Good morning and good August to you and yours. The demolition of an Ilitch-owned building that was a “central hub” for Detroit’s (second) Chinatown has been on our minds all week, and we’ve got a story that explores the history and family memories still lingering amid the rubble. As new buildings go up at a rapid clip — and blight eradication keeps the wrecking balls swinging — it can feel like we’re losing history faster than it can be preserved.
What Detroit sites do you want to make sure are saved or restored? We’d love to hear about them. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share a site and why it’s meaningful to you.
In other news, the city cracks down on sign spam, democratic representation is in flux at the Board of Police Commissioners, urban farming may be mainstream but is still a struggle, Flint has a bold plan to tackle poverty, and we look at how crime news affects your perception of safety. (We’ll send you elsewhere for the local angle in Donald Trump’s indictment.) Plus, a teenage criminal justice champion to know, a beloved bakery expands and plenty to do through the weekend. Go ahead and start tonight with an artist talk or a free outdoor screening of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” <3 Team Detour
Detroit in Five
Don’t bless this mess: Detroit has tried to demolish and sue its way through blight, and it is now using the same tactics for “visual clutter.” The city said it physically removed more than 16,000 signs from public property in the last 18 months and repeatedly told business owners the activity is illegal. It’s now pursuing legal action. The biggest offender? Melvindale-based Shaw’s Plumbing racked up 59 misdemeanor charges, though its owner said it didn’t receive any warnings. The city hopes the charges act as a warning to other offenders, though we’re still seeing those signs promising cash for diabetic test strips around town… (Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, New York Times)
Speaking of clutter… For years, the Belle Isle Conservancy has invited volunteers to help clean up Detroit’s crown jewel — in 2022, they removed about 8,000 pounds of litter. Now, the conservancy has started to meticulously sort the types of trash found on Belle Isle and in surrounding waterways. Most of it so far appears to be single-use plastic (especially items like bottles, bags and food packaging), which can harm wildlife and find its way into food. Some of the Isle’s trash has been turned into art, but the conservancy really hopes determining the park’s “littering personality” could lead to environmental stewardship policies and accountability for businesses creating plastic waste. (Planet Detroit, BBC)
$500 gamechanger: Starting in January, expecting mothers in Flint will get a stipend until their child turns 1 year old. Mothers will first receive a $1,500 one-time payment followed by $500 a month thanks to a new program called Rx Kids led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who helped expose the water crisis. The poverty prevention program has raised nearly $35 million from state funds and donors and will run for at least three years. There are no restrictions on how families can use the aid. (Flint Beat, Michigan State University, Michigan Advance)
Just 337 votes: Former Board of Police Commissioners Chair Bryan Ferguson won the District 1 seat with fewer than 400 write-in votes. There were no candidates on the ballot for the district, and the seat is now open after Ferguson resigned last month when he was charged with a prostitution misdemeanor — not to mention a tenure marked by controversies over staffing missteps, multiple investigations of the board and more. Mayor Mike Duggan will appoint a temporary replacement for the District 1 seat until voters can elect a new representative in next year’s election. Want to join? Applications are open. (Outlier Media, Freep, City of Detroit)
This is your brain on crime: Americans consistently tell pollsters they think crime is going up, even when it isn’t. The media is partly to blame. In Detroit, which regularly has one of the highest rates of violent crime, there’s no shortage of crime news in traditional media and on social media. Jim Schaefer, a longtime journalist with the Detroit Free Press who once worked the police beat, says Detroit publications are becoming more cognizant of the impact of their reporting and are trying to include more nuance in their stories. (Outlier Media)
➡️ Dig deeper: Interested in safety and policing beyond the crime headlines? Subscribe to our Streetlight Detroit newsletter to read more stories like this.
‘Gangster farming’: That’s how Oakland Avenue Urban Farms’ Jerry Ann Hebron describes her experience during the years when Detroit farmers had little choice but to go rogue and cultivate whatever land they could, often without city approvals or owner permissions. A decade after the city codified urban farming and began selling vacant parcels to growers, it remains difficult for growers to navigate bureaucracy (paywalled) with officials who can seem indifferent. Even with organizations such as the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund assisting with land purchases, city planners may have other ideas. Recently, a group of urban farmers got together at a westside garden to discuss a new obstacle looming: Mayor Mike Duggan’s proposed land value tax plan. The effort to change state code would allow the city to tax land at a higher rate than structures, lowering bills for homeowners and penalizing speculators — but it could also be a costly change for urban farm owners unless specific exemptions are made. Despite the difficulties, one ray of light shines down on vegetable plots across the city: Farmers may soon be allowed to legally raise chickens, ducks and honeybees. (Detroit News, Planet Detroit, Detroit Documenters, City of Detroit, Freep, Axios Detroit)
Watchdogs in the stacks: Concerned about book bans? The Michigan Library Association launched its MI Right to Read campaign this week to rally residents (including students) to push back against censorship. Efforts to ban books — often ones that have LGBTQ+ themes — have taken over library and school board meetings around the state and country. Close to home, fights (and shenanigans) have popped up in Ferndale, Dearborn and Hamtramck. (Bridge Michigan, Michigan Library Association, PEN America, Oakland Press, Freep)
Five impactful ways W.K. Kellogg Foundation shows its love for the kids of Detroit
The upcoming school year is fast approaching to the delight of parents everywhere. And while most organizations focus attention on kids during the month of September, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation — the largest nonprofit in the state of Michigan — has been showing its love for the kids of Detroit for decades.
