Hey Hey, Detroit,

We took a visit to Chicago last week for the second annual Documenters Network Summit.

We’re lucky to be in this group of 15 cities building a civic resource through the power of residents coming together to educate each other. On that tip, we’re trying something new this week: all the meeting coverage in this newsletter is written by Documenters! Scroll all the way down to find their bylines and expect to see more of this in the future.

We’re also changing how we cover the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC). The work of providing police oversight is so important that we’re breaking it out into more detailed reports we’re calling BOPC Watch. You may have already read a few of these in Streetlight Detroit, the biweekly safety and justice newsletter we produce with eight other local newsrooms. BOPC Watch will hit the Outlier Media website on Fridays. We’ll link to it here.

We’re sorry to say the Detroit/Wayne County Stadium Authority canceled its fourth consecutive meeting last week. With no publicly available website, phone number or email address, finding out ahead of time was impossible. So shoutout to Documenters A J Johnson and Perry Sylvester who weren’t deterred by the inconvenience.

Sylvester, having already arrived and paid for parking, took the time to meet and interview a gentleman who had shown up to give public comment. With no meeting notes to submit, Johnson dug through public audit reports and submitted what she found about the authority’s finances instead. Kudos to both Documenters for going the extra mile.

“I was born in Highland Park. I am a resident, and I am here to transform blight to beauty.”

—Shamayim “Mama Shu” Harris, founder and CEO of Avalon Village, addressing Highland Park City Council

The Scoop

What’s the timeline for installing air conditioning in more Detroit schools?

Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) sent students home early two days in a row last week due to record high temperatures. The majority of the district’s occupied schools don’t have functioning air conditioning.

Efforts to renovate and update AC in the schools have been underway for at least a year. Find out more about the timeline and how much it’s going to cost.

Black infant with pink headband and striped shirt stares while being held in a woman’s arms
Photo credit: Jeremiah Brown for W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Birth Detroit addresses Black infant mortality rate

Nearly 1,000 women die each year in the United States while in childbirth or during their pregnancies, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of this group, Black mothers are four and a half times more likely to die than their white counterparts, and Detroit’s maternal death rate is three times the national average. It is with these tragic realizations that the mission of Detroit-based doula-based company, Birth Detroit, has successfully started to build the state’s first birthing center. ➡️ Keep reading

Content produced in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. #ad

City and Regional News

Politics, Parks


Highland Park City Council voted to save a thriving community garden, cultivated by community activist Mama Shu and her nonprofit Avalon Village — from being sold to an out-of-state investor. California-based investor Rick Lopez’s Premier Michigan Properties owns 40 homes in Highland Park, although only 15 have been fully renovated. Lopez applied to buy a vacant lot next to a property in Avalon Village, on a block that Mama Shu has transformed “from blight to beauty.” After weeks of debate, the council denied Premier the sale of the lot.

The council was gridlocked when voting on an affordable housing development. The proposal was to sell 15 vacant lots to the North End Woodward Community Coalition to build 30 affordable homes. Citing a lack of detail, Councilmember Khursheed Ash-Shafii walked out of the room during the vote, resulting in a stalemate.

9/5/2023 Highland Park City Council
Documented by B W and Colleen Cirocco


Detroit’s General Services Department (GSD) presented changes to the Joe Louis Greenway expansion into Clark Park in Southwest Detroit on Wednesday. Based on prior feedback from residents, the route has moved from West Vernor Highway to West Lafayette Street, and not to Fort Street to avoid traffic. Some of the bike paths will be off-street entirely, and some will be incorporated into existing streets. 

As another method of capturing public feedback, the department had printed copies of the route map, asking residents to draw or write out their comments. 

Residents were interested in other forms of traffic calming measures — one person noted that fast-moving traffic can make even protected bike lanes feel unsafe. The community benefits fund of $1 million Canadian dollars from the Gordie Howe International Bridge project can only be used for bike infrastructure, but GSD representatives said they will discuss traffic calming with the project’s planners. This fund must be spent by March 2025, so decisions will be made this fall.

GSD will present at the September District 6 Department of Neighborhoods DONCast, where residents can continue to share their opinion on how the funds should be spent.

