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  • Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit

    Former American Idol contestant Vonzell Solomon weighs in on twerking, natural hair & CEO status. In 2005, recording artist Vonzell “Baby V” Solomon embarked on a journey that changed her life. At the age of 20, Vonzell made it to the top three on American Idol before she was eliminated. But that was not the beginning nor the end of her journey to stardom. Vonzell is one of more than two dozen artists on tour with YouTube sensation Todrick Hall, who is a former Idol contestant as well. Todrick gained notoriety for his fast food drive-thru songs and also for producing parody videos  —  based on popular Broadway musicals and songs. His tour, uniquely entitled Twerk Du Soleil (translation: twerk of the sun), is a combination of his popular YouTube spoofs. Both Vonzell and her ratchet alter ego,Boonquisha Jenkins, made an appearance in Twerk Du Soleil,which stopped in Detroit July 23 at Saint Andrews Hall. Boonquisha opened the show by facilitating a twerking competition among the audience. Next, Vonzell made a reappearance singing a fan favorite – Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” Later, Boonquisha came on stage screaming “It’s so cold in the D! You gotta be from the D to […]

    The post Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Poll shows Bob Ficano behind in Wayne County Executive race

    If a poll released this week is any indication of how the August 5 primary election will turn out, current Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano has reason to worry, Fox 2 reports. Ficano, who’s seeking a third term, polled in fourth place — behind former Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans, Westland Mayor Bill Wild and Wayne County Commissioner Phil Cavanaugh, according to Fox 2. The poll by Strategic Solutions LLC, showed 6.7 percent of respondents said they’d vote for Ficano, which isn’t so bad: He finished ahead of County Commissioner Kevin McNamara (who came in at No. 6) and someone literally described as “a candidate not named here” (who polled at No. 5.) If you’re planning to head to the polls — which you should! — and need some input on the candidates and ballot proposals, you can read for our election coverage in this week’s Metro Times.

    The post Poll shows Bob Ficano behind in Wayne County Executive race appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • A Mad Decent Mixtape

    Mad Decent Block Party will roll through town on Saturday, August 16, bringing to town artists like Dillon Francis, Diplo, Flosstradamus, RiFF RAFF, Keys N Krates, and Zeds Dead. Thugli, a Canadian duo, will perform on the Toronto leg of the tour and they put together a 45 minute mix that features songs by some of the tour’s featured artists as well as a host of others.  Listen to it here. 

    The post A Mad Decent Mixtape appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tangent Gallery to host Breaking Borders

    Detroit’s Tangent Gallery will host a special event this Saturday, July 26 in hopes of raising money for the local faction of an international nonprofit, Burners without Borders Detroit. Breaking Borders is a one-evening-only event that will feature live music, performance, and art. Satori Circus will perform along with spoken word artist ZakAndWhatArmy. Music by Tartanic, Dixon’s Violin, and Servitor. Fire dancers, hoop performers, and acrobats will provide a certain mysticism to the ambiance as old Victorian steampunk and tribal art is shown in the main gallery. There will also be a runway fashion show and the evening will end with a dubstep rave featuring DJ Forcefeed and Dotty. Truly, there’s something for everyone. Perhaps more importantly, there will be a full service bar. The event is open to those 18 and older and IDs will be checked at the door. Admission is $25 at the door, or $20 with the donation of a canned good. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the party goes until 2 a.m. A 20 percent commission will be taken from all art sold at this event and donated to Burners without Borders. The Tangent Gallery is located at 715 Milwaukee Ave., Detroit; 313-873-2955;

    The post Tangent Gallery to host Breaking Borders appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 48 to film — behind the scenes at the 48 Hour Film Project

    By Amanda Mooney There’s a lot that goes into producing a film, and unless you are a filmmaker you really have no idea. Writing, casting, finding a location, shooting, and editing; each step of the process can take days, months, and sometimes years to complete. Can you imagine doing it ALL in just 48 hours? The 48 Hour Film Project is an annual competition that takes place all over the world in various cities. According to Mike Madigan, head of the Detroit 48 Hour chapter, the city is one of the largest participating in terms of the number of teams. The competing teams go in blind as to what kind of film they will be producing, with no creative planning beyond getting a cast and crew together, Madigan explained. “They pick a genre out of a hat, and they get a line, a prop, and a character. And they have to incorporate that within a short film, that’s usually between 4 to 7 minutes long. And they have the timeframe of doing it all within 48 hours,” said Madigan, “So all the creative process of it all has to happen within that 48 hour–writing a script, putting it together, editing–to […]

    The post 48 to film — behind the scenes at the 48 Hour Film Project appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Passalacqua debut dark project ‘Church: Revival’ at new Hamtramck performance space

    Church: Revival is the new project by local rap duo Passalacqua (aka Bryan Lackner and Brent Smith), but it’s more than just a new Passalacqua release. The rappers teamed up with siblings Jax Anderson (frontwoman of rockers Flint Eastwood) and Seth Anderson, who together form the songwriting team called Syblyng (naturally). The result is a cycle of songs that promises to be darker than Passalacqua’s material so far. The project will make a live debut on Saturday, July 26 at a brand new venue space at the Detroit Bus Co.’s building Eight & Sand, and they will premiere the Right Bros.-directed video for the track “Baptism” as well. Other performances include Tunde Olaniran and Open Mike Eagle, and DJ sets by Nothing Elegant, Dante LaSalle, and Charles Trees. We met up the two duos at Eight & Sand to check out the new space and to talk about the project with all parties involved. Metro Times: How long have you been working together? Jax Anderson: Seth and I are constantly writing songs together. We want to push in the direction of becoming songwriters more frequently. This is our first project that we took on to co-write everything together. We’re basically just a songwriting entity. We won’t play live that […]

    The post Passalacqua debut dark project ‘Church: Revival’ at new Hamtramck performance space appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Detroit's vision and revision

Framework for change looks promising, but watch who controls the reins

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Which brings us back to Dan Pitera, an associate professor of architecture at UDM and executive director of the university’s Detroit Collaborative Design Center, which, as the school’s website notes, is focused on “fostering university and community partnerships that create inspired and sustainable neighborhoods and spaces for all people.”

