Detroit, Michigan: AKA Motown, Motor City, Hockeytown, Detroit Rock City. It’s industrious. It’s got grit. And it’s got soul. It’s got the Tigers, Lions, Red Wings, and…teachers.
Facilitator Gaspar Caro and I recently got the call to conduct interviews with educators for the National Teacher Initiative with Town Hall partner Detroit Public Television, where witnessed how these select teachers seem to embody the city’s reputation. These educators not only participated in StoryCorps; they connected with others in their field by trading stories and showing support and love, as well.
Last week, Storycorps Facilitators, Mike Rauch and Naomi Greene, attended The Center for Self-Determination International Conference in Detroit, Michigan. Over 900 people attended the conference from various cities and backgrounds, but they shared a common belief, despite their mental and/or physical disabilities, they can be in control of their own lives and live they way they choose.
For some, being self-determined must be learned, but for Maria Marquez-McCrory, standing up for herself comes naturally. Vickie Vining (R), a consultant in the mental health field, interviewed Maria (L) about how she became the fighter that she is.
As early as kindergarten, Maria wanted to be treated like all the other schoolchildren, but because of her physical disability, she was separated from the rest of the school. Once when a fellow schoolmate tried to tease her, Maria flipped him the bird. When she was sent to the principal’s office, she argued that if the other children made fun of her, she had the right to defend herself. Today, Maria’s tactics have changed, but her message has not. As a self-advocate for people with disabilities, she continues to spread the message of equality and self-determination to as many as she can.
One of Griot’s community partners in Detroit is the Renaissance Lions Club. The Lions are the world’s largest service club organization with over 45,000 clubs worldwide. Their members raise millions of dollars each year for charitable causes.
The Griot D2D team spent the day at the Lions Clubhouse recording conversations which told of Detroit’s rich history. Thanks to Mr. Young and Ms. Phillips for making the day a great success.
Tuesday May 29th, 2007. 5:30pm. Detroit, MI aka Motorcity.
After two years with StoryCorps, facilitator Nadja Middleton passes the torch during the customary Changing of the Griot Guard.
Bye-bye Nadja. Hello Johnny!
Shirley Talibah D. Touchstone-Garnett came to the Griot Booth to honor the family matriarch, Mary Dunn. Dunn was taken from Africa at the age of 12 in the early 19th century. Upon arrival in America, she was separated from her family and enslaved. Mary had 14 children and after she passed away in 1914, her children began a tradition of annual family reunions. Today the gatherings bring together as many as five hundred people.
Shirley paid hommage to the strength of her Great-Great Grandmother Mary Dunn, and the importance of family and keeping alive the connections we have to our ancestors.
As a child, Tyree Guyton knew that he was destined to make an impact on society. One day his grandfather gave him a paintbrush, and it changed his life forever. In 1986 Tyree began using art to transform a two-block stretch of Heidelberg Street, which was suffering from neglect, into a beautiful creative space, using the ruins as his palette. Two decades later, the Heidelberg project (www.heidelberg.org) has become world renowned, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world each year. Tyree says that Heidelberg is a calling, and for 20 years he has devoted himself to the project, demonstrating in the process that art can be a force for transformation and healing.
Tyree Guyton shared his remarkable story with Jenenne Whitfield the Project’s executive director.
Gorgeous weather, friendly people and a real life griot greeted us on opening day in Detroit, MI. Indeed, standing at the podium (next to Melvin Reeves, Manager for the StoryCorps Griot Initiative), Cardinal Mbuyi Chui explained the traditional role of griots such as himself and the significance of the StoryCorps’ Griot Initiative.
Johnny and Genevieve were our first Detroit participants. They were interviewed by their granddaughter, Briana.
We have a dramatic location in front of General Motors world headquarters at the Renaissance Center. The weather is beautiful and from our front windows we can see many boats on the Detroit River.