Feb / Mar 2017

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By Ferndale Schools Superintendent Blake Prewitt

Winter was a season of accomplishment for Ferndale Schools’ students. The High School Robotics Team, the Impi Warriors, won the Gaylord District Championship in late March! This was the first district championship for the program, which also qualified them for the State Championship competition and vaulted them to a second-place ranking in the State! That’s right, the number-two team in the state!

The Impis also won the Safety Award and their second Chairman’s Award in two years. The Chairman’s Award recognizes the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST. It is FIRST’s most prestigious award.

Also, in March the DECA teams from Ferndale and University High Schools competed at the State Career Development Conference in Detroit. Our Eagles competed against over 4,000 high school students from the State of Michigan. University High School Senior Vice President Shyanita McKalpain captured a Gold Merit Award and qualified for the Intl. Career Development Conference later this year in Anaheim, California.

I’m also happy to recognize two student musicians who received first-round invitations to participate in the Michigan Youth Arts Festival based on their scores at State Solo and Ensemble Festival. Shawn Pryde on violin and Jacob Keener on viola were both invited to participate in Michigan Youth Arts Festival in May. Also of note, the chamber ensemble of Margaret Dominic, Will McElgunn, Katie Keener, Mya Riccardi, Jacob Keener, Erin Isaacs, Ruth Butters, Dyani Armijo-Sinnett, and George Van Der Vennet were invited to audition for one of the performance spots; one of about 20 selected from around the state to audition.

Students at Ferndale Middle School have begun to share their excess lunch items with the less fortunate. The FMS Junior Honor Society and STAND are work-ing with our food service provider Chartwells to begin a “Share Table” program. The Share Table allows students to place unopened packaged food or fruit into collection bins.  The food is then transported to the Renaissance Vineyard Church food bank.  What a fantastic way for our students to give back!

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By Mary Medium

Immigrants & refugees are the same thing, right?
No, they are not; not at all. And yet, a lot of people refer to them like they are the same, grouping them together like they are all piling through our “open borders.” We don’t have open borders.

Publishers Note: The names of our local contacts for this article have been withheld at their request.

An immigrant is a person who comes to live in a country foreign to them. They may have a variety of reasons to emigrate, such as being offered a job, or the rest of their family is already living there, or a famine, for example, is making life hard. A refugee is a person who is fleeing for their life; a person who is in imminent danger of being wrongly persecuted, imprisoned, tortured or killed.. They are not choosing to leave as a convenience. They usually leave all their worldly possessions behind, pick up their children and run.

For one example, a well-known group of individuals who are persecuted in Africa are albinos. African albinos have long been dismembered and killed because their body parts are thought to have magical powers, or because of the belief that albinos are bad luck.

Because of the brutality of human upon human, there are all sorts of vulnerable populations around the globe that would qualify as refugees if they were to flee their country. Many organizations that support refugees have arisen around the globe as a result.

The International Refugee Assistance Project
The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) is one such organization. Founded in 2008 by five students at Yale Law School, IRAP is a nonpartisan organization located in New York that organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce legal rights for refugees and displaced persons. Shortly after being founded, law student counterparts at New York University and U.C. Berkeley founded IRAP chapters.
What began at a single law school at Yale has bloomed into a legal movement. The law students realized the importance of engaging pro bono attorneys to provide direct legal representation to refugees over-seas who never had access to counsel. The unique model of partnering law students with pro bono lawyers allows IRAP to leverage every dollar contributed into ten in legal aid.

In 2010, IRAP joined the Urban Justice Center, a public interest organization headquartered in New York. Since that time, IRAP has established offices in Jordan and Lebanon. The network of legal represenatives has grown to 29 IRAP chapters at law schools in the U.S.A. and Canada, and is supported by over 75 international law firms and multinational corporations that provide pro bono assistance.

IRAP serves many different populations of refugees, but it serves Iraqi refugees because of the clear obligations of Western countries, and the U.S. in particular, to provide relief to unintended victims of the Iraq War. IRAP has expanded to assist refugees from Afghanistan, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Pakistan, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey and Yemen. Increasingly, IRAP is providing service to more people from Syria because of civil conflict, and also many Somalis and Sudanese.

Their mission is to mobilize direct legal aid and systemic policy advocacy. IRAP focuses on and provides legal services to the world’s most vulnerable and persecuted individuals while empowering the next generation of human rights advocates and leaders. As a result of their impact, in recent years, the demand for IRAP services in the Middle East and North Africa has risen dramatically.

