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Gabriell Turner has a natural curiosity and desire to discover new things and take on creative challenges. He is a premier example of creative aging. Always a good story teller, Gabriell transitioned from his career in industry to not only writing and telling his own stories but to teaching others about creative writing in classes at the IOG. He was an early member of the Hannan writing classes conducted by WSU and after when the group continued as self led. He participated in Senior Voice and took on the project of getting the radio studio up and running again after the program concluded. He helped to initiate the Hannan Facebook site and recreate the Hannan website. Almost every time one stops by Hannan, Gabriell will be there participating in programming. During his many conversations with people it is rare to not learn something from one of the personal stories he shares, his latest project or book he is reading. All through these years he and his wife have taken care of young relatives, learning and teaching them along the way.
Proving that age is just a number, Tom Scallen began swimming as an adult after retiring from the MI Office of the Attorney General. Shortly thereafter, he joined the ranks of Detroit swims at the Boll Family YMCA as a volunteer instructor and lifeguard. For years, Tom has quietly volunteered his time and skills to Detroit youth to ensure that all children, no matter their background, can not only be safe in the water, but also enjoy it as much as he does. He is an integral member of this volunteer-run team, humbly sharing his love of swimming with his community. I look up to Tom as someone who goes beyond their own sport and fitness goals to welcome others into and serve others in the swimming community. He is an amazing example of low ego, high impact.
The combination of Mary Ellen O’Brien’s boisterous personality and heavy Bostonian accent made for warm and welcoming calls that she would place to isolated seniors enrolled in the Friendly Reassurance Program while she was enrolled in the Senior Community Service Employment Program. When an opening became available to join The Senior Alliance as a full-time employee in our Care Transitions Program to place weekly follow up phone calls to seniors who were recently discharged from the hospital, Mary Ellen was a natural choice. Although the job required that she learn new software and documentation procedures, she easily passed her required training to become a Certified Care Transitions Coach, and quickly was able to bring her unique skillset helping motivate people to follow their care plans, and avoid hospitalizations. Many of the hundreds of patients she worked with each month eagerly awaited her weekly phone call, and followed through with their discharge instructions to receive their verbal “A++” from Mary Ellen. When the agency was preparing to move onto its new 33-acre campus, there was an urgent need to create a “small” area of scenic landscaping to welcome the employees into the new building. Mary Ellen was given $40 and asked if she wouldn’t mind picking up a “few” flats of flowers and spending an afternoon planting them. Like any project that she is given, Mary Ellen went way above and beyond. She spent hundreds of dollars of her own money and countless hours of her own time in the evenings and weekends over the next year decorating the landscaping across the campus. The everchanging displays of floral arrangements, bird feeders, and other décor are a testament to the improvements that Mary Ellen has made to our campus and our everyday lives. Now working as an Information and Assistance Specialist at The Senior Alliance, Mary Ellen continues to show up every day full of energy and enthusiasm for the day’s work ahead of her. It is not uncommon to see Mary Ellen out on her lunch break or after work, swiftly walking around downtown Wayne easily outpacing people 50 years her younger, no matter the weather. Her excitement for life is so contagious that it’s a challenge for anyone to spend just five minutes with her and not walk away feeling rejuvenated. There are so many people over 70 who are shining examples of how to live life to the fullest, but there is only one Mary Ellen O’Brien whose favorite quotes to share with those facing life’s many challenges is, “ Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.”
Evelyn “Evey” Millstein is a retired librarian who worked tirelessly throughout her adult career to promote African American history as an essential component of American history throughout the K-12 curriculum. After retiring, at age 86, she wrote and published her first book, The Underground Railroad: A Movement That Changed America. Now 87, Evey has been giving readings of her book at public libraries across the metro Detroit area during the past year. Her book is a ground-breaking account of the important role of African Americans as the leaders of the first interracial movement in our country that helped destroy slavery.
As a long-time educator, Sophia Holley Ellis, age 90, has touched the lives of hundreds of students, AND she has remained connected to them – still sharing stories and showing by example that learning is a lifelong process. I submit this nomination for Lifelong Learning because learning has never stopped for Sophia Ellis! A little about Sophia: As a German teacher at Martin Luther King High School in Detroit, her students came in at the #1 position in more than one high school German competition — quite an accomplishment for African American students. And in 1990, impressed with Sophia ‘s accomplishments, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages adopted her explosive style of teaching – quite an accomplishment for an African American teacher who first taught biology. Given that, it’s not surprising that at age 80, she decided to learn Arabic. Mastering the Arabic alphabet with the twisted fingers caused by arthritis was probably the hardest – but she persevered. And she was as comfortable in the classes at the Arab-American National Museum as she was in her own classrooms year before. Why Arabic? “To learn about the people, to better understand our world,” she says. “The same reason I wanted to learn German when I was three.” Sophia is wheelchair-bound now, so the instructor – who became a friend – comes to her at an assisted-care facility. And in exchange, Sophia teaches him English. Sophia’s dedication to learning extended beyond academic subjects and into that of her own body. While in a rehabilitation center, relearning everything after an abdominal surgery she would refuse to have the aide take the metal cover off of her meal plate. She would say to the aide, pleasantly but with determination: “No, thank you. I have to learn how to do that myself.” And indeed, Sophia was re-learning everything – especially all that was required of her fingers. During her six months of rehab in 2000, nothing deterred the positive, tenacious, determined, faith-filled spirit that has defined Sophia Ellis – sometimes getting her in trouble, but always working to her advantage. Even the curious three-year-old still lives within Sophia, and she says it best: “I’m not a life-long learner. Learning is lifelong.” Sophia admits she didn’t prepare to live to age 90. But at 90, she’s preparing to live to 150!
