be proud of. Their house, both outside and in, has become a traditional holiday landmark known for elaborate decorations and costumes. “It’s part of an atmosphere,” said Chris Schaller. “It’s a family event, and other families are involved in it as well. We all remember when we were little kids. Trick-or-treating was different back then. It was fun. We want the kids to feel that and keep that tradition alive. [Halloween] is a time for the community to get together, and we are a part of that. We offer a sense of community and a sense of nostalgia and a little part of tradition, hoping that this torch will be carried on with some little kid saying I want to do that.”

All of that almost came to a halt when their son was woken in the middle of the night to a crash which shook the house and knocked numerous items off a wall, including a collectable cuckoo clock. Their son thought someone was trying to break into their house, then noticed the items on the floor and thought they just fell. When he left for work the next day, he noticed that some of the decorations were damaged, and someone had thrown a pumpkin at a window with such force it knocked all of the items off the wall inside. The Schaller family has been decorating their house for four years, and never had any concerns or problems.

“This is the first time someone has messed with our decorations,” said Linda Schaller. “People come by…and they respect it. This year was the first year someone did something. It was my fears being realized for the first time. I am hesitant on how much we will do because I don’t want it to happen again.” Although this act of vandalism, of personal disrespect, shook more than just their walls of their home, the Schallers’ will not let this stop them from continuing their tradition.

“We are not going to let one bad seed spoil all we give to the community, and what the community gives to us,” said Chris Schaller. But he did add that they will take some more precautions moving forward, like moving the pumpkins to the backyard and taking larger, expensive items in at night.

“Growing up, getting a candy bar was such a great treat. It was the highlight of the year: the costume mom made for you, becoming the superhero of the moment. It’s good for parents and the community. And people and kids remember us from the year before and look forward to coming here. We are not going to let one person, or group of kids spoil it for the roughly 200 kids we had this year. We are going to keep it going.”

SARA TELLER AND DAVID RYALS (aka David Wesley), both long-time contributors to Ferndale Friends, are each celebrating the release of new books. Ryals offers a novel which gives a “gruesome” depiction of the African Ivory trade, and Teller’s book provides advice to people who may be in an abusive relationship of a particular type. Both books are being released by the Ferndale-area publisher, Mad Hatter Publishing. Congratulations, David and Sara!

New Book on Narcissistic Abuse Could Save Lives

NARCISSISTIC ABUSE: A SURVIVAL GUIDE, is a new book by Michigan author Sara Teller that could save lives. There’s an insidious, secret war going on, and it may just be happening inside your home. If your spouse or partner is always right and you’re always wrong, if you’re always the one to blame for a mishap,if you’re never good enough, then you may be at war and not even realize it.

Narcissistic Abuse is real and potentially life threatening. Physical, mental, and emotional abuse are all part of the narcissist’s bag of abusive tricks, and can have a lifelong impact on you and everyone in your household.

If you or someone you know is caught in this situation, this book can help you break free and survive. If you’re a therapist, counselor, or you’re involved in the recovery process, this book brings insight into the inner workings of the abusive narcissistic relationship.

Teller brings to bear her life experience combined with her intellectual and academic studies, and presents a thorough reference book address-ing the real need to identify Narcissistic Abuse, create a survival strategy and find therapeutic relief from the after-effect. She sheds light on:
The difference between narcissism as an inherent human trait and pathological narcissism that is destructive and harmful. Victimization, abuse, and the healing process. Therapeutic intervention and relief

Teller is passionate about helping those caught in narcissistic abusive relationships. Her desire to understand the disorder led to her current pursuit of an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She’s a warm, caring, and driven advocate who aims to shed light on the devastating impact of this often hidden and misunderstood disorder.

A novelist and poet, Sara has honed her craft through four previous books of fiction along with 15 years of publishing, and writing experience that includes newspapers, magazines and book publishers. Not only does she excel at the written word, she’s also a passionate and informative speaker. She also holds an MBA with a concentration in Marketing.

Narcissistic Abuse: A Survival Guide is available in both eBook and paperback on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine retailers.

