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  • Jumpin Jumpin: Police, fire fighters, and EMS workers to be honored at Sky Zone

    When we think of honoring the brave men and women who protect and serve the metro Detroit area, we think of trampolines.  We think they should jump on trampolines. And by trampolines, we mean an all-walled trampoline field where they can land in a pit of 10,000 foam cubes. They have to blow off steam some how. Sky Zone, the inventors of such a place, are hosting a special day at their Canton and Shelby Township locations that will be all about police officers, firefighters, EMS workers, and their families. On Tuesday, August 5 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. there will be free jumping for these folks. All metro Detroit police, firefighters, EMS workers and their families are invited to come, though an employee ID or professional organization ID will be required for admittance to 60 free minutes at the indoor park. The hour of free jumping comes with free pizza from Jet’s as well. This is the first event of its kind in Michigan.  Sky Zone Canton is located at 42550 Executive Drive Sky Zone Shelby Township is located at 50810 Sabrina Drive. Check for more information. 

    The post Jumpin Jumpin: Police, fire fighters, and EMS workers to be honored at Sky Zone appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times is getting a new website today

    Your favorite local alternative weekly is getting a digital facelift at around 4 p.m. today, and we need your help. If you, dear reader, spot anything amiss or notice that any of our regular features are not working properly, do give us a shout in the comment section below or on social media. If, on the other hand, you find that you positively adore our new design (which we surely hope you do!), we’d certainly enjoy hearing about that as well. Let the countdown to launch begin!

    The post Metro Times is getting a new website today appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well

    By LeeAnn Brown Some people say that hip-hop is dead. Local ban Fderal Ground is proving that is not the case. The seven-member band, consisting of three lead vocalists, a DJ, bass, drums and guitar, plays what they call “living hip-hop.” Their music, peppered with multiple styles, covers all aspects of life from growing up in the D to playing with fire despite knowing you will likely get burned. Their undeniable chemistry and raw lyrics compose a music that is living, breathing, and connecting to their listeners. It has been nearly 11 years since Vinny Mendez and Michael Powers conjured up the basement idea that has flowered into the Detroit funk-hop band Feral Ground. Throughout high school the two wrote and rapped consistently, playing shows here and there. In those years they matched their rap stanzas with the animated, dynamic voice of Ginger Nastase and saw an instant connection. The now trio backed their lyrics with DJ Aldo’s beats on and off for years, making him a permanent member within the last year, along with Andy DaFunk (bass), Joseph Waldecker (drums), and newest member, Craig Ericson (guitar). We sat down with Feral Ground and their manager, Miguel Mira, in their […]

    The post Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law

    Much has been made about Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s decision this week to transfer authority of the city’s water department to Mayor Mike Duggan. In what is the most interesting read on the situation, Jason Stanley, professor of philosophy at Yale, pens an analysis on Michigan’s novel emergency manager law on the New York Times Opinionator blog. Stanley deconstructs Michigan’s grand experiment in governance by addressing two questions: Has the EM law resulted in policy that maximally serves the public good? And, is the law consistent with basic principles of democracy? Stanley ties in examples of Plato, James Madison’s Federalist Papers, and Nazi political theorist Carl Schmitt. A short excerpt: Plato was a harsh critic of democracy, a position that derived from the fact that his chief value for a society was social efficiency. In Plato’s view, most people are not capable of employing their autonomy to make the right choices, that is, choices that maximize overall efficiency. Michigan is following Plato’s recommendation to handle the problems raised by elections. Though there are many different senses of “liberty” and “autonomy,” none mean the same thing as “efficiency.” Singapore is a state that values efficiency above all. But by no stretch of […]

    The post Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week

    Walking with Dinosaurs, a magnificent stage show that features life-sized animatronic creatures from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, will be in town next week. But to preview the show’s run at the Palace, a baby T-Rex will be making an appearance at four area malls to the delight and wonderment of shoppers. Baby T-Rex, as the creature is being affectionately referred to, is seven-feet-tall and 14-feet-long. He’ll only be at each mall for about 15 minutes, so while there will be photo opportunities, they’ll be short. The dino will be at Fairlane Town Center Center Court at 18900 Michigan Ave. in Detroit from 2-2:15 p.m. today, July 30; The Mall at Partridge Creek at 17420 Hall Rd. in Clinton Township from 5-5:15 p.m. today, July 30; Twelve Oaks Mall at the Lord & Taylor Court at 27500 Novi Rd., Novi tomorrow, Thursday July 31 from 1:30-1:45 p.m.; and Great Lakes Crossing Food Court at 4000 Baldwin Rd., Auburn Hills from 5-5:15 p.m., tomorrow Thursday, July 31.  

