The failure of Detroit’s neighborhoods was a personal tragedy for me. I grew up in a vibrant working class neighborhood on the Northeast side of the city. My family home was sold in the 70s after my parents retired from their UAW jobs in the auto industry and moved to Florida. The area gradually deteriorated and was bulldozed.
So it was heartening to watch a segment of 60 Minutes last weekend hosted by Leslie Stahl on how JP Morgan Chase is using data to invest more efficiently, helping entrepreneurs open businesses in parts of Detroit that most need their services. She interviewed Jamie Dimon, the CEO of Chase, who told her that the idea grew out of his interest in changing the way the bank was engaging in philanthropy. He wanted to try and tackle a major national issue, and focused on Detroit first.
Dimon explained that the Chase program (launched in 2014) is currently helping young Detroit entrepreneurs by building a database just for Detroit that identifies neighborhoods in the city ripe for redevelopment. JP Morgan’s program also steers funds to minority businesses that wouldn’t otherwise qualify for them. And now Chase is getting ready to commit half a billion dollars to take what it has learned in Detroit and export it to other cities like Chicago and Washington D.C.
Stahl pointed out that the financial crisis of 2008 decimated fragile economies like Detroit’s and Dimon acknowledged that “we owe back to society.” For a summary of the 60 Minutes interview, visit this link at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jamie-dimon-jp-morgan-chase-ceo-makes-data-focused-investment-in-detroit-60-minutes-2019-11-10/
It finally happened in October – American astronauts Christina Kock and Jessica Meir conducted the first all-female spacewalk. It was originally scheduled for March 29th (during Women’s History Month) and cancelled when it was discovered only one spacesuit proportioned for the women could be found. I posted the original announcement in my blog three weeks ahead of the event, and only discovered long afterwards that the walk had been postponed.
So for those who saw my first blog and thought it was a done deal, my apologies! For detailed coverage of the actual event on October 18th and the controversy about the lopsided ratio of women in space (only 32 percent or 12 of the 18 astronauts currently eligible to fly for NASA are women), you can read an article in the Houston Chronicle at https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/space/article/NASA-s-first-all-female-spacewalk-has-officially-14543988.php
For more on the controversy over spacesuit- design bias against women, read https://www.theverge.com/2019/10/21/20920790/nasa-first-all-female-spacewalk-christina-koch-jessica-meir-spacesuit-design-bias
Oh my, gender bias is not only on earth!
When I was in grade school, I was selected to be part of a district chorale in Detroit – one of my happiest memories while it lasted. So I easily related to the excitement when the Detroit Youth Choir was named runner up on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, even though there was no cash reward for second place.
A big surprise came when the Choir returned to the Motor City and Mayor Mike Duggan made a major announcement as hundreds turned out to cheer them at Campus Martius – the Choir will be receiving $1 million after all.
As the CEO of the Skiliman Foundation Tonya Allen told the returning heroes, “We are incredibly proud of what the Detroit Youth Choir achieved during their time on America’s Got Talent and we look forward to what’s next for them.” Skillman was one of the charitable partners who helped fund a $1 million endowment. “This fund is a way for Detroiters to celebrate and grow the genius of our children.”
In addition, the Mayor gave the DYC a key to the city and each member got replica keys to have in their own homes. “In your life, you’re going to go far and wide and you’re going to accomplish great things,” he said.
Choir director Anthony White was at a loss for words after all of Friday’s developments. “This is hard work, sacrifice. I can’t even talk,” he said. “I appreciate every donor and sponsor. This is amazing,”
The announcements keep coming. The choir will perform with season 14 winner Kodi Lee in Las Vegas Nov, 7-10. The two acts will be at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, along with fellow finalists comedian Ryan Niemiller, V Unbeatable Dance Crew and violinist Tyler Butler-Figueroa. Finally, it was also announced the choir will serve as grand marshal for the 2019 edition of America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit. This year’s theme is Detroit Shining Bright and yes, thanks to the incredible talent of the Detroit Youth Choir, the city is truly shining bright!
August was a month of both musical love and precious, renewed friendships. Most importantly, I celebrated my 55th Cass Tech High School Reunion this month with former classmates – opening with dinner and a program at Sinbad’s Restaurant in a room overlooking the river on the first night, then lunch and a bus tour on Belle Isle, and finally at a Tiger’s ballgame (oh my, they even won for us!).