Curlene is a retired educator and administrator of the Detroit Public Schools. She served as assistant principal of Murray Wright High School, and principal of Beaubien Middle School and Golightly Voc/Tech Center. Curlene has touched many lives and never forgets a student. She has been known to approach them many years later and congratulate them on their accomplishments. Curlene Collins is a graduate of Tennesse State University and a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., and above all an educator who supports others in their pursuit of learning.
Fr. Frank Canfield, S.J., has dedicated his life to helping young men develop into “men for others, for the greater glory of God.” He did this at U of D Jesuit High School in Detroit for more than 20 years before being called to St. John’s in Toledo and St. Ignatius in Cleveland. He is currently living at Colombiere, the Jesuit Retreat House in Clarkston, Michigan. Fr. Canfield has been a Latin and English teacher, as well as counselor and principal, but in all things he is a learner. Nearing 80, he still quotes poetry remembered from decades ago with gusto, as if he is sharing a secret he knows you want to hear. He remembers not just names and faces from all of the kids he taught, but the stories of their families and the challenges they have gone through. When he is with you, he treats you as if you are the only person on earth. His lifelong quest for learning comes not just from his teaching and the many books he has read, it comes from the friendships and trials he has helped people through, the love and prayers he has shared with them, and the stories he tells to help you feel the love of God for you in all things.
Grace Blakely has a great passion for learning. For more than 17 years Grace has been deeply engaged in classes and special projects in the Hannan Center for Lifelong Learning. In the SeniorVoice Project, Grace received an award for The Best Town Meeting” in which she produced a show on “Senior Scams and Swindles.” She also received an award for “The Best Short Story.” Grace has received three ribbons for her art from the Michigan State Fair for her artist submission. Grace also is a participant in the theater class with which she recently performed at the Hilberry Theatre and the Charles H. Wright Museum. Grace continues the never-ending pursuit of knowledge and is always open to the possibilities if learning.
Julie is a quiltmaker and a wonderful storyteller that actively pursues her interests including classes of life-long learning at the Hannan Center. She shows a dedicated and disciplined commitment to the making of art. Over the last two years of her participation in the visual journaling class, she has shared herself and her stories with animation and a joy that emerges from every word she speaks, even in her telling about falling down the basement stairs and her recovery that did not stop her from attending classes with walker in hand. In her artist statement that she wrote for an exhibit that she recently in at Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor she says that she “learned to appreciate nature, people, traffic and, of course, the beautiful Belle Isle.” For over 10 years, Ms. Baker has been a member of the Hannan Center fine arts class and now is learning to create poetry. Her works have been exhibited at a number of galleries in southeast Michigan. A recent self-portrait of Julie was made to show who she is. “All the colors floating around in her head and that prolonged stare of hers. She is wondering the best way to capture what she is seeing.” Julie’s commitment to learning shows through in the way she listens with great interest and asks pertinent inquisitive questions to the subjects proposed in her classes. She is an asset to the classes in which she participates and continues to grow considerably as an artist.
Ismael Ahmed has spent his career working for the betterment of the community around him, leading organizations such as the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Service (ACCESS), which he founded in 1971, and the Michigan Department of Human Service before accepting an appointment to serve as the associate provost for Integrated Learning and Community Partnerships at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
Even before his position at the university, Ismael has been a lifelong supporter of learning, whether in traditional education settings, or in the world at large. He’s been a supporter of the cultural and arts communities, and in leading ACCESS was often called upon by members of the media to serve as an expert source.
In his position as provost, Ismael is responsible for connecting academic initiatives with the community. Working closely with the university’s deans and faculty, he helps to foster an institutional perspective that engenders collective leadership and builds support for academic programs that engage community partnerships.