    The post Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations

    Interested in reading about what Detroit accomplishes on a week-to-week basis that’s produced by the city itself? Great. You can do that now, here, at the Detroit Dashboard. Every Thursday morning, the city will publish an update to the dashboard because Mayor Mike Duggan loves metrics, even if the data might be hard to come by. According to Duggan’s office, the dashboard will provide data on how many LED street lights were installed, how many vacant lots were mowed, how much blight was removed, and more. This week, the city says it has sold 13 site lots through, removed 570 tons of illegal dumping, and filed 57 lawsuits against abandoned property owners.  

    The post Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Sign of the times

A Detroiter signals distress from a neighborhood under siege

Photo: , License: N/A

After a drive-by shooting at a playground, Andre Ventura erected his sign.

Photo: , License: N/A

Rudell Solomon: "I teach kids how to plant."

It wasn't the daily raids on his yard by the neighborhood's thieves that did it. Nor was it the pyro who firebombed his equipment trailer. No, what drove Andre Ventura over the edge was the drive-by shooting that had kids on the playground diving for cover as bullets pinged off the swing-set posts.

When that happened, Ventura grabbed some paint and a brush, scrawled an angry declaration on a plank of wood and hoisted his homemade sign at the edge of his east side yard, leaving it to face Eight Mile Road and the thousands of commuters that pass by daily.

"Warning! This city is infested by crackheads. Secure your belongings and pray for your life. Your legislators won't protect you," the sign read. Then he raised several American flags up tall poles, but flew them upside down in the signal of distress.

Ventura had spent a decade living in Detroit's inner-city, fixing up old houses and helping open adult foster care homes, supplying truckloads of clothes for the poor, planting urban gardens and creating a playground for kids. He's a disaster relief worker by trade, and when he came to Detroit, he felt compelled to help because he'd stumbled onto a disaster.

As the years in the inner city wore on him, he'd channel his angst into little signs he left on abandoned homes and rickety fences, expressing concern about the condition of the neighborhoods, the threats residents there endure, the harrowing upbringing children face. The signs got little attention. But this time, people reacted.

Cops stopped by and voiced their support. Firefighters pulled up in rigs and got out to take pictures. Neighbors offered congratulations. 

"I had signs up about children for years," the 41-year-old Ventura says. "I put up 200-and-something signs, and nobody reacted. I put up a crackhead sign up here on Eight Mile, I had cars stopping the next day, and within two weeks I'm on international news."

All because he said what he felt should be heard — that some parts of this city are blown-out combat zones where innocent people are under siege.

"I had a positive outlook on the city," he says. "I used to say nice things about Detroit. I said Detroit would survive as long as there was one person to love it. But I've had a complete change in attitude." 

If there's one person in Detroit who would be least expected to lose his optimism for the city, it is the energetic man who came here to help rebuild it.

After a childhood on military bases in Europe, a stint of his own in the Army and a career in disaster relief, Ventura came to Detroit after a woman he met at a Home Depot invited him to help fix up some old homes on the east side. "Within the first three days, I seen a house blown up, two cars blown up in the streets, and you were hearing gunshots every night. It's nuts over there. I could've been in Iraq or Afghanistan. That's what sparked enough curiosity for me to try to figure out what was really going on, because before that I really didn't have any experience in Detroit."

He'd drive around the city, introducing himself to residents, touring the good blocks and the bad ones, finding out who were the killers and who were the thieves. Along the way he stumbled into the shadow economy that fuels the city's neighborhoods.

"I can get you anything you want, legal or illegal," he says. " Drugs, black market goods, anything. I can get you a helicopter. Guns. Grenades $5 apiece, real grenades. Anything that you want there's somebody willing to steal it. I don't care what you want. You want a tank? You can get it and probably for less than $5,000."

Alarmed by what he'd seen, he wrote impassioned letters pleading for help from the city's mayors and councilmembers, who dismissed him for living in a suburb at the time. "When I started tackling problems the first thing that came out of their mouths was, 'Well, you don't even live in Detroit,'" he says, "So, OK, fine, I'll move to Detroit."

He moved into a rickety old house at French and Gratiot, an intersection crisscrossing a wasteland. As a disaster relief worker he'd been to towns decimated by hurricanes or tornadoes. But he was stunned.

"I've been all over the world, all over the country," he says. "There ain't nothing like Detroit. There's really no way to describe it."

In his decade of inner-city life, he's amassed countless stories of social mayhem, snapshots of social collapse. Of hookers having sex on the children's playground he built next to his yard. Of looking out his window to see neighbors walking off with tools and extension cords in bright daylight. Of the neighborhood kid who's so well-connected he can get back just about any of your stolen things — for a price. Of tending to children shot by stray bullets while waiting for police and ambulances that sometimes don't arrive. Of the elderly woman across the street who won $6,000 in the lottery but was shot and killed the next night by a thief who wanted that ticket. Of that drive-by shooting that sent little kids running for their lives on a playground.

"There ain't no way you can fathom it," he says of his corner of the city. "There's no morals, ethics, standards. There's no connection between, basically, life that you see everywhere else."

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