From the opening of Detroit’s only freestanding birthing center, to educating the city’s teen mothers, to providing resources in Detroit’s neighborhood food deserts, here are 5 of the ways the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has been helping Detroit children thrive. ➡️ Keep reading
Content produced in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. #ad
After demolition, Chinatown memories endure
By Aaron Mondry
When Detroiters got wind that a noteworthy building in the former Chinatown area of the Cass Corridor would come down, many past and current residents with connections to the site spoke up about preserving it. At one time, the now-demolished building housed the Shanghai Cafe, the Chinese Merchants Association and other community groups.
Sandra Lee is the granddaughter of one of the Shanghai Cafe’s early owners. She said the building was significant to her family and that they were distraught by its demolition.
Culture & Community
🌱 Vertical farming could help Detroit farmers with the winter problem — but critics have issues (and it doesn’t come cheap)…
🎂 Avenue of Fashion fixture Good Cakes and Bakes opens second location downtown…
🎧 Shiva Honey — musician, artist and one of the founders of the Satanic Temple Detroit — explores spirituality and grief on new album “Devotion: Ritual Music for Love, Loss & Desire”…
✨ Beyoncé’s ballroom beats, from Ford Field to Menjos…
(BridgeDetroit, Eater Detroit, Metro Times, The Trespass Project, Model D, WDET, Pride Source)
🧘 As we hit the dog days of summer, don’t forget to take advantage of all the temporary free yoga in the park (and tai chi, roller skating, barre, etc., etc.). Bookmark our schedule.
🎥 Grab your popcorn and lawn chairs tonight for an outdoor showing of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” at Gabriel Richard Park on the riverfront. Free.
🍤 Prepare to re-enter your air-frying phase after chef Cori Howell’s cooking demonstration focused on African American recipes this evening at the Elmwood Park branch of the Detroit Public Library. Free.
⛵ Set sail on a schooner for an evening cruise on the Detroit River on Friday. Tickets are $35, ages 21+.
☀️ Immerse yourself in art in unexpected places at the final Sidewalk Festival event on Saturday, on the far westside near Joy and Southfield Road. Free.
🧟 Protect your brains from undead monsters at an outdoor screening of “Night of the Living Dead” outside the Senate Theater. Tickets are free and lawn chairs are encouraged.
⛲ Don’t miss the Belle Isle Art Fair this Saturday and Sunday. Enjoy music and activities, check out the beer tent and more. Free.
💐 Join Kattleman Flower Farm at Brewery Faisan on the eastside this Sunday for Brews & Bouquets, where you’ll be able to arrange your own locally grown flowers. $12 to build a bud vase, $20 for a bouquet.
🥙 Celebrate Detroit’s food scene on Sunday at the Hospitality Included Festival, popping up outside Chroma Detroit in Milwaukee Junction. Fill up on eats from more than 30 faves and fresh finds including Baobab Fare, Barda, Fried Chicken & Caviar, Shell Shock’d Tacos, Midnight Temple and plenty more. Free to attend, though you can grab a presale drink ticket for $5.
🖼️ While participant slots are all filled for the Scarab Club’s 2023 Plein Air Challenge on Sunday, you can still enjoy the fruits of their labor. Artists will spend the day painting or drawing around the city, then return to the Cultural Center gallery to quickly install their work for the exhibition opening and reception at 4 p.m. Free.
🚴🏽♂️ Pushing Pedals Sunday’s family bike rides roll out of Gordon Park on the westside through August. Join Motown TrailBlazerz Bike Club for this weekend’s ride ending with a meal at Hamtramck’s Yemen Cafe. Free.
Written by Aaron, Alex, Dan, Lynelle, Malak, Miriam, Noah, and Kate, who loves to learn that stars are just like us (plus or minus a few sequins).
Who come to Trenton High School? We come.