The Detroit Documenters program trains and pays Detroiters to attend local public meetings and monitor elected officials, in collaboration with local journalists. Hundreds of residents are active in the program, bringing more transparency to local government through their meeting notes, live tweets and civic participation.
This month, we’re featuring Documenter Yvonne Szymczak, a native Detroiter and culture curator.
Yvonne Szymczak was born in a hospital across the street from the Whitney, a historic mansion-turned-restaurant in Detroit where she now works as a docent. On her tours, she highlights historical facts about everything from the stained glass windows, woodwork and masonry to the Whitney family themselves.
After spending a decade in New York and New Jersey, Yvonne returned to metro Detroit to care for her parents. Even as a full-time caregiver, Yvonne — as DJ Stashu — continues to host “Dance with Me, Stanley,” a polka show on the New Jersey-based radio station WFMU, where she has worked for the past 10 years. She sees the radio program, the mansion tours and documenting public meetings all as conduits to conversation.
Yvonne said human love and passion can be felt through the energy she offers on the airwaves and that she felt a similar energy during her orientation with Detroit Documenters.
Curious about her Polish heritage, for Yvonne, it all comes down to tracing her roots, and life is beginning to feel synergistic since she has a job giving tours across the street from the hospital where she was born to immigrant parents. Her journey has made her wonder about history in general, and she’s decided that history embodies “what is documented, how it’s documented, and how it’s curated.”
As she explores her passion for connection through creative arts and journalism, Yvonne looks forward to growing with Documenters — including showing off her photography and video talent — because she knows she will be acknowledged, encouraged and offered constructive feedback that will help sharpen her skills, and ultimately help her to evolve as a human and be a better contributor to society.
Scroll down to read more about Yvonne and how you can connect.
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What I do
Radio host on WFMU.org, events DJ, docent of the Whitney mansion, full-time on-call caretaker to my parents, and employee of the City of Royal Oak’s ROSES senior program, content creator and photographer for Rochester Holistic Arts, dog walker, and occasional clown at the farmers market.
What I love about it
Keeping busy and learning keeps the cobwebs off my brain. Live life to the fullest, and connect to what moves you.
One thing I want to get from the Documenters community
I see Documenters as a way to continue my education. I want to develop my understanding of how the city of Detroit works and how it is growing. Contact me for collaboration.
One thing I can give to the Documenters community
I can provide photography, videos and voice-over. I am also open to being a representative at events should such an opportunity come up.
What music album do you go back to over and over again?
The album I find myself coming to often is Hawkwind’s “Warrior on the Edge of Time.” It’s a combination of spoken word, melody and soundscapes. It is a familiar place that I can travel to in the comfort of my own mind, yet it never ceases to surprise and excite me.
How you can reach me