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/
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’ve been listening to Tom Petty tributes this week coming after his sudden death from cardiac arrest just after the conclusion of his 40th Anniversary tour.* His song “Runnin’ Down a Dream” never fails to trigger days in California spent doing just that in the ’90s, when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers seemed always at the top of the charts. Petty’s songs are often called the “soundtrack for our lives” by many generations, including mine. It really took leaps of faith to keep up with the twists and turns in my career. I ultimately called those California years “living life ahead of the curve,” since that’s how much you had to leap to keep up with the changes in Silicon Valley then.
Fast-forward: Last year I got involved in a series of BNI (Business Networking International) chapters in Michigan with inspiring entrepreneurs, currently the Business Referrals Chapter in Clinton Township — and we are constantly asked to share our business goals. Mine is to continue those leaps of faith in my life to find the new career paths in both communications and meditation that will keep me energized and productive.
We now live in a time of political division when many newsmakers charge that America’s innovation is losing out to China and other rising countries in the East. Yet I’ve been meeting a new generation of inspiring students both in the South as part of the Scholarship program for my late husband Tim Robinson at Samford University’s journalism department in Birmingham, Al – and in Detroit as an alumna of Wayne State University, with the opportunity to spend time with young Honors College students. I’m also proud of the soaring ambitions of the most recent high school graduate in my family, my great niece Julia Graham, who will be pursuing photography as a major at the College for Creative Studies on the Wayne State University Campus. Yes, I believe both in America’s current entrepreneurs and in the next generation. Dream on and maybe try listening to Tom Petty.
Back in the mid-90s (on the 30th anniversary of the Summer of Love), my late husband, legal journalist Tim Robinson and I moved to San Francisco where we rented an apartment in an elegant townhouse adjoining Golden Gate Park until the end of 2002. Our landlords were Professor H. Maurice Tseng and his wife Gloria, a manager at Bank of America. Sadly, I got news recently that Gloria had passed away and I wanted to share why her loss weighed so heavily on me, as I remembered her talent for transcending cultures and spreading love.
Gloria was from Guayaquil, Ecuador in South America and had met and married the son of a Chinese diplomat in New York City, where she worked as a Spanish translator and editor for Merck. The couple moved to San Francisco in 1962 with two small boys – David and Steven – who from birth were immersed in both cultures. Their father taught Chinese language and literature at a local university, while Gloria graduated from college with a BA in business administration, starting a 30 year career in management at Bank of America — often focused on her bank’s community outreach programs targeting Chinese, Hispanic, and other immigrants.
I was a communications consultant and eagerly invited Gloria — who knew so much about the city and its immigrant communities — to join my networking organization, Women in Business. It gave us both further opportunities to bond with other business leaders from many backgrounds, as well as create new strategies for advancing women in area businesses. We often got to laugh together, especially important after the death of her husband about a year after we moved in.
During the years in SF, we shared recipes and cookouts with the Tsengs and their neighbors, as well as gospel music that Tim played on his old Story and Clark upright piano, inspired by Baptist missionaries living next door (I still am in touch with Linda and Eric Bergquist). I was often back in San Francisco over the years and Gloria insisted that I stay at her home and cooked delicious ethnic dishes for me. I will always miss this extraordinary business and community leader, her family and that elegant townhouse that felt like a second home.