IRAP overseas fields a staff of lawyers, case managers, and interpreters who work in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, international government organizations and governmental partners to swiftly identify refugees in dire need of assistance. IRAP’s caseload expansion is frequently driven by the emerging needs of highly vulnerable populations in the countries in which they operate. Their presence on the ground coupled with their legal expertise and knowledge of local cultural norms, uniquely positions them to respond to emerging crises effectively and in real time.

The demographic groups that IRAP serves the most often include the most vulnerable, at-risk refugee women who have become the victim of gender violence, Iraqis and Afghanis targeted by militia groups, LBGTs who are targeted for their lifestyle, and any person whose safety and lives are in danger.

As the only organization that guides refugees through every step of the resettlement process, IRAP is often able to identify obstacles of which other institutional players are unaware. Their unique model utilizes lessons learned in individual casework to advocate for systemic changes that benefit broader refugee populations. While they never turn away an urgent case that has merit, they look for cases where legal work can create precedents that will benefit the wider refugee community.

IRAP builds untraditional, nonpartisan coalitions to advocate for the rights of refugees, ranging from veterans to religious groups to corporate attorneys. They also play a major role in including refugees in U.S. immigration legislation, drafting legislative language around issues such as access to counsel and formal appeals processes, special procedures for LGBT refugees, and expansions of the U.S. Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs for Iraqi and Afghan wartime allies.

The Process
When refugees arrive in our country, we only witness the very last step in the very arduous process of qualifying as a refugee. The eating process is intense and protracted, and can last anywhere from 18 months to several years after referral.

Refugee processing involves eligibility screening with paperwork, background cjecks, bio-data (fingerprints, iris scans, etc. are all checked through the FYI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense), interviews, medical screening, travel loans, flight plans and resettlement – which is another entire process.

Once a refugee passes all the security checks and is allowed passage to the U.S. , a Customer and Border Protection officer reviews their documentation and conducts additional security checks against its National Targeting Center-Passenger program and the Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight Program. CBP ensures that the arriving refugee is the same person who was screened and approved for admission to the United States.

The Struggles are Real
The hurdles for refugees and their families are high and many, staring with language barrier, frequently being separated from their loved ones, terror of being sent back, the hunger, thirst, cold and exhaustion that comes with trekking and surviving the flight out of their country of origin. Many die and many more are on the brink of physical collapse at times. All this, just to get to the country of first asylum where they are often herded into fenced retention camps and live in flimsy tents and given very few freedoms. Many face prejudice and anger from the natives int eh country of first asylum.

IRAP is one of the first organizations to support a refugee by helping them prepare their documenation and legal status. For refugees, access to this legal assistance is just as important as access to food and shelter. Legal assistance is literally life or death for them.

The world is facing a refugee crisis the likes of which we have not witnessed since Work War II. Refugees around the world continue to be neglected, victimized, and denied the procedural safeguards that are the hallmarks of a just society. IRAP is providing safe passage and new beginnings for the most at-risk refugees. A the same time, they are also providing crucial support and building capacity in their field.

They are always interested in finding more people to support them. If you are interested in learning more or supporting the noble work of IRAP, please visit https://refugeerights.org


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All photos Britabrookesphoto.com, except Joe Louis Walker which is by Jane Cassisi.

The 23rd Detroit Blues Society Anti-Freeze Blues Festival featured:
The Johnny Rhoades Band, Thornetta Davis, Lurrie Bell, Brett Lucas Band, Tosha Owens, Jim McCarty & Mystery Train and Joe Louis Walker.

The 2 day festival took place at the Magic Bag and a portion of the proceeds raised funds for the Detroit Blues Society.


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By Blake Prewitt, Superintendent, Ferndale Schools
(Originally Published January 9 2017)

Earlier this week, Ferndale High School Principal Roger Smith announced that he will be retiring at the end of the school year. Mr. Smith’s retirement marks the end of an iconic 34 year run at Ferndale Schools.
Mr. Smith is a lifelong Ferndale Schools resident who graduated from Ferndale High School in 1974 to pursue his teaching degree from Wayne State University. After graduation, he spent time teaching in both Pontiac and Avondale Schools before being hired back home in Ferndale in 1983 as the FHS Band Director. During his tenor within Ferndale Schools, Smith has also taught orchestra and choir in the high school as well as elementary strings at the Harding, Wilson, Washington, Coolidge, and Jackson schools. Smith was named Assistant Principal at FHS in 2005 and Principal in 2015.