Prior to accepting the provost position, he spent decades leading ACCESS where he was a champion of education, fighting for equal opportunity education. He has been a longtime advocate of investment in education, which he sees as essential to not only students’ wellbeing, to lifting immigrant communities to prosperity, but to democracy itself. He has been a public proponent of strengthening public education and of demanding that charter schools be held to the same standards as public schools. He has been a public advocate of updating teaching methods in schools, which has argued are seriously outdated relics that prepared students to fill professional positions that no longer exist, and are inadequate to prepare students who are entering careers in the digital age.
He has demonstrated his commitment to education by serving as a contributing author to Arabs in America: Myths and Reality, and has written for the Woodrow Wilson Foundation publication, Arab American Political Participation in the United States. He has hosted multicultural music programs on local public radio, and for three consecutive years was a guest speaker on U.S. and Arab relations at the Foreign Ministers Meeting of the League of Arab States.
He serves or has served on multiple governing boards, including:
Nearly 100 years old, Irving Steinberg is not afraid to hit on women 30 years younger; he still plays poker and enjoys his “booze”—Vodka to be specific. While he’s never used the Internet, or even a smartphone, he somehow finds jokes that can make a whole room laugh. Irving has lived a long, fulfilled life. Yet his life was not always easy, he served in D-Day in World War II. He worked for General Motors in accounting when the war broke out. A good employee, his boss wanted to promote him and give him a “free pass” from serving in the war. He told his boss, “Thank you for the opportunity, but they’re killing my people over there, and I have to go, or I could never live with myself.” As a Jewish man, serving in the war was especially critical to him. In the army, Irving Steinberg held various positions from the cavalry to being in charge of supply chains, so troops could receive food, weapons and medical supplies. He made sure no soldier went without a pair of boots under his watch. Yet his biggest test came in June 1944 when he saw more bloodshed and dead bodies on Omaha Beach in a few hours than most people see in a lifetime. Irving, thankfully, made it out alive. And for his service, he earned the Bronze Star, awarded to front line troops whose ranks suffer the most casualties and face the greatest danger. It’s unknown how many men Irving helped during the war, but Irving’s bravery and willingness to sacrifice his life for his country and people is why there is freedom. When Irving returned home, he started a soap business with his brother in Detroit that had much success selling its products to auto makers and local businesses. Irving got married, had two kids and became active in the Jewish community. To acknowledge his service, those close to him call him still call him, “The Major.” Today, The Major spends his days writing poems about decades past and the atrocities he witnessed on that bloody beach. Just until a few years ago, he stilled played golf and drove around town. His memory remains sharp, but his body eventually caught up to his age. While WWI was a tough battle, he’s fighting to make it to his first grandchild’s wedding May 5, 2018. He’ll turn 100 the next day. He’s s hero for the civic leadership he displayed 70-plus years ago and for bringing smiles to the people he encounters every day.
Felix Sirls has made an amazing contribution to the State of Michigan through his work with the Detroit Health Department, serving under three administrations before retiring as a Substance Abuse and HIV CTR counselor. He continues to volunteer with many organizations and when students, clergyman, and activists ask for someone knowledgeable of HIV services in Detroit, he is sought out for his expertise. Organizations he’s served include MATEC Midwest AIDS Training and education center, WSU youth programs, Gospel Against AIDS and more. He currently sits on a few community advisory boards and served many as Co-Chair with the Michigan HIV AIDS Council MHAC, Southeast Michigan HIV/AIDS Council SEMHAC. He was elected by Governor Granholm to serve as a council member for the Michigan Rehabilitations Council MRI and continues to assist those in need with all disabilities when called upon. It is not uncommon for Felix to drive neighbors to a treatment center on this way to the grocery store and he always gives his time to those who are struggling including those recently released from incarceration. He has connected many men with the service providers who could and did offer help. Felix has worked in this field in three states where his reputation precedes him. He has yet to turn down anyone and is somehow able to keep up with his lengthy schedule. That schedule includes travelling across the state to give lectures and assist MDCH in providing certifications training; performing his love for poetry where he has published three works of art. Finally, a program that is currently no longer in existence through DHWP supported men in mending relationships with their community and family. The men whom benefited through those efforts and Felix’s work within the program continue to thank him for giving love and patience to them while building bridges for families healing and recovering. Felix is married to Paula Sirls and through their blended union there are nine children, 21 grandchildren and one great-grandchild whom he loves and adores. Felix has helped countless individuals and they return to thank him for his intervention when they were at their lowest. Felix remains committed to helping people in need and those who are in recovery.