My friend Bob Allen was my guest in the fun put together by an incredible committee led by Jeff Crockett that included Ocie, Jacquelyne, Trey, Morry, Susan Patricia, Helen, Sarah, Mildred, John, Anne and Jacquelin. I was lucky enough to be active on the committee in the early planning. We had about 90 active participants over the two days, many from out of town who stayed at the Atheneum Suite Hotel on Brush Ave. and many took a sightseeing bus tour as their opening event. I am so grateful that I got to experience my high school years with these incredible comrades and hope more good times lie ahead.
The first dose of musical love this month was at DTE’s evening concert with “Heart” (with sisters Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson) on the band’s “Love” Alive tour — including opening acts Joan Jet & the Blackhearts and Elle King. I had first seen only Ann on tour a few years ago at a Detroit waterfront festival. But I had always loved their music – and the crowd seated on the DTE hillside around us went crazy as Heart ended their set with their biggest hit, “Barracuda.” I shared in the exhilarating experience with my friend Bob, and we joyously stumbled when we arrived across more of his friends. They already occupied a large space on the grass and shared their blanket for seating on the hillside as they used folding chairs behind us. Amazing.
I also got an exhilarating dose of musical “love” from the 60s by watching PBS’ American Experience documentary “Woodstock”, a chance to remember three days of peace, love and music in upstate New York. I was just graduating college and starting my journalism career when that musical milestone in upstate New York produced 400,000 fans and four days of musical history that miraculously stayed peaceful and produced many signature musical moments, including the unforgettable Jimmy Hendricks, Santana, Joan Baez and Janis Joplin – plus many more evolving superstars. What an August!
I loved having a Canadian family growing up. My dad was born on a farm in Brigden, Ontario, the third of seventeen children of a Scottish mother and English/Scotch father. Dad quit school after 8th grade to go to work and help the family. He eventually landed a union job at Chrysler in Detroit and became an American citizen. My grandparents later retired to a house on Lake Erie, where my family often spent weekends. We used an outhouse and as kids, my brother and I found that was fun. In fact, my mother’s Slovak parents had a farm upstate near Vassar that had an outhouse, too!
In June, I finally traveled back to the Bear Creek Cemetery to visit the grave of my parents and my dad’s parents – along with other relatives. I used to travel there with my brothers when I first returned from New York. We always took the ferry from Marine City across Lake St. Clair, then traveled along the river on the Canadian side to Brigden. It has been several years since my older brother Gil died and I stopped the trips.
This year I went with my friend Bob and we had to take a longer trip to the Blue Water Bridge that links Port Huron and Sarnia, since the ferry has been discontinued. The adventure seemed gone. The ferry never had long lines, although you might need to wait 20 minutes for it to return from the other shore. Once on the way, you were allowed to get out of the car briefly. It was fun to enjoy the breeze and look for other ships further up the river.
After driving off the ferry, we rode up a highway north along the river, sometimes pulling over when we saw a huge ship coming in order to take photos. Eventually we had to turn away from the river and drive inwards to Brigden, passing a museum that included a wing named in honor of the Shaw family. My grandmother was born Mary Alice Shaw and was close to her brother Francis Shaw, who became a successful communications entrepreneur.
My stay at the Bear Creek Cemetery was brief this year, just long enough to honor my parents and grandparents – and also to walk around to view some of the other Shaw gravestones. I still have many cousins in the Sarnia area and we have promised to stay in touch, even though it could mean long waits now in line to cross back and forth across the bridge.
Remember me when flowers bloom early in the spring
Remember me on sunny days in the fun that summer brings
Remember me in the fall as you walk through leaves of gold
And remember me in the wintertime in the stories that are told
But most of all remember Each day, right from the start
I will be forever near For I live within your heart
Over the Memorial holiday this year, my nieces and other family gathered in a Cemetery Chapel to remember and bury a very special mother and relative – Carol McFarland, who had passed away peacefully in hospice of end stage Parkinson’s Disease. A retired teacher, Carol had always rejoiced in her love of music and her beautiful soprano voice. On Sundays, I attended Church of Christ services at the nursing home with her, my beloved sister-in-law, where she loved singing gospel music. At the funeral, relatives sang a verse of Amazing Grace with the Chaplain. I read the poem “Remember Me.” And yes, we felt her in our hearts.