As a fellow musician and educator, it has been a pleasure to work with Mr. Smith. I remember competing against Mr. Smith’s marching band and always being impressed with what he was able to get his students to achieve. Mr. Smith is truly centered on his students and believes in each and every one of them. They know he cares about them.

Ferndale Schools Board of Education President Jennifer LaTosch had this to say: “Roger Smith has been an integral part of of the Ferndale Public School family for decades, as a student (FHS graduate of 1974), parent (his two sons graduated in 2005 and 2008), band and orchestra director, coach, teacher, assistant principal, high school principal, and so much more. Roger’s quick smile and welcoming hello greet every-one who enters or visits our school family and ensures that all are met with compassion, dignity, and respect. It has been a true honor to get to know Roger, to witness the genuine relationships he cultivates with the students and staff, and to experience his love and commitment to the students and families of Ferndale Public Schools. We wish Roger nothing but the best in his retirement and look forward to seeing him around town and at future district events for years to come. On behalf of the Ferndale Public Schools Board of Education, we thank you, Roger!”

We will all truly miss Mr. Smith but hope that he continues to stay engaged at Ferndale High School. We will partner with the community to honor Mr. Smith’s countless contributions at a special event later this year.

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By Sara E. Teller

Ferndale High School is performing its clever musical “Seussical” The Musical in March. A cast and crew entirely made up of high school and middle school students will present the family-friendly Dr. Seuss-based production,scheduled to premiere Saturday, March 18th at 7:00 P.M. and running four additional show dates on Sunday, March 19, 3:00 P.M, Friday, March 24, 7:30 P.M., Saturday, March 25, 7:30 P.M. and Sunday, March 26, 3:00 P.M.

“It takes many hands to put on a musical production and we have five shows, so we do rely on the parents of students that cast in the play as well parents of the crews and pit orchestra,” explains the play’s producer and high school parent volunteer, Judy Donlin. “Our crews are mostly students who are supervised by adult volunteers. The pit orchestra is also students. All told, there will be about 100 Ferndale students involved in the production.” Judy has been busy managing much of the leg work. “I am responsible for all the off-stage activities, such as promotion and publicity, tickets, volunteers, licensing, etc.,” she explains.

“Seussical” weaves together most of Dr. Seuss’ famous characters from at least fifteen of his best known books. Narrated by the infamous Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, The Grinch, Thing 1 and Thing 2, Lazy Mayzie La Bird and Little Jojo are just some of the characters set to take the stage. The Cat tells a story of how Horton the Elephant discovers the Whos, and must protect them from the naysayers and dangers, while guarding an egg abandoned by Lazy Mayzie while she is on vacation. The characters take us from the Jungle of Nook to the Circus McGerkus to the invisible world of the Whos. “The powers of friendship, loyalty, family, and community are challenged and emerge triumphant,” Judy says. “This is the first time Seussical is being performed at Ferndale High School.”

Pre-production for the musical was quite involved. “We announced the show over the summer and the students know that auditions are held in December, after the fall play,” Judy explains of the castings process.
“We have a call board and a student thespian group. We held a series of workshops (one for acting, one for singing and one for dancing), then two general auditions. From there, some students were called back for a second audition. The director, Melissa Smith, along with the Music Director, Kim Schroeder, and the Pit Conductor, Ben Moy, spent a lot of time casting the various roles. A cast list was posted and each person was asked to initial their role or roles.”

Each performance will also include a raffle available to those in attendance. “We usually do a raffle at every performance – the prize being a photo with the cast member of your choosing – in costume. Folks really get into that and this show will have some wonderful and colorful costumes. We will have about three winners per show, so lots of opportunity.”

“’Seussical’ is a great family show,” Judy says. “[The students] love the music….wide-ranging in styles, from rock ‘n roll to rap to jazz to calypso. hey are all excited about the show and are looking forward to bringing it to the Ferndale High School stage.”

Designed to be a hit with the whole family, ‘Seussical’ tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors and children six and under are free. “It’s an hour and a half of fun and good family entertainment,” Judy says. “And we have plenty of tickets. The auditorium is very large and rarely sells out, so there is no problem getting a ticket for any of the performances. Plus, we do five shows, with two of them being afternoon matinees, and we have room for everyone.”