Born in 1947, Phillip O’Jibway, of the OJibwe Tribe of Native Americans, grew up in the downriver area of Michigan. He now resides in Royal Oak, MI, where he has lived for several years. Phillip came out as a gay man early in life and was one of a few brave individuals to stand up for gay rights in the early 80’s, as community member of the Michigan Organization for Human Rights (MOHR) – an organization that would later divide into Equality Michigan (previously known as Triangle Foundation), Affirmations, and the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project. He at the forefront of the movement at a time when few would come out of the closet and was also a member of the Association of Suburban People – a precursor organization. With the onset of the AIDS Crisis, Phil worked tirelessly to help build up and support the community – working as lead editor and newsmagazine producer for Cruise Magazine – one of the few magazines targeting gay men in the 1990s and into the 2000’s.
Phillip grew up amongst many brothers and sisters, one of whom has lived with a disability requiring a great deal of care. Phil has been her primary caretaker for many years and is the go-to person for her medical providers and specialists. He’s on their speed dial whenever something happens and is right there by her side to help out. Phil does this all while managing his own health conditions and living on a limited income.
Though now retired, Phil recently became involved with SAGE Metro Detroit – an organization dedicated to serving the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. In short order, he proved his value, applied and was accepted on the Board of Directors serving the organization. He also serves on the Marketing Committee and has been instrumental in helping the organization launch a quarterly printed newsletter for LGBT older adults.
Phillip O’Jibway truly is an unsung hero. A soft-spoken man and former public school teacher, he has touched many lives and has often been “behind-the-scenes” to help his family out and make his community better.
After a career with Detroit Diesel, Harold wanted to continue working and do something in the non-profit sector. He became a counselor with Operation Able of Michigan and was assigned to an office at Hannan. Being an older worker himself, he established good relationships with his clients to whom he related. When Hannan expanded the service coordinator program an opportunity was available for him to join the fledgling program providing a wide variety of assistance to seniors in two buildings. A service coordinator must be skilled in working with people and knowledgeable about a lot of areas to be effective. Additionally, he must be flexible, creative and persistent to meet the needs of clients. Harold was and continues to be all of that. He has a generous and kind spirit at work, and it is clear he has and will continue to make a difference in the lives of all those he comes across.
This dynamic over 70 duo are a rock and inspiration for the Jefferson Chalmers community on Detroit’s far eastside. They lead and participate in several community groups, quaterbacking intergenerational activities, community organizing, advocacy for park restorations and diversity. Minnie and Eddie Lester lead by example and give immeasurable love and support back to the community they have called home for decades and serve unconditionally. Most recently in 2017, they have advocated for improvement to Mariners and Hansen parks in Jefferson Chalmers and participated in the focus groups for the Detroit 67 placemaking grant awarded to Fox Creek Park which served as a point of unity for Detroit and the Grosse Pointes as well as age and racial diversity. These committed community leaders enjoy their work through Creekside Community as well and have helped provide a framework and programming for Grow Detroit Young Talent involvement ranging from habitat restoration projects, to skills development thru a local youth group and church. Their love for the community, steadfast faith in a stronger Detroit, positive attitude and tireless work can felt and seen in every block and face of Jefferson Chalmers and Jefferson Chalmers would not be what it is today without their commitment and influence.
Thomas J. Jankowski has lived a lifetime of quiet service. After serving in the US Air Force, he returned to his hometown and joined the Wyandotte Fire Department, serving as a firefighter and emergency medical technician for nearly three decades and retiring as Assistant Chief. After his retirement, he started a second career as Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Fire Fighters and spent 10 years serving the interests of first responders across the state. Throughout his life, Tom has been a consummate volunteer. He has worked with organizations such as the Red Cross, the American Heart Association, the Salvation Army, his church, and too many others to list. He has raised money for countless charitable causes, packed bags in food pantries, taught CPR, worked with schoolchildren, and served on every local commission, committee, and task force he has been asked to join. His primary devotion to service has been through the Kiwanis organization, where he has been a member for several decades, first in Wyandotte and currently in Garden City. He has been elected president of both clubs and has served as Lt. Governor of the Michigan Kiwanis. In 2008, the year he turned 70, his wife Susan was diagnosed with cancer. He became her caregiver, spending six difficult years nursing her through bone marrow transplants, driving her to treatments and appointments, and providing for her every need as her health failed. Susan died at home in 2014 after a valiant battle, and through it all Tom never left her side. After Susan died, he could have stayed at home and mourned her loss, but instead Tom honored her life by redoubling his community service efforts. He was elected to lead the Garden City Kiwanis because of his reputation as a reliable, generous, easygoing, good humored, and hard working leader whose sole motive is to serve his community, especially its children. Since being elected he has led several extraordinary projects, including annual Christmas and Easter programs for scores of low-income families with children, a “Kids Day in the Park” event that recently drew 600 children and their families, a partnership with the local schools to provide each third grade student with a free dictionary every year, fund raising events for the local Family Resource Center, and volunteer events where Kiwanis members teach elementary school children how to build a bird house. He has boosted the Garden City Kiwanis fundraising efforts and is leading the club to attain 501(c)(3) non-profit status. Tom will be 80 years old in a few months and he no plans to slow down. Tom Jankowski has never cared about recognition for his lifetime of service and continues to go on serving others.
