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Attendees of one of Khary Frazier’s “A Lot of Studio” community events, through his brand Detroit is Different. Courtesy photo
Detroit Is Different: for Khary Frazier, it’s a brand and a declaration. Neighborhoods that look rough have way more to offer than a cursory glance reveals. He’s proving that every Thursday afternoon in his weekly events series, “A Lot of Studio,” a media and community gumbo hosted right in the neighborhood where he grew up and still calls home.
Enter 1634 Clements St. into your GPS. It’s the address of a lot, rather than a house, right near Rosa Parks and Davison on Detroit’s west side. You’ll know you’re where you should be when you think you’ve approached a dead end, but then see a raised garden filled with greens, eggplants, tomatoes and green peppers. There’s a pergola and a stage, too. Every Thursday afternoon this summer, the community has filled the spaces in between with conversation, music, dancing, food and fun. And everything is free, except the coney dogs you can buy from Big Ma’s Coney Cart.
A live podcast recording — featuring different shows and hosts each week — opens things up and is followed by a creative performance or demonstration. Performances range from comedian and musician sets to cosmetologists and locticians walking the audience through various ways to style natural hair. Then, a DJ takes over. Most Detroit of all, there’s plenty of space to hustle.
For Frazier, the people who show up to take in the experience week to week are just as important as the people he’s brought together to create it. “There are a lot of elements going on,” he said, “and that takes a willingness from an audience to embrace it.” Besides that, he added, “The setting in itself can be disorienting because it’s inside a Detroit neighborhood that somebody labeled as dangerous.”
But that fact is just further support for his mantra — Detroit is different. The “A Lot of Studio” series, new this year, is the latest iteration of Frazier’s Detroit is Different brand built on that belief, with a digital publication and podcast of the same name. He’s also created an extended podcast network of Detroit-based creatives who prove that this is one city where you’ll miss out for judging something by its cover.
“That is the experience,” Frazier explained. “It’s these dynamic people, all in that same space and pocket that have lived interesting lives, where if you’re just willing to open up that conversation, and if they’re open enough to share with you, you’ll be amazed by some of the stories and backgrounds people have.”
Cultivating a network of Black creators
“A Lot of Studio” is about more than a weekly block party, though. It’s Frazier’s way of safely curating an in-person gathering space as we continue to grapple with COVID — while also actively showcasing podcasting as a viable media platform. “Podcasting is still really abstract to people,” he said. “Many don’t even know that if they have an iPhone, there’s a podcast app with podcasts they can listen to for free right in their phone.”
The event series offers a platform for hosts and an outlet for the community. Frazier said, “I think it’s very important that Black people have a platform to express ourselves. Detroit is Different offers that.”
Frazier’s podcasting network is currently free for its members and promotes roughly two dozen shows, including “Detroit is Different.” Frazier co-hosts the podcast with artist and producer Sterling Toles to highlight the art, ideas, businesses and people “that make Detroit a mecca.” Other podcasts in the network, hosted by the Black content creators Frazier aims to nurture, include “My Natural Hair,” with salon owners LaDonna Sims and MarkQuisha St. Clair, and “Ask Jennyfer,” where host Jennyfer Crawford connects entrepreneurs to more small business experts and inspiration.
In 2019, to amplify the network and connect to a larger audience, Frazier presented the Detroit is Different podcast festival. He had every intention of repeating it in 2020, but was unable to do so because of the pandemic. “A Lot of Studio” brings a taste of it back, along with family-friendly programming that lets people “get off Instagram for a second and actually engage with society outside of the cell phone.”
You can attend A Lot of Studio for free every Thursday until Sept. 9; this week’s event features the Detroit Community podcast with Audra Carson and CommuniD and a performance from alternative hip hop artist Ayana Love, Aug. 12, 5-9 p.m.