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  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Stir It Up

Far from City Hall

If government can't or won't help, let's all meet in the street

Young Chris and Denise were taking turns playing the small wooden xylophone at the table sponsored by the Detroit Disability Justice Coalition. While the kids were banging away at the instrument, I couldn't help pulling out my mandolin, strumming along with them and dancing a bit. It was the highlight of my time at the People's Festival: An East Side Declaration of Love and Hope, held earlier this month over at Mack Avenue and East Grand Boulevard.

Not that there wasn't plenty of other enjoyable stuff going on there.

The youth of the St. Charles Praise Dancers did their thing outdoors; there was a demonstration on how to make sauerkraut, another one on belly dancing, a presentation on composting, a station where folks could pedal a stationary bicycle in order to charge up some lights, a session on creating neighborhood community councils, and ... well, there was a lot of stuff going on.

There were tables with literature and other offerings from many of the 33 organizations that came together to create the festival, many of them in the orbit around the progressive activism of the Boggs Center.

"It was fantastic," says Gloria Lowe, founder and CEO of We Want Green, Too. "We created this environment that people had not experienced in a long time. We saw and heard the smiles and the laughter. I did not see one person hollering and screaming at the kids. Older people were having conversations with their neighbors.

"People who hadn't seen each other in years were reunited. I saw my high school teacher, who I haven't seen in 30 years. It felt like a huge family reunion, and truly a family, multigenerational."

Lowe was one of the prime movers in the planning group. Her business focuses on building sustainable urban communities through training in the skills necessary to remodel and build green living spaces in an affordable way. The trainees tend to be disabled veterans, citizens returning to the city after incarceration, and homeless people.

There was a green vibe going throughout the festival.

It was on the grounds of Genesis Lutheran Church, where an organic garden tended by volunteers from GenesisHOPE grows next to a small orchard, and a compost pile recycles debris into dirt for use in future years. The garden project is part of a work-skills training program for teenagers. They tend the garden, harvest the vegetables, and sell them at Eastern Market. They'll soon be selling them right at the garden site where GenesisHOPE will sponsor a produce market two days a week starting in July.

"For me, the festival was to celebrate," says Chloe Richardson, a community organizer for GenesisHOPE. "In this community, there are a lot of things that aren't the way they should be, and this was a time to have fun, it was also about healing and the beginning of a lot of work that needs to be done."

A quick tour through the surrounding neighborhood would underscore Richardson's comment about things that need to be done.

The area is plagued with the same problems one sees in many of the city's residential areas — abandoned houses and overgrown lots.

Unemployment is alarmingly high in Detroit, and, as the folks at the Boggs Center say, young people lack meaningful work. Part of the effort among these organizations is the creation of an entrepreneurial spirit to help people see the resources that are already in the community and use them to build a better future.

Can-Did Revolution, a fledgling canning business founded and run by twentysomethings Andrew Plisner and Kezia Curtis, had a table at the festival that provided an example of the entrepreneurial effort. They are both active with Freedom Freedom Growers, a local urban agriculture organization. After a trip to an apple orchard last fall, Curtis had an excess of apples around the house. Plisner thought it would be a good idea to try canning.

They started off with jam, then moved on to an applesauce recipe from Curtis' family. In January, they started the business in earnest. It was literally a kitchen start-up on a shoestring. They work with local suppliers and are trying to build their business in the local community, networking with like-minded people.

"We're learning as we go," says Plisner. "We're trying to figure it out. I was at the festival to celebrate the phenomenal work that so many folks have been involved in, and to provide a glimpse of what's possible."

Can-Did hasn't really taken off yet, and Plisner reports profits in the low hundreds of dollars, but it's a start.

That's part of what the People's Festival was about, jump-starting community economic development from within.

The idea of a big corporation coming in and providing tens of thousands of jobs is a pipe dream. And with the mayor's office is in turmoil with a revolving door of officials, a financial deficit in the hundreds of millions of dollars and a new lawsuit from a fired executive, it's hard to see how the city government is ever going to get to supporting economic development in neighborhoods. I don't even know if that's part of the government's duties. But it seems that somebody needs to step into the vacuum and make things happen. The organizations that put on the People's Festival are willing to do it.

"A big reason for the festival was to move us to the next step of helping the community to understand the need for self-governance," Lowe says.

"We need to let the folks know we're here, and what we're doing in our community. Not just that we're here but that we are here for them. We can change all this drama that's going on around us right now. We need to have a discussion about what we are able to do rather what we accept.

"We want sustainability. We want to live healthy. We want to eat good. We want our children to be happy. It's not just about the garden. We want to maintain this earth. We want to know what that feels like."

Another high point of the day for me was when they handed out prizes to kids who had written a short essay on what they like about Detroit while at the festival.

A young man named Demar, who wrote about working in the garden, racial equality, struggle and success, won an IBM laptop computer.

A boy named Reggie, who wrote about Motown records, the Motor City Museum and rebuilding the city, won a new bicycle.

They both burst with pride as they read their essays and received their prizes.

I'm not one of those who goes around making the children the reason for all community efforts, although that's a great motivation. The bottom line is that what we do is for all of us, young and old.

We're all part of the continuum. But I must admit, when the kids point the way, it sounds so simple. Maybe that's the way it should be.

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