By Cathy’s senior year of college, she knew she wanted to teach. In pursuit of that she went on to post graduate work earning her Doctorate of Education. Cathy was primarily a kindergarten teacher for 36 years in the Detroit and St. Clair Shores Public Schools. During that time, Cathy was active in both the Detroit Federation of Teachers and the Michigan Education Association. She participated in many academic committees around early education and wrote the Developmental Kindergarten Program for Macomb County.
Her service throughout this time extended far beyond the classroom. In the early 70s Cathy and her husband began a lifelong commitment to their Scottish heritage, becoming active in the St. Andrews Society of Detroit, the oldest benevolent society in Michigan. Its mission is to help the poor and indigent as well as to promote Scottish heritage and customs and all funds raised go to various local charities. Cathy has held many offices in the organization including a three-year term on the Board of Trustees. Cathy is currently General Chairman of the Annual Highland games, a position she has held for 17 years. It is a one-day event to promote Scottish customs and raise money for its charities. Last year it had 12,000 attendees and raised $50,000. Cathy was also the impetus behind the St. Andrews Society taking up the Children’s Hospital clothes closet as one of their charities.
Beyond her work with the St. Andrew’s society, Cathy served as the President of the Abraham Lincoln Civil War Roundtable of Michigan which studies the history of the civil war, sponsoring conferences and symposiums. For eight years Cathy was the Chairman of the Midwest Civil War conference.
17 years ago, Cathy and three friends wanted to give back to their community and help those in need so they developed and implemented a project called The Shower of Love. It was to provide baby clothes and money to support the clothes closet at Childrens Hospital of Michigan, a service to provide indigent new mothers with clothing for their babies. They sponsored a dinner and gathered all their friends and relatives and asked them to bring clothing for the clothes closet. As of this year this event has raised more than $800,000 in money and clothing.
Cathy has been on the board of the Michigan Philharmonic Symphony, formerly the Plymouth Symphony, for eight years and is currently President of the Friends of the Philharmonic which raises money for the orchestra. Cathy had been a docent for the Plymouth Historical Society and The Henry Ford (formerly Greenfield Village) for 10 years. During that time, she was editor of the Henry Ford volunteer newsletter.
Concurrent with her community involvement, Cathy has been a caregiver for many years. She provided care for her husband for eight years before his death in 2015. She provided care for four years for her sister and brother-in-law before their deaths in 2016. She took care of close friends for eight years including cooking meals and providing transportation to appointments. Currently Cathy provides respite once a week for a mother whose adult son is severely disabled. Cathy has is deeply dedicated to service across age and with her support many organizations and charities receive funds to pursue their missions.
Ozella Falls is 79 years old and is grandmother of 12 and great-grandmother of 13. She and her husband Frank have been married for 35 years. She had three children of her own, but lost one of them, Karen, to cancer a few years ago. When invited by a volunteer who met Ozella while working on her home through Life Remodeled, to supervise food service at the SAY Detroit Play Center in her Osborn neighborhood, she initially declined. She was apprehensive about returning to work after having been retired but with support from her family and hope that the opportunity would help with her grief she eventually accepted. On the first day, Ozella brought in brand new towels, serving spoons, and other touches to make the small kitchen look and feel like home. And she has continued to make it feel like home every day that she’s been there. Ozella feeds more 75 young people aged 8 to 18 through the food service program and with that nourishment they are able to healthily play sports like football, basketball, and baseball. But, what all of the young people enjoy the most is the meal made each day for them by Ozella. Food for the young people is brought by Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries and donated by local grocery stores and restaurants. Ozella is somehow, almost miraculously, able to turn disparate types of food into a delicious, home-cooked meal each day. The young people all compete for the chance to help Ozella each day, just so they can spend time with her before or after each meal. Ozella is part and parcel of the Greatest Generation. She is immaculately dressed each day, quick with a kind remark, a hearty laugh and loving smile, but more importantly with a compassionate ear, wise advice and the experience of a life-well lived to help the young people and staff live better lives.
For over 45 years Yvonne has single handedly take care of an entire neighborhood. In addition to her own children, she maintained an open door to her blue collar and often single parent community. Her open door ensured that her neighbors were welcomed to support as well as family dinners. She would teach young people from the neighborhood skills like sewing and cooking and lead fun activities like line dancing. Yvonne had five children, then (shortly after a divorce) she adopted 5 more children. She adopted children who were facing crisis, who could potentially be separated by the Health and Human Services system, and who needed the stability of being with friends and families. After her best friend and neighbor passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage, Yvonne adopted her three children. And when her youngest sister who had been struggling with drug addiction passed away Yvonne adopted her two children as well creating a family of children ranging from 12-22 years old. Her child raising didn’t stop there though, she is currently raising grandchildren with two of the four living with her. After many pleas from family, friends, and neighbors, Yvonne opened a restaurant in her neighborhood where she continued to extend her support to the people of her neighborhood.