On opening night, March 18th, there will be an afterglow reception following the show. “Everyone is invited to stay for that,” Judy says. There will also be an on-stage ceremony honoring graduating seniors following the final performance on March 26th. “That’s always a bittersweet moment,” she adds.

For more information about ‘Seussical: The Musical,” please contact the Ferndale High School Performing Arts Department at 360-383-9261. Tickets can be purchased at Ferndale High School’s box office, located at 881 Pinecrest Dr., Ferndale, MI 48220.

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Story by Jeff Milo
Photos by David McNair

Singer/Guitarist Eugen Strobe became a frontman by necessity.  The leader of local trio Cosmic Light Shapes has never actively sought the spotlight, throughout three decades of playing music. While he did serve as a primary force for the founding of the annual Hamtramck Music Festival and then, most recently, captained the vinyl release of his band’s debut album last December, you’ll nevertheless have a tough time getting him to take any credit or adoration. He’s not your typical rock star.

“When I started playing music, the goal was just to play…” said Strobe. “Being in bands, that was more of like the ‘fantasy,’ ya know, the idea of
‘being up on a stage’ and ‘rocking out…’ and all of that… no, I loved it just because of music. I loved making sounds.”

The sounds that Strobe makes with his bandmates, drummer Zenas Jackson, and bassist Adam James, are a patchwork of psychedelic-pop, ‘60s rock, fluidly-structured prog, abstruse glam, and ambient/experimentalism. It spans the spectrum of bubblegum-pop and boogie-able ditties to psychedelicized intonations cast upon a darker, more ominous sea of jazz-like jamming. It’s, as Strobe says it, a metamorphosis of many things, “the tangible and the imaginary.”

Meanwhile, the other big musical component of Strobe’s life involves event-planning, particularly the three-day-long Hamtramck Music Festival, kicking off March 2, spread across the Detroit neighborhood’s venues and featuring close to 200 bands from around the region.

After more than a decade of being a side player for locally renowned groups like The Sights and The Witches, Strobe officially started showcasing his original works in late 2008, with Jackson as his main collaborator, to properly launch Cosmic Light Shapes.

“I had a workspace inside the Russell Industrial Center (in 2008); where my main goal was just to get out all the sounds that were inside my head. It had just been too long up to that point, and it was like a breaking point…”

Strobe and Jackson first performed as a drum/guitar/vocals duo, but eventually brought in the post-bop warble of an accompanying saxophonist during that first year. By 2010, they’d honed into a rock schema with bassist Jennifer Pearson augmenting the intricate rhythms. In 2013, they recorded their self-titled album with famed producer Jim Diamond in Detroit. But in the time it took to finally have those songs pressed to vinyl, the bass position shuffled, until 2014, when James joined as its permanent bassist.

“Just from playing sports, I learned about being a team player,” said Strobe, looking back on a 10-year odyssey of being more of an accompanist or collaborator to several local rock outfits. “It never bothered me to be just playing drums or just playing guitar in a band; I never felt like I had to be in front. So, being in front kinda’ happened by accident. It was my turn to put my stamp on something, so I wound up having to be out in front, for now.”

Strobe, Jackson, and James performed an album release concert back in December; you can listen to the single, “Can You See In 3-D,” online at: cosmiclightshapes.bandcamp.com

Meanwhile, Strobe revealed that he has enough sketched out song demos to fill two whole albums worth of material for Cosmic Light Shapes. BUT…, that’s going to have to wait until after the Hamtramck Music Festival.
The Hamtramck Music Festival was, and continues to be, a grassroots effort; an exemplary coordination of local artists, local music fans, and business owners volunteering their time to put on a multi-dayevent hosted across 20 unique venues, clubs, bars, and performance spaces. Venues like Paychecks Lounge, Small’s Bar, and even the Hamtramck Public Library, will have two nights of unique lineups featuring local bands performing both on Friday, March 3, and Saturday, March 4.

Initially organized in 2013 to fill the void left by the disruptive disbursement of the Metro Times Blowout, Strobe was integral in helping steer the efforts of the volunteer committee that booked, promoted, and monitored the first Hamtramck Music Festival. You can find HMF on Facebook, where there will be links and information about buying your weekend wristbands (as well as full schedules, lineups, maps and venue information). All proceeds from festival wristbands benefit Ben’s Encore, a local nonprofit awarding scholarships to music students and grants to under-served school music programs.

