Tag Archives: J Dilla

I Get It…I Really Do…

I’ve come to realize that Detroiters have a mindset unlike many other urban areas. The mindset that Detroiters have is one that says that Detroit is the only place on Earth where there are difficulties – in the school systems, in the economy and in the workforce.

That mindset is untrue.

However, that mindset permeates throughout the community, regardless of how many times we see other urban school districts show their educational issues or hear about how many absentee fathers there are in other cities, or see other people talking about how difficult it is for them to pay bills and buy groceries. Detroiters still believe they stand out and alone in every area. To a degree, we do. But we don’t. We have the same identical issues that almost every other urban area in the United States has. We really do. The difference is that we don’t use the same mechanisms they use to change our situation here. We think we’re SO different from everyone else that what has been done somewhere else, just won’t work here, without even trying it first. That’s what keeps us separate and unequal.

Detroit doesn’t TRY to make changes using the examples set by leaders in other urban cities to change the way things are in Detroit. Detroiters don’t like change. They like to complain. Detroiters don’t believe in tearing down buildings to rebuild. They just build new buildings next to the old ones. Detroiters don’t like to try anything new. Detroiters just seem to like doing the same things the same way, over and over again.  

Fear of CHANGE holds us hostage in Detroit more than anything else does. And excuse making is holding the gun to our heads.

Although I am the first to admit that we do have issues, including the lack of reliable mass transportation that other urban areas do have, I get tired of people who live in Detroit complaining about what we don’t have instead of using what we do have to make things better. The idea that we don’t have successful people living, working and contributing in Detroit is why magazines like UPTOWN, which prints a monthly Detroit edition, only has about 4 pages in it about Detroit. As a publishing company I’m sure they are thinking ‘Why print it if no one cares?‘  As a businesswoman, I see their point of view. As a writer, I want a freelance job to prove them wrong and showcase my own talents.   

Entrepreneurs often have a difficult time using the ‘if you build it, they will come’ model of business ingenuity when it comes to Detroit.  There are so many people who live here, yet they don’t know what’s going on in the city, who people in the city are or what the city has to offer. However, other people move here from other cities, and countries, open businesses, become successful and talk about the opportunities the city has to offer like this city was built yesterday. 

Why is it that people outside Detroit see the potential in the city, but people who live here don’t?  I think that is a large part of all of the issues. If you live here, but don’t know what good there is here, how can you take advantage of it? That, of course, is rhetorical.

Detroiters complain about the school systems and that children aren’t receiving quality educations. Yet Detroiters don’t use head start programs for their children or build an educational and disciplinary foundation at home so teachers don’t have to be wardens and teachers for eight hours everyday. Teachers in DPS are some of the most underpaid and over qualified teachers in comparison to other school districts and charter and private schools. Detroiters complain about the lack of jobs. But when companies open locations in downtown Detroit and hire, they don’t apply because they don’t want to work downtown. Or people won’t seek and attend job training for jobs that are available because they want to stick to building cars. Detroiters complain that there aren’t any upscale venues to go to dine or be entertained, but when upscale venues open, they don’t support them. Then they complain when the venues close.

Detroiters are so hard to please.

No city is an island or the epitome of all-inclusive. I travel because I like to see what other cities have or don’t. I like the experience of something different from what I’m exposed to in Detroit on a daily basis. As a result, I see the differences and still appreciate what Detroit has to a degree that I don’t think many other people do. But I’m just one person. I vote, I’m involved in the community, I stand up and fight when necessary against the things I see that are wrong on behalf of others regularly. But I’m just one person who is trying to set an example that I hope someone else will continue one day. Yes, I get it…I really do. Detroit has its problems; education, transportation, economic and societal. But Detroit’s biggest problem is the people within the boundaries of it and how we see the city as a separate entity, independent from its citizens,  instead of as a result of what we don’t do to make it better.

Detroit makes you want to quit. In my travels I’ve experienced different types of events, venues, locations, and attractions. I would love to bring the new hotness here for people to enjoy. But just like everything else that is new, it takes Detroiters a long time to embrace it… or even notice it for that matter. By the time Detroit knows about something, it’s already extinct in other cities. Sometimes I feel like we’re the only city in the world moving backwards instead of forwards. I understand why creative people feel the need to leave the city. I get it…I really do. Thanks to the encouragement of my team, who worked so hard, I’m going to try, just a few more times to see if I can bring Detroit forward. I decided to press ahead with Sequins & Suits and coordinate it with the I Feel Good: Mind, Body & Soul Women’s Conference in August of this year. I’m changing venues, and eliminating the bad business relationships and bringing in people who want to partner and produce something positive, new and necessary.

BUT I’m not going to keep giving Detroiters chances to disappointment me over and over. Much like J. Dilla, I can take my talents elsewhere and leave a mark as a legend. I have those options and other cities love creative people with fresh ideas and approaches – particularly ones that can become financially lucrative.  And it doesn’t hurt that I’m pretty. So even if Detroit doesn’t believe in Super Woman, somewhere else definitely will. I’m going to do what I said I would, and hold to my commitments, because that is how I am. But Detroit needs to show up or there won’t be anymore Super Events held here.