She was and always there for everyone.
Abdulelah dedicated his life to educating his daughters and granddaughters even when everyone opposed educating girls. He ensured that they all finish college, work, and choose their own path in life. He has and continue to support tens of family numbers here and abroad, financially, mentally, physically and emotionally even when he himself does not have much. Generations of family men were able to enjoy their youth and finish their education while he is supporting them and working in the factory until age 74. Even though he is not educated and never received any formal training, he is very handy, creative, talented, and man ahead of his time. If Abdule had the right opportunities he would have been a big name either as a thinker, inventor, or civic leader. But he ensured that what he did not have access to, his daughters specially will have so THEY can accomplish what life has prevented him from accomplishing. At 79, he is still going strong taking care of everyone around him.
Dr. John Telford has done a great service for The Detroit Public System as an administrator, teacher, after school programs and by mentoring urban youth for programs at Central Methodist church and elsewhere in the City of Detroit. Dr. Telford is a Detroit Public Schools alumnus, teacher, championship coach, and administrator John Telford was named Wayne State University’s Alumnus of the Year in 2001 and a Joe Louis Memorial Foundation Spirit-of-the-Champ Awardee in 2011 for human-rights activism. A former international track star, Dr. Telford has been given a number of similar awards, and he is a member of four sports halls of fame. A practicing poet and the author of six Detroit-oriented books and more than a thousand newspaper columns, Telford directed or served on the boards many human-rights oriented agencies and in 2012-2013 served pro bono as the Superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools under state-imposed emergency financial management. He has administrated in four suburban school districts and one college, and he has taught at WSU and Oakland University and coached at UD-Mercy. His radio show can be heard live Saturday mornings on 1340AM at 9:30. Throughout his six-decades as an educator, he has fought a number of well-publicized battles for minority rights–often at significant risk to his career and even his life. Former student, renowned self-help author, and lifelong friend Dr. Wayne Dyer, who wrote the Introduction to Dr. Telford’s book ‘What OLD MEN Know,’ said in 2014 that John Telford has a warrior’s heart and a poet’s soul. His latest book, ‘The Poet-Emperor of EARTH,’ is an allegorical dialogue between God and man. His book of poems has been described by Washington, D.C. commentator Greg Thrasher who says “Telford breathes with a laser-like satiric brilliance.”
When Nettie Seabrooks graduated from Marygrove College in 1955 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, she was unable to find a job in her chosen field. As an African American woman, there were many doors that were not open to her. Taking the advice of the chemistry department head at the college, she enrolled in a master’s degree program in Library Science at the University of Michigan. With that degree in hand, and her content knowledge expertise, she began a 30+ year career at General Motors. During her time with the company, she moved progressively into more areas of responsibility, culminating in a director level position as the highest ranking African American woman executive at the company. At the invitation of Dennis Archer she retired from GM and joined him in city government. She served four years as Deputy Mayor, and then became Chief of Staff to the mayor, and Chief Operating Officer for the city of Detroit. She is the first and only woman to serve in this role. Following her service in city government, Nettie joined the DIA as Chief Operating Officer. During her 10 years in the position, she oversaw the expansion of the museum and its major renovation. At the same time that she was facilitating the transformation of the museum from a city entity to an independent 501(c) 3 organization, Nettie completed a second master’s degree in Art History from Wayne State University. Subsequently she served as the Executive Advisor to the Director. In 2012 she retired again. However, her service did not end at that time. She began and continues her role as a major consultant to the Manoogian Foundation. Throughout her career, Nettie Seabrooks has been engaged in service to the community. She has served on numerous boards, including Marygrove College, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the Detroit Medical Center, and VHS of Michigan. In recognition of her many contributions Nettie has received two Honorary Degrees from the University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College. Marygrove has recognized her as a Distinguished Alumna, and she is the recipient of a Woman of Achievement and Courage Award from the Michigan Women’s Foundation. Further, her life and successful career have been recognized by Cohen and Bradford in their book, Influence Without Authority where she is the subject of a case study. Nettie Seabrooks has a great capacity for cultivating strong and positive relationships. She is proactive in her approach, and open to change. She believes that no one should limit themselves. She is a competent, compassionate woman who has been committed throughout her life to making this a better world. She has spent the greater part of eight decades in service to others and she has been a successful role model for other African American women.
One writer said of Dr. Glenda Price in a profile, “Price’s resume is remarkable and long. It looks like it might contain several lifetimes’ worth of professional and volunteer endeavors …” And that’s true. She has served in many prestigious academic positions, and on the boards of numerous professional associations and has worked as a clinical laboratory scientist. Most recently, she was the president of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation, a position to which she was appointed in 2012 and from which stepped down earlier this year.