A smaller iteration of SXSW in Austin, or CMJ in New York, the Hamtramck Music Festival is a joyfully noisy and fun celebration of the local music scene. “We’re all giving each other a gift,” said Strobe, who prefaces any chat about the music festival with emphasizing the importance of the city, its residents, and its independent business community. “The organizers give the city and this scene a gift by putting on (HMF), and making it the best it can be. Hamtramck residents give a gift by hosting it, the businesses are also giving back to the fans, and so everyone’s sharing in this gift to where it builds a sense of community, a sense of togetherness, a celebration of local culture. That’s what brings me back, doing this for each other.”

And that brings the ostensible spotlight back to Cosmic Light Shapes. “Ideas for songs are always evolving. Any song I put together, I want it to happen as naturally as possible; I let the rhythm pave the way, at first, and then let the melodies color it in from there…” Sounds familiar, as he bangs the drum to start HMF, and he lets the melodies of each volunteer-organizer help him color it in from there.

Coming in to the Detroit music scene in the late ‘90s and early 2000’s, Strobe was inspired that so much diversity of genre could be represented under one venue’s roof. Thusly, he and the HMF committee strive for inclusivity that generates a refreshing smorgasbord of styles to heighten the experience of each music fan.
Keep it unpredictable, keep it organic, and keep it adventurous — that’s Hamtramck Music Festival, that’s Cosmic Light Shapes…and that’s Eugene Strobe.

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By David Wesley
Photo Bernie Laframboise

The Detroit Bold coffee brand was born in Ferndale, and it’s Chief Bean Officer, AJ, was born in Highland Park and spent most of his life in every town up and down Woodward from the Detroit River to Pontiac. He is a Ferndale legend, as the former proprietor of AJ’s Café and progenitor of the “Danny Boy” and “Assembly Line” marathon concerts, among many other things. Recently he has become embattled in a lawsuit over the name of his coffee company.

The local entrepreneur sat down with Ferndale Friends for an interview about his life, Detroit, coffee and his company and the lawsuit.

DW: What is your relationship with coffee and the city of Detroit, and how did it spark you to start your own coffee company?
AJ: My relationship with coffee as it applies to my company is rooted in our café, AJ’s Music Café (April 1, 2007-April 1, 2012) on 9 Mile in Ferndale. I began selling it in one pound bags out of the cafe in 2009. We started selling retail, first to Ferndale Foods, in 2011.

It was there that for those five memorable years that we became an epicenter of sorts, for grassroots causes in the Detroit area, and earned the title of “the little cafe that bailed out the American automobile industry, one cup of coffee at a time.” At that time, no other subject was of more importance than the struggling auto industry and the economic pain our entire region was suffering through. People were losing jobs more than ever due to a whole new technological age that was displacing our whole industry, and our way of life was imploding in a decades-long crescendo.

Because we had a music café, and with that a stage, we had venue — a small but somewhat familiar place — and when I took it over it had achieved some prominence in the local music and open mic community. I sort of inherited that. So, we brought in open mic nights which helped regain the spot as a destination. Ted Berlinghof’s open mic Wednesday’s were fairly legendary, and that led us to our first foray into marathon concerts.

We held a quirky Danny Boy marathon in 2008 which made global news, and attracted over 1000 people to sing 700 versions of that Irish air on St. Patty’s day weekend. We instantly gained five minutes of fame and enough social capital to become somewhat of a household name, if not at least a familiar one. Our Danny Boy marathon was worthy of a Guinness record, or so I thought. Several months went by after I had submitted the necessary documentation that Guinness required, only to be told that they did not have a “single-song longevity marathon” record, nor did they wish to have one.

It was Guinness that suggested that we attempt the “longest continuous concert by multiple artists,” an event that was regularly monitored and updated. So, we took them up on it. That following March, 2009, we broke the Guinness record and Detroit Bold coffee was born!

DW: How has your company grown since its start and what has the reaction of Detroiters been?
AJ: I began selling Detroit Bold out of the cafe in 2011 under the banner name of “Assembly Line Blend, Industrial Strength coffee,” in 2009. We had two varieties; our dark roast was “Detroit Bold” and our light roast was “Fisher Body,” in deference to our auto heritage. Two years later, we adopted the Detroit Bold Banner for all of our varieties.

My first retail store was Ferndale Foods. By the suggestion of fellow local businessman and good friend, Jack Aronson, I took his suggestion and kept the operation small in the early days to see if the product was viable and would sell. Boy, did it! We are now in approximately 300 stores and growing! I still personally stock the shelves and tend to Ferndale Foods as much as I can.