Elephant Poaching in Africa Dissected With Precision

ELEPHANT PLAY, a new novel by Michigan author David Ryals, rips you out of your chair and across the plains, deserts and thick, hot brush of Africa leaving in its wake the decimated, rotting carcasses of elephant and man. To think you’re undertaking a nice comfortable read when you first pick up the novel, Elephant Play, is your first mistake and lulls you into a false sense of normalcy. All too quickly, you’ll find yourself wondering when you left sanity behind and where this horrifying ride will take you in the end. Getting up close and personal with elephant poachers is no pretty thing. Ryals’ expert imagery may just make you vomit your lunch if you’re not careful. This novel takes you on a journey into madness entwined with a look into the gruesome and brutal ivory trade.

Born in the poorest part of America, our diabolic narrator is driven by a ghastly sense of helpless futility coupled with a compulsive criminality that keeps his chance at fame in sight. It’s a measure of the author’s skill that we live through that hideous dream and emerge from it illuminated. Or bewildered. Or diabolically amused.

David Ryals developed his writing skill, style, and artistic maturity through his debut novel, Elephant Play. His expressive work is inspired by the absurdity of life and satirized through vibrant caricature. Elephant Play is available in both eBook and paper-back on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine retailers.

Gia Cilento
Mad Hatter Publishing, Inc. (MHPI) P.O. Box 20973, Ferndale, MI 48220 248.560.7372

By: Jon Szerlag

INSPIRATION TO CREATE A PIECE OF ART sometimes hits you without warning, and what you do with that is up to you. For Ferndale filmmaker Phil Elam, he took his idea to win numerous awards for his short film, “Swing Low.”

“Swing Low,” a horror/period piece which takes place days before the start of the American Civil War, is Elam’s first screenplay. It is about a slave and two slave owners, one “good” and the other “bad.”

“It’s a period piece…because it is easier for people to digest in today’s times, as we are dealing with social upheaval,” said Elam. “People can look at these social attitudes and consequences that are represented in the short film and say, ‘That is back then, that is not me.’ But you do think that way, and there are consequences. It’s one of those situations where people are forced to look at themselves.”
The idea came to him while he was riding his bike with a friend in Pleasant Ridge, and a single sentence came to him which he blurted out, shocking his friend.

“The line just came to me, it just hit me,” said Elam. “I was overcome with this vision, all these visions, these lines.” Elam and his friend wrote down characters, lines and events as they came to him. He sat down on a Friday to start putting his story together, and by Sunday morning the first draft was finished. “The characters just came right through me,” said Elam. I was hearing their voices when I was writing it.”

And what Elam wrote took him, and film director Marvin Towns Jr., to win awards at the I See You Awards in Detroit, the Crimson Film Festival, the Los Angeles International Independent Film Festival, the Blam Film Festival and most recently the 12th Annual Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival. The awards included Best Film Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Song, Best Short Film and Best Actor.

“I think we all have to be honest to ourselves and open to the universe,” said Elam. “We can if we want it. Information is given to us if we open up to receive it. If you do receive it, I think it is your responsibility to tell and to share it. Tell it the best way, tell it often and tell it as loud as you can.
“Swing Low” is an example of that.”

A trailer for “Swing Low” was shown before the movie “IT,” at Emagine Theaters, and Elam is hoping to get funding to make his short film into a feature-length movie.

Elam said that he is humbled for not only the response his film has gained, but also for the people who stepped up and believed in it to make it a reality when others said they wouldn’t do it.

“It makes me realize there is more to the universe than just me. I know it is not just me. And Marvin, he pulled everyone together,” said Elam. “He pulled the best people in the city, and we shot it and it shows. They are great people.”

For Elam, he has seen the shady side of the entertainment industry, but this also showed him that there are good people in it as well.

“Wherever this takes me, I am blessed and happy and I am looking forward to what is to come,” said Elam. “The most important thing is to be true to yourself, and don’t let anyone define you as a person. Don’t let success or failure define you. Be honest with yourself.”

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By: Rebecca Hammond

SHALL I OPEN A MYTHICAL BOOK OF SUPERLATIVES? If you didn’t know Betty Laframboise, you might feel that what you’re about to read is a little over the top. But superlatives are the norm when friends describe Betty.

