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Good morning! Hope your July is off to a serene start — for some inspo, check out colorful photos from last weekend’s Belle Isle kite festival. You can also do us a favor and take our three-minute info needs survey, which we’ll use to determine where to put our reporting resources. 

Keep reading for the latest news, plenty to do this weekend, plant-based fashion and meat-heavy, tasty gas station eats. Drop us a line to shout out your favorite under-the-radar spots for quick meals. <3 Team Detour 

Detroit in Five

R-E-S-P-E-C-T the will: Ending a two-day trial on the legitimacy of Aretha Franklin’s handwritten will, an Oakland County jury determined the 2014 document — found in a notebook stuffed under a sofa cushion — is valid and represented her last wishes. Franklin’s $18 million estate was contested by her surviving sons, with one claiming that a notarized will from 2010 found locked in her desk drawer was the only legitimate version. It split her estate more or less evenly. Sons Edward and Kecalf Franklin claimed the 2014 notebook version, being the most recent, invalidates the 2010 will. The newest will found in the sofa awards Kecalf and his children Franklin’s primary residence in Bloomfield Hills and its contents including jewelry, cars and furs. Both wills stated that all four sons will share income from music royalties and copyrights. It will now be up to a judge to decide whether the 2014 will is enacted in whole or in part. (New York Times, Vulture, Associated Press, Detroit News)

Rest in peace: Detroiters are mourning the loss of another legend. The Rev. JoAnn Watson, a longtime civil rights activist and public servant, has died, her family said Monday. She was 72. Watson served on the Detroit City Council from 2003 to 2013, where she advocated for reparations and water affordability, among other human rights. Her long career of service included directing the YWCA’s Office of Racial Justice, being the first woman to serve as executive director of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, being the lead pastor at West Side Unity Church, hosting the radio show “Wake Up, Detroit!” and a recent appointment to City Council’s Reparations Task Force — it’s no wonder Watson is referred to as Detroit’s “Queen Mother.” After working with civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks and former Congressman John Conyers, Watson went on to mentor a new generation of activists and politicians like Councilmember Coleman Young II, who began his career as an intern in Watson’s office. Those who knew and worked with Watson say the love for her people has been felt and the impact of her work will live on. (BridgeDetroit, Detroit Free Press) 

To tax or not to tax yourself: If enough residents agree, Detroit neighborhoods can get city clearance to tax themselves a bit extra for enhanced services, including private security and snow plowing. Four areas of the city have adopted the “special assessment district” designation — read our explainer on how these districts work. East English Village almost became the fifth, but the neighborhood association board faced opposition to adding security guards and what would have been an $150 annual tax per household. (Outlier Media)

Hate crime protections: Michigan is close to strengthening its nearly century-old hate crime law, spurred by a Grosse Pointe Park woman’s dissatisfaction with police response after her neighbor hung a white supremacist flag. A bill passed by the state House would allow for hate crime charges to be filed when a person engages in physical violence, intimidation or destruction of property — or even threatens to do so — on the basis of race or color, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, national origin or disability status. The legislation still needs to be passed by the state Senate and signed by the governor, and could eventually face a challenge on First Amendment grounds. (Outlier)

Senate race heats up: Detroiters who recognize Hill Harper for his role on the TV drama “The Good Doctor” can expect to see a lot more of him. The actor announced he’s joining an already crowded Democratic primary race to succeed retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Harper, who has no experience in electoral politics, will have to fundraise aggressively to mount a progressive challenge against U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin. An Iowa native, Harper bought the Fisher mansion in Boston Edison in 2018 and owns downtown’s Roasting Plant Coffee. (Detroit News, Freep, Associated Press)

Big-box warehouse zone: Target plans to open a “sortation center” at the State Fairgrounds site, next to the Amazon warehouse facility (paywalled). The project reportedly involves demolishing the historic Agricultural Building, a surprise to nearby residents (paywalled). (Detroit News, Crain’s Detroit Business) 

An expensive mystery: Two years after more than $600,000 was stolen from the Detroit Public Library, the public is getting more finger-pointing than answers. Some money was recovered, but more than $400,000 is still missing. Police identified a possible suspect, but no one was arrested. They have marked the case “inactive,” but say they’re open to new leads. Here’s the timeline. (Outlier Media)

Detroit Housing Commission under the microscope: If you missed our series on the city’s largest provider of affordable housing, give the whole thing a read. In the latest installment, local officials say they are giving themselves less than six months to remedy poor conditions in the agency’s affordable housing units, but they won’t say how they plan to fix the problem — and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib has some questions. (Outlier)

Digital art of the future: Knight Foundation recently announced a new grant program offering $250,000 total to metro Detroit artists (and arts orgs) who use technology to “foster meaningful connections between people and place.” Apply by July 21; winners will be announced in the fall. (Knight Foundation)

Made Here

Can fabric made from algae and black-eyed peas make Detroit a hub for sustainable fashion?