9/6/2023 GSD, Joe Louis Greenway Hubbard Farms Community Meeting
Documented by Anna Harris, Deandrea White and Marianna Alva-Wies

More City and Regional News

Politics, Utilities, Transportation, Finance, Policing


9/5/2023 Detroit City Council, Formal Session: Councilmembers approved a $3 million increase for a down-payment assistance program.
Documented by Matt Schoner and Sherrie Smith


9/6/2023 Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Board of Water Commissioners, committee meetings: Funds allocated to solve drowning catch basins; data shows new demographic responsible for past due bills.
Documented by Amelia Benavides-Colón and Sonja Stuckey


9/6/2023 SEMCOG, Transportation Safety Action Committee: Committee members discussed the ClearGuide Safety tool, which SEMCOG purchased to track time and geographical data of speeding vehicles.
Documented by Bridget Scallen and Gina McPherson


9/7/2023 Detroit/Wayne County Stadium Authority: Board fails to meet for a fourth consecutive time, but a member of the public is still determined to have his say.
Documented by A J Johnson and Perry Sylvester


9/7/2023 Detroit Board of Police Commissioners: Commissioners push back against the chief investigator’s report detailing police misconduct cases still under investigation.
Documented by Amelia Benavides-Colón and Janelle James

For more on the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, check out the latest BOPC Watch.

Flyer: “Not voting in the next election? Could you not care less about elections and how they work? We want to support you. Join Outlier Media for a conversation fit for adults living in Detroit who don’t plan to vote in the next election because they don’t want to, are ineligible or are facing other barriers. We’re not trying to persuade you to vote. We’re simply interested in learning what your concerns are because we know they are often overlooked or dismissed. At 6 p.m. on September 28, 2023 at TechTown, 440 Burroughs St., Detroit, 48202.” One photo shows three people standing in a circle, happily engaging in conversation and another has three seated panelists talking to a crowd.

Documenter Spotlight

Detroit Documenter of the Month

White woman in a black brimmed Stetson cowboy hat takes a selfie in front of red mountains with rambling green trees and brown shrubs.
Meet this month’s featured Documenter, Christiana Beckley. Photo credit: Courtesy of Christiana Beckley

Meet creative writer and justice advocate Christiana Beckley, this month’s featured Documenter.

When asked how Documenters notes help with their work, she said she feels more empowered sharing information with her community after “learning more about the people who make decisions about the issues she cares about.” She’s recently decided to pursue fact-finding and journalistic writing as a means to help people relate to each other.

Learn more about the projects Christiana is working on and how you can connect to them.

Get Involved

Upcoming training and events

Become a Detroit Documenter 
Register to become a Detroit Documenter and participate in some other trainings and events while you wait for the next orientation coming this fall. 

Coffee Thursday with Outlier Media
Thursday, Sept. 14, 9:30-10:30 a.m., The Commons
Join our staff for Coffee Thursdays, on the second Thursday of each month. This month, we will be at the Commons on Mack Ave. Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood! Save your spot! 

Documenters Family & Friends Meetup at Jazz in the Parks 
Friday, Sept. 15, 5-8 p.m., Riverside Park 
A few Documenters thought it would be fun to meet up at Jazz in the Parks, and we thought so too! Grab a blanket or a chair, look for the yellow Documenters swag and meet us there. Bring a friend! 

Editor’s Office Hour
Wednesday, Sept. 20, 10-11 a.m.
Documenters, join Detroit Free Press reporter Nushrat Rahman on our regular Office Hours Zoom link. Use this time to get feedback on your notes, learn about Nushrat’s work at the Free Press, pitch ideas or just hang out. Register now

Introduction to FOIA Requests 
Tuesday, Sept. 26, 6-7 p.m. 
Join us to learn more about the Freedom of Information Act and how you can exercise your rights to seek public information by issuing FOIA requests.

Documenters Network-wide Virtual Community of Practice 
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 6-7:30 p.m. EST
All Documenters from any location are welcome, regardless if you’ve attended a training or taken any assignments. Come as you are and connect with Documenters in other cities!

Office Hours 
Tuesdays, 2-4 p.m. 
Drop in to ask questions, pitch ideas, discuss assignments or just hang out. You can even get personalized training on topics like live-tweeting or improving your notes. Visit us in the office or join our office hours on Zoom!

This week’s newsletter was written by Lynelle Herndon, Noah Kincade, Malak Silmi, Amelia Benavides-Colón, Anna Harris, Bridget Scallen, Colleen Cirocco, Perry Sylvester and Sherrie Smith.

Lynelle (she/her) likes working with Documenters because she thinks it’s important for us to share our news and our voices with our neighbors and networks. Her favorite spaces in Detroit are the urban gardens that promote peace, hope, health and healing.

Noah (he/him) believes people benefit their communities when they create civic media and commit acts of journalism. He enjoys being anywhere with live music or tacos.

Malak (she/her) believes in local journalism that provides people with verified and comprehensive information. Her favorite places to unwind and pick up a new read are at Detroit’s bookstores and libraries.