DW: Recently there’s been a lawsuit filed against Detroit Bold. How did that happen and what’s your prediction of the outcome?
AJ: Yes, we are being sued by an unknown and obscure entity out of New York who claims the rights to “Detroit Coffee Co.” They maintain that our name, “Detroit Bold Coffee Co.,” confuses their potential customers. They are attempting to take our good name.

I am not at liberty to discuss much of the case but I can say that our name, our story and our dedication to providing excellent products and being that essence of what it means to be Detroit Bold is more than a product or a name. It is a civic pride, born of authenticity that comes from being a part of the fabric of where you come from and that is not something that can be bought or taken away.

DW: Regardless of the lawsuit what will your future plans be with Detroit Bold?
AJ: As of any attempts to usurp our name, Detroit Bold is far more important than a product. It is my vision to contribute to an awareness that the city of Detroit and her people are the essence of the truest grit, determination, talent and hard work that has kept this country at the forefront in far more than our awesome cars. To be “Detroit Bold” is to take ownership in your community in ways that make you proud because you, the everyday, ordinary hardworking human are the backbone of a community and we need every one of us. We can never again let Detroit be the poster child for neglect, disinvestment and collateral damage for an economy that would leave anyone behind. So, the future is to be an example of a good company that contributes to the community economy and supports our neighbors, celebrating our magnificent diversity.

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By Rose Carver

Ferndale has a parking problem. Looking for a parking spot during the weekends or for downtown events is beyond a hassle. Residents and officials have been debating solutions for years, to little or no avail. Last year, the widely-publicized 360 Project, which would have built two parking structures with office and retail space on either side of Woodward, was ultimately rejected. Now, similar plans are beginning to form.

The Ferndale City Council selected a parking lot at the corner of West Troy Street and Allen Street to house a new parking structure. However, there are conflicting ideas of how the space should be used. City Council is setting their sights on mixed-use space again – a parking garage with residential, office, and commercial space built in. With the large opposition of the 360 Project last year, this new plan is coming as a surprise to many residents.

The Council’s vision is a parking structure with office and retail space on the ground floor, with the possibility of an office cap on the top floor rather than rooftop parking. After spending the last year researching available lots in Ferndale, Council voted unanimously to select the location at West Troy Street and Allen Street as the best option due to its size and location. Council is including the mixed-use space idea to promote the city’s walkability and to expand the downtown area, as well as bringing more daytime traffic to the area.

The Park Ferndale web site says the project goals include the following:
●    Meeting the parking supply needs for our downtown businesses
●    Minimizing business disruption during construction
●    Minimizing the impact of the parking deck height on residents
●    Creating a sense of place for the public
●    Providing a buffer for the residents adjacent to the parking lot
●    Creating a vibrant street, active with complementary retailers

Despite this positive mission statement, there are still concerns for neighbors of the lot. Local business owners worry about the traffic and delays that will be caused by the construction of the building. A simple parking structure can be put up in a matter of months. The addition of plumbing and electricity to accommodate the mixed-use space will delay the completion date by months or years. This is very concerning.

“Losing a lot we depend on for two years will be devastating for business,” says local Sensei Jaye Spiro, owner of Mejishi Martial Arts on Nine Mile Road. As an all-ages teacher, Jaye worries that the loss of this space will make it difficult for students to be picked up or dropped off from the building.

While Council has offered to accommodate a shuttle from Credit Union One to the plaza, the businesses fear this is a complicated, even if temporary, fix.

Jaye is united with neighboring business owners who think a simple parking structure would be best for the city’s needs. Jaye cites a parking platform recently built in Rochester, a simple three-level brick parking garage, as a preferable outcome. The project took less than a year to build and added nearly 300 spots to Rochester’s downtown area, all while finishing ahead of schedule and under budget by over a million dollars.
The height of the structure is also a repeated concern. A 2014 parking survey determined that 250 more parking spots are needed in the downtown area. The Public Meeting Summary notes that the Troy lot is zoned for buildings of 70 feet, or six to seven stories tall. The committee says even a parking-only structure would require four stories to reach 250 spaces. Worry is resonating that a new structure will shadow over the historic downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods.

