Alex Halperin: How Motor City Came Back From the Brink…and Left Most Detroiters Behind

Shout out to WPD member Tawana Petty for organizing this interview!

“On August 30, 2013, a billionaire businessman named Dan Gilbert arrived at the White House to discuss the future of Detroit. Gilbert, founder and  chairman of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, had already invested heavily in the city; in 2010 he moved Quicken’s headquarters from the suburbs to downtown and relocated several of his businesses along with 12,500 employees. Six weeks before that White House meeting, the city had filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. Gilbert was in Washington as part of an elite delegation to discuss federal assistance for the country’s most visibly dysfunctional city.

The heads of the Kresge and Ford Foundations—large philanthropies that have roots in Detroit’s industrial past and continue to invest in the city—were there, as well as the CEO of the Henry Ford hospital system and the then-chair of Wayne State University’s Board of Governors. According to the Detroit News, the group met with senior administration officials including then-HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, President Obama’s advisor Valerie Jarrett, and Gene Sperling, who was the director of the National Economic Council.

The months leading up to the bankruptcy highlighted the depth of Detroit’s ongoing problems. More than one-third of residents live in poverty and, since 2008, tax foreclosures have pushed 27,000 occupants out of their homes. Michigan’s Republican governor had appointed an emergency manager to run the city, with the authority to renegotiate or cancel union contracts, hire and fire government employees, and sell, lease and privatize local assets. The city was often unable to provide basic municipal services like streetlights that worked or alarms for the fire department. The schools? Don’t even ask. Read More

WPD Volunteer Webmaster in Detroit News for Knitting Hobby

The Detroit News posted an article about WPD volunteer webmaster Rich Samartino and his knitting hobby, which you can see here: “Handmade: Local volunteer surprised by his new hobby”

The article by Jocelynn Brown is re-posted below:

Rich Samartino with one of his projects. He says Detroit is more open to the idea of male knitters. (Photo: Photos by Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

“Rich Samartino, a graduate of Penn State where he majored in computer technology, says he never thought he’d be knitting, but in 2011, while working at Camphill Village in Kimberton, Penn., the now 26-year-old began learning the basics of the age-old craft.

“I was volunteering for a community program in Pennsylvania for people with developmental disabilities, and they have five art workshops where they spin yarn and knit. Both the volunteers and the people with disabilities knit,” he says. “I never knew anyone who knitted — then I was in a situation where everyone around me knitted.”

In 2014, he took a job at Detroit Mercy Volunteer Corp, part of a national faith-based program that’s “transforming lives, perspectives, the world.” He says, “I was looking for a job related to social justice and the program had an opening in Detroit. I live with three others in the same program, so my housemates all crochet and one knits. We do that a lot in our house, and I’ve invited people over from (another faith program in) Detroit to our house to knit, crochet or learn either one.” Read More

The Water Warrior: Monica Lewis-Patrick

Photo by Jacob Lewkow

This article about WPD co-founder Monica Lewis-Patrick originally appeared in the Detroit Metro Times

Ever hear of a societal problem, shake your head, and then say, “Man, something must be done about that,” only to get lost binge-watching some TV show on Netflix? The first part happens to 49-year-old Monica Lewis-Patrick, but unlike the rest of us, not the second part.

Lewis-Patrick was born into a family that believes deeply in service. She grew up in Kingsport, Tenn., but spent a lot of time visiting the Detroit area in her youth, where her grandparents had moved in 1952. Her mother was a nurse, a combat veteran, a union organizer, and simply a “one-woman social service entity; in our community she was the big mama. As a young kid I remember her taking me to organizing meetings around issues for mothers living in low-income housing,” she says.

In 1994, Lewis-Patrick and her family (including husband Sherman Patrick) started a nonprofit that provided school supplies to needy children. It was named Grandslam, in part because her grandfather is Willie Horton’s brother. It grew from a small fundraising event to a large organization that dispersed tens of thousands of dollars to low-income youth each year. Read More

Press Release: Citizens Faced With Water, Housing & Criminal Injustices Share Healing Stories

BENTON HARBOR, April 3, 2015  Please join the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion and organizers from The Bold & Brave Benton Harbor Coalition and the Greater Benton Harbor Community as they plan to honor the voices of those affected by racial inequity in the Benton Harbor area. The event will take place on April 11, 2015 at the Kindergarten Discovery Center Gym located at 1995 Union Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022 from 1-4pm. Come and listen as community members share their compelling stories of human issues as we find ways to work together to help solve them. Special appearances will also be made by Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty, an award winning author, poet and organizer as she performs some of her original pieces accompanied by Rich Samartino on guitar. The event is free but space is limited. Community members are asked to RSVP at or by calling 313.870.1500. Read More

Flint grassroots groups address inequity through stories: WCMU

Article originally posted at

Race 2 Equity screen image

Event planners for an upcoming event, plan to come up with solutions to local racial inequity, by using storytelling to convey key issues.

March 21 grassroots groups are hosting an event in Flint called “Healing Stories on Racial Equity”.

Organizers said it will focus on unique stories related to water, housing, and criminal justice.

Stacey Stevens is with the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.

She said in general, people often want data when looking at injustice issues – and in this case the stories are the data on inequity.

“We are using stories to be that data to highlight the patterns, to tell the individual story. And then to feed into a coalition that can use that information to create a vision for that change,” Stevens said.

She said the event is part of a series of events that started in Detroit and has since branched out to Genesee, Berrien, and Keewenaw Counties.

Debra Taylor is an organizer for the event.

She said one of the major topics up for discussion, is the issue of Flint’s water supply

“Many people that I know personally there seem to all have at least a $200 water bill per month. So you’ve got these extremely high water (bills) – and then you’re afraid to drink the water,” Taylor said. Read More Coverage of We the People of Detroit and Detroit’s Water Shutoffs, a German newspaper, wrote a story about Detroit’s water shutoffs and quoted co-founder Monica Lewis-Patrick (see quote toward the end of the article).

Click here for a pdf of the print layout of the article. See the online article here: Wasserlos in Detroit (in German).

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Read a Google Translate version of the article in English below: Read More

Campaign Atmosphere Amid Detroit Vote on Debt Plan

Article and images from

Cecily McClellan, a city employee of 24 years, with protesters across the street from federal bankruptcy court in Detroit last week. Credit Joshua Lott for The New York Times

July 9, 2014

“DETROIT — Until now, this city’s journey through bankruptcy has been a drama played out mostly by lawyers and mediators in courtrooms and conference rooms. But as thousands of city workers and retirees approach a Friday deadline to cast votes on the city’s plan to emerge from debt — a plan that depends in part on cutting their benefits — Detroit has taken on the feel of an all-out election campaign.

There are leaflets, newspaper and radio ads, and “Vote Yes” buttons. There is even a truck plastered with homemade signs that meanders through neighborhoods and that blares its “Vote No” message over loudspeakers.

The vote has divided retirees. It has stirred arguments between friends and tensions between leaders of retiree groups and some members. It has generated dissent over the very issue — benefits — that had often united workers. Some see it as a choice between practicality and principle: Accept the city’s offer now, or be dealt a draconian plan later. Read More