In her position with the Foundation, Dr. Price oversaw the soliciting and stewarding of private philanthropic donations to support programs that benefit Detroit students, including DPS Reading Corps, early childhood education, fine and performing arts programs, math and science competitions for students, principal development and teacher enhancement.
Glenda is a native of Pennsylvania who earned her PhD in Philosophy and Educational Psychology from Temple University. She served as Provost of Spelman College in Atlanta, as professor and assistant dean at the College of Allied Health Professions at Temple, and as the dean of the School of Allied Health Professions at the University of Connecticut. She was president of Marygrove College, retiring in 2006. But her retirement was short-lived, and in 2008, she agreed to serve as interim president of the Michigan Colleges Foundation, a position she held from Jan. 1 through June 30, 2008.
She served as Director of Compuware Corporation from October 2002 until November 2013. Dr. Price served as a Director of LaSalle Bank Corporation and a Member of the ABN AMRO Group. She is a Trustee of Alma College.
Additionally, she has served on numerous boards of directors for companies and professional associations including:
President of the American Society for Medical Technology, the largest professional organization for laboratory practitioners at the time. She is the only African American who has held this office.
Chief delegate from the U.S. to the International Association for Medical Laboratory Technologists
Advisory Board of Detroit Executive Service Corps
President of the National Certifying Agency for Medical Laboratory Personnel
Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions Board of Directors
Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education
Focus: HOPE Board of Directors Chair
Detroit Symphony Orchestra Board Secretary
Detroit Institute of Arts Board
Detroit Cristo Rey High School
Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
Council of Michigan Foundations
Detroit Receiving Hospital
The YES Foundation
Financial Advisory Board for the City of Detroit
James L Meyer, aka “Jimeyer” has undergraduate degrees from Sacred Heart Seminary College in Detroit and Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C. He has a Master’s in International Relations from Georgetown University Graduate School of Foreign Service and Government and a Juris Doctor from Detroit College of Law. On his last sabbatical, he took women’s studies courses at University of Detroit Mercy. Rev. Meyer directed the Pastoral Care Department of Hutzel Hospital in the Detroit Medical Center for over a third of a century where his chosen specialties were gynecologic oncology, orthopedics, intensive care and biomedical ethics. At various times staff and/or volunteer chaplain at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Harper Hospitals, he specialized in cystic fibrosis and intensive care. Jimeyer has served on the boards of Michigan Pulmonary Disease Community, Inc. (MPDCI), Metropolitan Detroit Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID), Kensington Academy, Chateau Chantal Winery & Inn in Traverse City, Michigan and Mendoza, Argentina, as well as the Professional Advisory Committee of Karmanos Hospice Program and the Biomedical Ethics Committee of the Wayne County Medical Society (WCMS). He has hosted summer camps for children who might not have the opportunity to travel to the northern part of Michigan. The camp began as one for children dealing with diseases such as cystic fibrosis, but grew to include youth who may have never have left their own cities or counties. Fr. Meyer continues to work as a senior Roman Catholic priest. He has served in the Archdiocese of Detroit for 51 years as of June, 2011. He is also an attorney and was a certified social worker, specializing in grief counseling, both licensed by the State of Michigan. Current activities include management of Chalfonte House and Ryan Giannini Park (RGP) and directing the Chalfonte Foundation as President and CEO. Jim proudly resides in the City of Detroit.
Dr. Stuart Kirschenbaum has, for the past 47 years, given unselfishly of himself. He has endured the some of the worst that can be dealt in urban areas—armed robberies, break-ins, attempted car jackings—including several years ago the murder of an office worker and arson of his entire medical practice. The arson destroyed medical records of over 30,000 patients that he has served for almost half a century but also destroyed one of the world’s largest Joe Louis memorabilia collections that was to be placed in a Michigan Boxing Hall of Fame that he founded. At 72 years old, he decided not to retire but to rebuild in Detroit, now in the New Center area that he may serve those and the city he loves. Dr. Kirschenbaum has served as State Boxing Commissioner under 4 different Governors and build incredible relationships with the boxing world. When Martha Louis, the widow of Joe Louis, became ill and forgotten in a metro Detroit nursing home it was Dr. Kirschenbaum who assumed the role of guardian and took care of her in the last years of her life. He donated an 11 foot statue of his friend Muhammad Ali to the Wright Museum, and supported imprisoned boxers by representing them at parole hearings and offering mentorship. Along with Sen. Carl Levin, Dr. Kirschenbaum was presented by the City of Detroit the glove that Joe Louis wore to knock out Max Schmeling and symbolically defeat Aryan supremacy. He was honored by Sports Illustrated and the Detroit Institute of Arts with the prestigious Joe Louis Award in recognition of his humanitarian efforts as well. Dr. Kirschenbaum was inducted into the Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Kronk Gym Foundation and the late Emanuel Steward honored Kirschenbaum with their first “Friends of Kronk Humanitarian Award.” He was the recipient of the Joe Louis “Brown Bomber Jacket” in a ceremony at the Charles H. Wright Museum in 2010. By challenging the establishment and fighting for the induction of Detroit boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson, he forced the reorganization of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and won Robinson his rightful place. Dr. Kirschenbaum publicly denounced and organized a boycott of a Michigan Boxing judge associated with Neo-Nazi activities in a true show of his intolerance towards prejudice. George Puscas of the Detroit Free Press called Dr. Kirschenbaum “the best boxing commissioner this stare ever had…nobody in Michigan and nobody in his time nationally handled a boxing commissioner’s job with the devotion, intelligence and effectiveness of Kirschenbaum.” Dr. Kirschenbaum has devoted his entire professional career of 47 years to serving the health needs of the citizens of Detroit and has led many causes for fairness and equality in the African American community.