The planning is currently in a public outreach stage. Council has held two public meetings and sent out a survey to 300 residents and business owners asking for their opinion on the plans for the mixed-use space. Seventy-four responses were received, most of which were from residents or business owners in the direct vicinity. Many of the comments and questions had similar themes; that parking is a more pressing need than the mixed-use components, that more information needs to be provided for the project, that the proposal could negatively impact residents and businesses, and that residents deserve adequate communication throughout the progress of the project.

Many suggested that traffic on Troy and Allen should be rerouted, that Troy become one-way or a dead end to cut down on an already congested traffic spot. Some responses seem hesitant; “In my opinion, Troy Street is not the place for ‘mixed-use.’ We simply need more parking for the existing businesses. Creating more business simply creates more demand on parking. I say, be progressive, build the ‘deck parking’ and let existing businesses grow.”

Some sound angrier: “How much revenue can possibly come from rental space in a ‘mixed-use’ parking deck that ultimately consumes the very spots it’s providing. A tiered deck for Troy St. is what we need immediately. Not mixed with potential store fronts or restaurants… and that this survey is specifically for thoughts on ‘mixed-use’ only seems to me we are right back to the last 360 disaster…why hasn’t Ferndale learned from our neighboring cities mistakes?” and “How would you feel if you got to wake up each morning and look out your kitchen window to see a giant, ugly cement structure instead of the bright morning sky?? How about barbequing in your backyard under… a cement structure? Your kids swinging… under a cement structure! Love it? No? Neither do I.”

Within all the concern for the mixed-use structure is a repeated overture; the downtown area has such a draw throughout metro-Detroit for its unique spirit; the beautiful historical buildings and interesting businesses are incomparable to other cities. As one survey responder so eloquently phrased it; “We are turning Ferndale into Royal JOAK.”

To learn more about the project, surveys and previous meetings or to find out about future meetings, go to www.ferndaleparking.com.

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Photo Dawn Henry

As Barack Obama prepared to relinquish the Presidency to the man who received the second-most votes in the November election, he warned in his January 10 farewell address, “We’re the losers now, so it behooves us to break out of that bubble more.”

“For too many of us,” he said, “it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles.” He cautioned against sequestering ourselves with those “who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions.”

This advice from a man, who had he not run up against Republican revenge against the four-term presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, would be sitting in the White House today beginning his third term. However, let’s look deeper at his advice.

Who is really in a bubble?
Those of us who live in the Woodward Corridor communities and ones to the east and west of the Motor City’s main street, exhibit the characteristics of a diverse, multi-cultural America.

Sorry for presenting a laundry list of all of us, but it needs to be said because the “we” in We the People are a group with many definitions. Women and men, white, black, brown, yellow, and red. Straight, and LGBT with more appended initials to encompass the whole range of sexuality. A vibrant youth culture alongside seniors. All co-existing in our cities which feature a surfeit of music of many styles, clubs, bars, restaurants, festivals, and theatres for all tastes in entertainment and food.

We live in communities where you can fly the American flag or a rainbow flag on your porch, or both, without ear. On Nine Mile Road, Affirmations, the community center for the LGBT community, feels safe enough there to provide a safe space for those who elsewhere would be under threat. And, those who aren’t, often are allies and are proud of having such a center in our area.

Is this a bubble we need to step out of or away from? Are we the ones who should be challenging our assumptions?

Hillary Clinton did not lose the election because we were too insular. She lost because of voter suppression, Russian interference, FBI malfeasance, decades-long demonization of her, and an Electoral College which performed the function it was established for—to assure the domination of the Southern states. And, I say this without being a supporter of Clinton. As it is, she garnered more votes than any candidate in the history of the nation.

Also, Democratic candidates received five million more votes for the U.S. House of Representatives than their opponents, but because of redistricting, the Republicans have a huge majority. This is not what democracy looks like.

Obama’s bubble admonition also doesn’t take into account that all of the myriad groups mentioned above (and I know I left some out) all vote for each other—whites vote for blacks in our bubble; blacks vote for whites; gays for straights, and the reverse. The only rock solid identity politics, with no variation, being practiced in America is that of white identify politics, which is the bedrock of the Republican Party. White people have voted in the majority for Republican presidential candidates since 1968. They viewed Barack Obama as the final triumph of who they consider The Other.

We do not have a concept of The Other. Everyone sits at our table together, each bringing something unique and delicious to our communal meal which is our lives and the communities in which we live.