As for Pitera, his online biography describes him as “a political and social activist masquerading as an architect.” He’s also someone who, long before becoming a key member of the Detroit Future City team, helped put together the Adamah (Hebrew for the word “earth”) Project.

How, we wondered, are the two connected?

There is a link, says Pitera, but not exactly what could be called a direct one. It’s not as if the planners involved in the Detroit Future City effort pulled out the Adamah Project blueprint and said, “Oh, yeah, we have to copy this and this and this.”

Where Adamah broke ground, at least in part, was in its recognition of the fact that Detroit isn’t ever again going to be what it once was: an industrial powerhouse that’s home to nearly 2 million people. A new vision of the city had to be embraced by planners, and Adamah was an attempt to do that on a small scale.

In that respect, explains Pitera, Adamah was a “catalyst” for looking at urban development in a new way. The idea wasn’t to find ways to recover what had been lost, but rather to realize that 21st century Detroit would be a metropolis much different than the city it once was.

The specific vision offered up by Adamah may not have found its way to reality, but the underlying framework, one that acknowledges the fundamental necessity of inclusion and collaboration rather than the top-down approach decried by Boggs, is key to the Detroit Future City effort, Pitera says.

Which may be why those involved in the project insist on calling it a “framework” and not a plan. A framework sounds as if it’s more flexible.

And it’s more than encouraging that the Detroit Future City team, as its promotional material boasts, conducted “hundreds of public meetings: had “30,000 conversations” and received more than 70,000 survey responses en route to creating the new framework.

Certainly, the 347-page document that is the result of all this offers a level of detail about what is currently going on in the city — in terms of who owns what abandoned and vacant properties, where economic opportunities exist and can be furthered, what types of environmentally beneficial projects can be pursued that will make the city more livable while improving the overall economy, and more. Detroit has never had a planning tool this detailed or this far-reaching.

Moreover, the framework — in a way we don’t recall having seen — recognizes that a comprehensive approach is vital if the city is eventually going to stop its decline and find a level at which it is truly sustainable. No one sector, be it local government or well-funded foundations or grassroots activists or the business community— can achieve the needed transformation be acting separately.

Collaboration, both vertically and horizontally, is crucial for this to all work. And for the Detroit Future City team to recognize this is more than encouraging. The fact that it held hundreds of public meetings “connecting with people over 163,000 times,” through both conversations and surveys, demonstrates that the people behind the new framework understand that input from the ground up is crucial to future success.

We have much to build on: a surplus of cheap land, an immense supply of fresh water at a time when shortages of that crucial resource are only expected to intensify around the globe, and a location well-positioned to capitalize on international trade.

And as the new framework acknowledges, no one aspect can occur in isolation. From a functioning public transit system, to the encouragement of entrepreneurs as a way to spur economic growth, to massively reworking the city’s zoning ordinances — all this and more needs to take place in a coordinated way involving government agencies, nonprofits, the private sector and the public at large.

But before we got too carried away with our enthusiasm and joined the rest of the media in offering what sounded to us like a near-unanimous “hurrah” for this new framework, we put in a call to Shea Howell, a decades-long Detroit community activist, a founding member of the Boggs Center and a journalism professor at Oakland University.

Like us, she saw the grassroots-based approach inherent in the Adamah Project, as well as the strategic framework subsequently created by the Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) project, as having laid the groundwork for crucial parts of the Detroit Future City effort.

And that encourages her. What concerns her, though, is what happens going forward.

It is not enough that the community  “buys into” what’s being proposed. Instead, it is crucial that the big money players — be it philanthropies, such as the Kresge Foundation, which last week pledged to provide $150 million to help implement aspects of the Detroit Future City plan, or major corporations, bankers and others— not be allowed to gain control of the reins going ahead.

The same is true of city officials.

Howell points to the recent decision by City Council to sell 170 acres of vacant land on the east side to one businessman for a project known has Hantz Farms — despite a massive outpouring of community-based opposition — as an example of going in the wrong direction.

For Detroit to halt its decline, and to become a sustainable city far into the future, for it to achieve the grand vision that’s found in the new framework, the real lesson of the Adamah Project has to be kept in mind:

The creativity that will save Detroit won’t come from bankers or bureaucrats or big foundations. It will emerge from those who are engaged in the struggle to survive, because their creativity — and their community — is fundamental to that survival. It is, in many ways, their greatest asset.

It is also Detroit’s greatest asset.

Taking that into account, and continuing to incorporate the ideas and energy of these people, and keeping their interests at the fore as things move forward, is absolutely crucial.

As Howell says, the question now is how this grand vision gets implemented.

“This is where things get interesting,” she says.

It is also when we will see how much has really been learned.

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