By Koby Levin
Two Black women — one in a black leather coat, another in a lab coat and purple disposable gloves — examining circular pieces of soft material. Behind them, a shelf and countertop are full of scientific equipment, and there’s a tray holding similar pieces of material.
BAN Lab Detroit founders work with their recipes for bio-based textiles at a Wayne State University lab. Photo credit: Koby Levin

Brittanie Dabney and Najah Thomas-Young are combining their sensibilities and science know-how to create new clothing materials that they hope will be less disastrous for the environment than cotton or polyester. Their startup, BAN Lab Detroit, aims to give the city a foothold in the global race to develop new materials for the fashion industry.

Culture & Community

Fill up at these tasty gas station restaurants in metro Detroit

By SaMya Overall
Four photos of each meal in to-go containers on a yellow background.
Gas station eats we love. Photo credit: SaMya Overall

In metro Detroit, restaurants inside gas stations have a strong foothold among a group of regulars. Behind these restaurants, local entrepreneurs have created a name for themselves by offering classic, fresh food in accessible locations. While other states are passing drive-through bans, gas station restaurants close to home are quick alternatives for people on the go.

Looking for the best gas station restaurants in the Detroit area? I tried four so you didn’t have to (though, you still should).

Backtalk: Let’s crowdsource our next lunch! There are plenty of local restaurants where the setting isn’t glamorous but the grub is excellent. What’s your favorite no-frills spot for fast and tasty meals? Email intrepid intern SaMya Overall at and tell us why you love it — we promise to share all the recs.

Get Busy

Eight dancers wearing masks, facepaint and headdresses crouch in a row, performing on stage with an audience in the background.
Performers at the African World Festival in 2020. Photo credit: Via the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Facebook

🙋 Looking for an artsy way to pitch in? Sidewalk Detroit needs volunteers for its July 29 and Aug. 5 fest dates. AfroFuture Fest also needs help on Aug. 4 and Aug. 6 (the volunteer registration deadline is Friday). And Shakespeare in Detroit needs support running its shows at Campus Martius on several dates, Aug. 11-20. 

🏙️ Tonight, head to MOCAD for Hood Work: Neighborhood as Resistance to hear from artists Asia Hamilton, Tyree Guyton, Bryce Detroit and Scheherazade Washington Parrish about how they uplift their neighborhoods through creativity. RSVP here; free but MOCAD suggests a $10 donation.

😋 Bring a dish and swing by Keep Growing Detroit’s Summerfest potluck tonight, with a farm stand, music, games and more. Free. 

🎀 Channel your inner Barbie (or Ken) at the Barbie Beach Party today at Campus Martius. Wear bubblegum pink while sipping on Barbie-inspired cocktails and enjoying live music from DJ Thornstryker and Mami Wata. Free.

💰 Join the Public Pool art gallery for a fundraiser on Friday, with raffles, hot dogs, beachwear and local bands galore at Outer Limits Lounge in Hamtramck. Free, donations encouraged.

🇿🇦 Celebrate the beauty, strength and spirit of the African diaspora at the Charles H. Wright Museum’s 40th Annual African World Festival, Friday through Sunday at Hart Plaza. This three-day celebration will bring to the stage George Clinton, Parliament-Funkadelic, the Detroit Youth Choir, the Sun Ra Arkestra as 100-plus vendors sell food, art and clothing. Free with museum membership, $15 per day without membership.

🎾 What’s better than a pickleball tournament? One with free McClure’s Pickles. On Saturday, Come Play Detroit hosts a Pickle Party in front of Eastern Market Brewing Co., with a DJ spinning “pickle disco,” barbecue from Slows BBQ and pickle beer on tap. (Let us know how that tastes…) It’s $40 to enter the tournament; proceeds go to Focus: Hope. 

✍️ Find creative inspiration among the works of Ghanaian photographer James Barnor at an InsideOut Literary Arts writing workshop on Saturday led by Michigan Poet Laureate Nandi Comer at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Free. 

📚 Calling all bookworms! The Detroit Festival of Books returns to Eastern Market’s Shed 5 on Sunday. Free. 

🎥 Indulge in a nostalgic teen classic at Cinema Detroit’s pop-up showing of “10 Things I Hate About You” at New Center Park on Tuesday. Our millennial Heath Ledger standom is showing… Free, bring a blanket or chair.

🖼️ The 31st annual Concert of Colors will take over the Detroit Institute of Arts and other cultural institutions next week from Wednesday to Sunday. With too many acclaimed performances to mention — from reggae to Arab jazz to Greek dance and a Montreal acrobatics troupe that incorporates traditional Guinean instruments — you’ll want to make it a multi-day multicultural extravaganza. There will also be talks on music, culture and art. Free.

Written by Aaron, Alex, Koby, Lynelle, Noah, SaMya and Kate, who might have one too many Vernors cocktails.

It’s gonna be a white, weed wedding

Kate (she/her) is passionate about journalism that involves Detroiters from the start and helps readers solve problems and find joy in their daily lives. Her favorite Detroit spot to watch the sunset, play soccer, watch the freighters go by and feel a little haunted is Historic Fort Wayne.