The 2016 election was little about ObamaCare or even jobs. It essentially was a referendum on what would be the dominant social narrative, mostly, do black lives matter? The majority of whites voted, no. It’s like they’re living in late 1970’s Rhodesia, a white colonial nation based on dreams of an imagined greatness that never was.

But the majority of us by at least three million (which doesn’t count the millions purposely excluded from voting) understand that rather than our communities being a bubble, they are a reflection of this country and a model of the way it should be. The way to support our communities of diversity, solidarity, tolerance, and love is by example.

We saw that with the November 20, 1200-person, originally named Ferndale Trumps Hate march, in reaction to the Trump electoral victory. The event was renamed Ferndale Love and despite charges of that being too touchy-feely, it most accurately defined what our communities are all about.

And, the unbelievable January 21 Women’s March that saw almost four million women and men marching to defending the equality and rights that have been won over the last two generations.

We are not in a bubble; We Are The World as it should be!

Publishers  Note: We are proud to welcome Peter Werbe to the Ferndale Friends editorial team. Werbe, a Detroit-area activist, has influenced many tens of thousands of people in our area as host, until recently, of WRIF’s long-running phone-in talk show, “Nightcall.” He is also an editor of the legendary publication, Fifth Estate (www.FifthEstate.org). Werbe represents a left/liberal view and so, for balance, we seek a columnist of a similar stature to represent the conservative viewpoint.

Story By: Jaz’min Weaver
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

Creativity runs rampant in Ferndale, a city of art fairs, galleries and specialty shops…and also at the Ferndale Library, where a special book is waiting, just waiting, for you to fill its pages. One of the goals of the Ferndale Public Library Art and Exhibition Committee is to encourage our already lively appreciation of art. In 2013, committee member Linden Godlove came up with an interactive way to do just that. The Two Twenty Two Community Art Project started as a blank book, and evolved into an outlet and archive for diversity of thought and a wide array of media. This collaborative project is a unique method of interaction between members of the community. Its pages include colored pencil drawings, collage, prints, photos, poems and more.

Larger than a usual sketchbook, it evokes the feeling of being small again, when your favorite storybook filled your entire lap. The cover, designed by Patrick Dengate, is a large black and white print, simple, but elegant. A welcoming page with an enumerated list serves as an introduction to the concept of a circulating art book. It takes its name from the address of the Ferndale Public Library, 222 East Nine Mile Road.
A medley of things acted as inspiration for Two Twenty Two. Godlove states, “One: the knowledge that practically anything can be catalogued, added to the library collection, and thus, be able to be checked out – even a blank book. Two: Janice Charach Gallery in West Bloomfield had a 100 Journal Project in 2012, where artists could get a blank sketchbook and have it in their exhibition. One of my friends invited me to fill a page. Three: The PostSecret books, curated by Frank Warren, inspired the idea, as well.”

The last few pages are reserved for information about contributors, so the participating artists can leave a little information about themselves, the media they used, and how they can be contacted. It’s a shared artistic experience for neighbors and strangers, whether you’re contributing or just admiring.

When asked about the noticeable chunk of cropped pages near the center of the book, Linden replied, “The missing pages were blank. Very early on, enthusiastic artists pasted in thick collages and other dimensional art. This is wonderful, but it’s so thick that it caused stress on the binding of the book, which was causing the pages to pull from the cover. In order to make room for some of the thicker pieces of art, reams of blank pages were cut out.” This is followed up with the promise, “No existing art has been removed from the book and never will be.”

Currently, although the remaining blank pages are not sequential, there are still a few waiting to be filled. What will happen when the book is entirely full? “It was intended to be an ongoing project. The challenging element is that we would need to find a book that can be filled expansively, yet hold up to the wear and tear of being checked out repeatedly. I don’t know of what kind of sketchbook could, but I’m open to suggestions,” says the creator.

Checking out Two Twenty Two is worthwhile even if you don’t intend to write on the pages; it’s still a visual adventure, each page holding something new and different. It is a book of juxtaposition that gathers a variety of styles and thoughts, just like the city and residents of Ferndale itself.

Godlove puts it best by saying, “It’s a fantastic project because anyone who wants to can write in a library book, and their contribution becomes a part of that book that anyone can check out, as long as the book lasts. It’s an interesting archive of a brief time in our local creative history, with artists from all levels, from budding artists like my little girl nieces to established ones who have had their art published elsewhere. I’m very proud of it and glad that it continues to be discovered and contributed to over the years.”