Betty Laframboise passed away in September, at age 93. Born in Canada, but spending most of her life here in Ferndale, she was a tireless volunteer and volunteer-recruiter; in fact, longtime friends like Peggy Snow joke that you didn’t want to let Betty know where you lived. She’d find you, and next you would find yourself involved, maybe to your own surprise. Snow found this out after a casual chat after a meeting at the library. Not only did Betty show up at Peggy’s door the next day with block club fliers, Peggy eventually found herself secretary. “Betty was the founder of the block club,” Peggy said.

Judy Wells, another longtime friend, said, “Betty was an ordinary person, but such an extremely special ordinary person. It’s hard to describe her. As much as a person can be a people person, she was one. Any way she could help, she helped. Politics or neighborhood or school stuff, she was gung-ho to do it. She was such a go-getter, willing to step in anywhere. We did most things together. If you saw one of us, you saw the other. People would even call us by each others’ names.”

What was she involved in? PTA. The Dream Cruise, right out of the starting gate. Those block clubs. Politics (she was one of Craig Covey’s staunchest supporters). School fairs. Improving Ferndale’s rather seedy downtown. She was active in her church, first St. James, and later St. Mary Magdalen in Hazel Park, as a hospital Eucharist volunteer among other things.

Wells said, “I don’t know how she ever had time to raise kids and take care of speculated that the key to Betty’s success was rootedness. “Almost everything Betty was involved in turned out to be a success because she always lived on the same street, and knew everybody. She lived there since her marriage.”

That marriage was to the late Henry Laframboise. The couple had six children, Mary Jo Ortiz, Roger, Bernie (Ferndale Friends staff photographer), Mary Louise West, Vincent, and Mary Rose (also deceased). She is survived by ten grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren.

Former mayor Craig Covey told me, “Betty Laframboise was the first community activist I met in Ferndale three decades ago, and was organizing neighbors and advocating for Ferndale when most of us were still teenagers. When Ferndale hit one of its lower points, with a downtown known for strip clubs and massage parlors, Betty led the fight to protect the city from further decline. Without her, this town would never have had the chance to become the cool place it became.”

“She was a fierce advocate for the neighborhoods and especially the East side of Ferndale. She was no-nonsense, and politically a moderate, something that is rare these days and sorely needed,” Snow told me,
“Betty carried Craig’s [campaign] signs in her trunk and when she talked to someone in her travels that was interested, she had a sign for them.” Wells said, “She was one of the first to be involved in the Dream Cruise.

She was selling real estate then. We met at City Hall that first year. She was involved eight or nine years. We were worried to get enough people to come see the cars. We thought it would be just people from Ferndale and maybe Pleasant Ridge. And now look at it! Betty got volunteers because she went out beating the bushes.” Snow echoed this, saying, “One year she had near 100 volunteers. She arranged for food donations for them; that was at the old library meeting room. Volunteers could go there to cool off and have pizza. She thought it was very important to show appreciation to volunteers. Anything Betty did she put her all into.”

This past September 25, our city adopted a resolution, which reads in part:
Mayor David Coulter and the Ferndale City Council extends the City’s condolences to the family of Betty Laframboise. Betty Laframboise, 93, a longtime resident of Ferndale, died Monday, September 11, 2017. She was born December 31, 1923 in Leamington, Ontario, Canada to Frederick and Frances Haslam. Betty was an active volunteer over the years, participating in the PTA as Vice President at Wilson and Coolidge, President at Coolidge, and President of the PTA Council. She was also a former Chairperson of the Ferndale Block Club Network, An election worker for the city, and Eucharistic Volunteer at St. John Oakland Hospital.

Betty Laframboise was a credit to her family, as well as to our community and country. It is with deep sorrow that we mourn her loss.

“Framboise” is French for raspberry. In early Christian art, according to the Telegraph UK, raspberries symbolized kindness, and “the red juice was thought of as the blood running through the heart, where kindness originates.” Seems very fitting, doesn’t it?