♦ Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.  – Proverb 

Talent in Detroit

With all of the bad news, crime statistics and potential for receivership under an Emergency Financial Manager (regardless of what Mayor Bing said in his State of the City address a few days ago), we often forget about the talent that is deeply rooted and often overlooked in the City of Detroit. Detroit receives worldwide attention for the North American International Auto Show, the government scandals and the uprise of foreclosures leading to additional blight, but Detroit doesn’t receive the same level of attention for the talent that has grown and exists here. So many people have left the arms of the City of Detroit for the softer, greener pastures of Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York (where the competition is stiffer), in an effort to become break out stars. Many of whom have achieved that goal, while others have been sent running home with their tails tucked.

As I look at all of the talented people in Detroit, I sometimes overhear people stating that they want to step out on faith, leave the city and become successful elsewhere. This makes me wonder ~ If they put the same energy into remaining and working on their craft here, as they put into their plans for exodus, how successful would they become? The same plans a person has to become successful in another city, can be implemented for them to become successful in Detroit. Don’t get me wrong, I clearly understand that Detroit is behind the eight ball in technology, infrastructure, commerce and entertainment compared to larger urban meccas like Atlanta, the bright lights of Hollywood and the always busy streets of the Big Apple. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t improve. Improvement requires people with ideas, just as much as improvements cost money. I sometimes think that we’re getting what we get from our leadership simply because we don’t demand more from them. They have cut the arts from schools, they don’t appropriate Federal funds into the community the way they should and they would rather lay people off from work than have an Emergency Financial Manager uncover their corruption. This results in people losing hope and feeling that the promised land is elsewhere instead of underneath their feet. Those are some of the same issues other large cities have. It’s the national recession. It just hits cities like Detroit harder.

This weekend I had the privilege of attending Fashion in Detroit, an event sponsored and organized by Denise Ilitch (her father is the founder, owner and business mogul behind Little Caesar’s Pizza, the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers), and Joe Faris (Project Runway contestant and Michigan native); two individuals who obviously have business and creativity in their blood. The afternoon was full of beautiful fashions designed mostly by Detroiters. Yes, fashion is present and alive in The D. Have you ever heard of a talented young lady by the name of Tracey Reese? She’s a graduate of Cass Technical High School in DETROIT.  Have you heard of Kevan Hall? He also is a native Detroiter. Shoe designers Shane and Shawn are also Detroiters and graduates of Cass Technical High School. If you didn’t know this, please allow me the privilege of educating you briefly…

Detroit has been fashionable since it was named Motown.  

Then there are the big names in entertainment like Tim Allen, Jerry Bruckheimer, Ellen Burstyn, Francis Ford Coppola, Jeff Daniels, David Alan Grier, Madoon, Eminem, Tom Selleck, Kid Rock, the late Sonny Bono, the late Aaliyah, Blair Underwood, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Bill McKinney, Big Sean, J Dilla, Brandon T. Jackson, Anita Baker, Aretha Franklin, The Clark Sisters, The Winans, and many, many others. The list of heavy hitters in entertainer from Detroit is so long that it would take another 500 words for me to name them all. But I think you get the point. Detroit is full of talent. But we have to nurture its growth. Even if success eventually pulls people from the city, we need those people to be proud of where they came from. It doesn’t hurt for them to come back and visit sometimes. I honestly believe that if the most successful people who originated from Detroit, would occasionally show up and embrace this city as their home. and use their influence to improve the city’s image, the leadership here would be compelled to do a better job representing the community. That’s just my opinion and I could be wrong. But will anyone step up and attempt to prove me wrong with action? Worse case scenario: Detroit receives POSITIVE media attention.

I know that the city requires a lot of work to rise from the ashes of the last several years. I believe that it can be done. I”m working to do my part to change its image. But I’m just one person. And I’ve noticed that the Detroit community hasn’t quite embraced The Brand; mostly because it’s not what they are accustomed to. Michigan is a working class state. As a result, creativity is often frowned upon and viewed as mere craziness. This attitude results in talented people feeling the need to flee to other cities where they hope to be more “accepted”. I’m blessed to have the encourage of my supporters to keep me from feeling defeated by the lack of love I receive from my city. The first major publication to interview me was Rollin’ Out Magazine which is published out of Atlanta. The first talk show to contact me to make an appearance was also in Atlanta. There are a lot of opportunities for me in Atlanta, that I will take advantage of very soon. Taking those opportunities may result in me temporarily relocating, which I’ve planned for when the time comes. But my movie writing career is rooted here in Detroit (more on that forthcoming) and my business is headquartered here. These are things that will always spark me to declare that I’m Imported from Detroit. I hope that one day my city re-embraces creatives and supports the local talent more than it has over the last several years. If not, it won’t limit the opportunities for creatives elsewhere, but it will have a detrimental effect on the way the world views what was once called Motown.