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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

Scared of the scarf

How I learned to stop worrying and love the hijab

When I was in Morocco for about a month in 1981, I learned not to speak to the women there — especially women who wear the head covering called the hijab. Maybe it was because I was a stranger, but I had some vague notion that religious Muslim women were not allowed to talk to men who weren't their relatives. This wasn't just on the street. I stayed with a family in Rabat and all communication with women went through the man of the house.

I carried that feeling with me for many years, avoiding speaking to women in hijab. I thought they didn't want to talk to me, and I respected that. Then, a couple of years ago, on a school trip with my daughter, I found myself sitting at a table with a group of people directly across from a woman wearing the head scarf. After being uneasy for a while I told her that I was having a hard time talking to her and recounted my Morocco experience.

She found my attitude amusing and told me that she was born and raised in the United States, and had chosen to wear the hijab as an adult. She also told me there was no reason not to talk to her.

Since then, I've been making the effort to speak when I find myself around women in hijab. Recently, I was picking up some takeout from my favorite Arabic restaurant in Dearborn. The middle-aged woman at the cash register — there is usually an older man there — was wearing the hijab. After we finished our transaction I said "shukran" — the Arabic word for thank you. She replied, "I was born here. You can speak English to me."

We chatted for a few moments. Something I wouldn't have done in the past.

"I think it's great that you told that woman that you were uncomfortable," says Zeinab Chami, a 26-year-old graduate student at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. "That is a really good point to start a dialogue. Sometimes people are surprised when women who wear the headscarf are friendly. People just see the headscarf as something foreign. It's not foreign; it's organic. That's part of this country's freedom of religion."

Chami was born here, and didn't start wearing the hijab until she was 20 years old. When she changed the way she dressed, it didn't make much difference to the people she knew. But strangers approached her differently.

"People started making assumptions," she says. "The first question I get is, 'Do you speak English?' Or, 'Where are you from?' I don't get offended. I find it interesting."

Chami is from Dearborn, which has one of the largest Arabic communities outside of the Middle East. Dearborn has been getting a lot of scrutiny since 9/11, and recent Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle put the spotlight on Dearborn again when she claimed that sharia (Islamic law) was taking over in Dearborn.

"I laugh at that just because it's so ridiculous," Chami says. "The best way to combat this is by educating ourselves. The truth has a domino effect. It's really the best that we can do. You also have to look at who's saying that. Sharron Angle knows nothing about us." Then Chami pulls out the trump card with a tone of self-satisfaction. "She lost the election."

I wrote recently about Angle's ignorance and outright hate talk raised against Dearborn and its Arabic population (30 percent in the 2000 census). That column generated enough online comment that I felt the need to revisit the subject. Chami found humor in Angle's misguided pronouncement. She's got company in Dearborn.

"I can almost belly laugh at that," says Warren David, founder and publisher of ArabDetroit.com. "It reminds me of a Saturday Night Live parody. There's no such thing as sharia in Dearborn. I don't even know where it came from. I've never heard the word mentioned in 30 years that I've lived here."

David, a third-generation American of Syrian-Lebanese descent, was raised an Antiochian Orthodox Christian in Pawtucket, R.I. He moved to the Detroit area in 1979.

After 9/11, David and Siham Awada Jaafar created an annual Images and Perceptions of Arab Americans diversity workshop. This year's workshop on Dec. 2, the eighth, is called "The New America: Mom, Apple Pie and Arab-Bashing." Helen Thomas, the groundbreaking woman journalist born in the United States of Lebanese parents who raised her as a Greek Orthodox Christian in Detroit, is the keynote speaker.

She retired as a columnist for Hearst Newspapers in June after a controversial statement that Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine" and go back to "Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else"; she later apologized with a call for "mutual respect and tolerance" as the only path to peace in the Middle East. Her appearance is sure to catch some media flak.

"We are hoping that it doesn't get to that point," says David. "The woman is 91 years old. She's very frail. We're really in the spirit of diversity and cultural understanding. That's our goal, nothing more than that. We're very proud of her accomplishments over the years."

It will be a good moment to start a dialogue. I'm guessing that someone in the conservative blogosphere will take note of Thomas' appearance in Dearborn and heap more abuse on the city and its Arabic residents. But those are probably people who don't know Dearborn.

Michael Albano, who writes occasional columns for the Dearborn Press and Guide, does know Dearborn. He lived there for some 35 years, moved to California for 25 years, and returned recently to care for his parents.

"When I left in 1983, the east Dearborn business districts were really run-down," says Albano, who is of Italian descent.

"They've pretty much rejuvenated Warren and Michigan Avenues. It's never been as nice as it is now. It's incredible what they've done. I don't have any fear going through the neighborhoods and the streets. I have nothing but praise for what they've brought to the city. ...

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