Thomas Kelly, 103, has been performing and leading a cappella gospel quartets since he was a teenager in 1926 building upon a rich tradition of not just gospel music but the perhaps underappreciated craft of a cappella gospel music that had a great influence on Motown and rob. The self-taught musician’s first quartet was called the Marine Harmony Four.
In the 1930’s he sang live on the radio as well as toured the country performing.
with 80 years of experience, Kelly is currently the lead singer and manager of the Masters of Harmony who have been performing together for many years. They continue to deliver smooth and polished performances around the city. Recently, he performed in the Ellen Kayrod Gallery for the opening reception of a Gospel Photo Exhibition as well as on Steve Harvey’s Little Big Shots.
Henry Johnson, VP Emeritus for the University of Michigan and former Board Chair (presently board member) for Presbyterian Villages of Michigan, has been a servant leader for his entire life. “The world does not revolve around you,” he’s said. Henry’s career began in mental health and he has maintained a life of service beyond that through his work at the University of Michigan to that on the Ann Arbor School Board and extending to small neighborhood service like moving his and his neighborhoods trash cans on trash day. He has twice been the Chairman of the Washtenaw United Way and while at the University of Michigan he established an ombudsman to amplify student voice as well as helped establish the Trotter Multicultural Center. He has been a board member of the Michigan Evaluation Resource Center, City of Ann Arbor Compensation Commission, Child and Family Service of Washtenaw County, Ann Arbor Symphony, and Kerrytown Concert House. Henry has extended himself to work in community development, affordable housing, church leadership and even singing in his church choir; he has led by example for people of all ages and backgrounds and remains dedicated to the broader community. He breathes life into any initiative which upholds quality of life for individuals and communities. Henry has been said to demonstrate an enthusiasm, graciousness, and an energy that have enabled those associated with him to aspire to and achieve high levels of accomplishment. Henry exhibits leadership and engagement which inspires all who are fortunate to know him.
Mrs. Mary Jane Humphries was born December 9, 1923 to Mr. James W. and Mrs. Pauline Leigh in Detroit, Michigan. Mrs. Humphries was and remains a lovely, cordial and intellectually gifted young woman who attended Cass Technical High School, alma mater to my mother and her two children as well. Following graduation, she studied nursing at City College, now known as Wayne State University, for a short period. She was the first African American woman to work as an elevator operator at the renowned Hudson’s Department Store in downtown Detroit in 1942. In 1946 following World War II, she was courted by and married her high school sweetheart Andrew J. Humphries. Mary Jane and Andrew went on to become proud and adoring parents of 13 children six daughters and seven sons requiring her to be a “work-at-home” wife and mother while my grandfather worked with distinction and acclaim as a Detroit Police Officer. Mary Jane was a constant at Parent-Teacher Association meetings, demanding high grades and keeping a mother’s ever-watchful eye over her ‘baker’s dozen’ brood. Her hopes, strength, determination and sacrifices resulted in all thirteen of her children attending college earning a combined total of 19 degrees. At 93 years of age, she continues to amaze with her ability to not only remain abreast of prevalent social topics, but her dedication to forming logical arguments within group discussions. Mary Jane, widowed since 1995, remains a resident of the family home where she is active in her block club, the Westsiders, the 13th Congressional District, national and local politics, and her church, St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church. Her unwavering presence in these activities is a constant reminder that one’s age alone ought not limit a genuine desire to do something.
Dr. Mary Edwards was told at the age of 13 and pregnant that she would be “just another negative welfare statistic.” On October 11th, 2017 she will turn 75 years old and has proven her naysayers wrong every step along the way. She has founded numerous organizations helping every community in which she has lived and served, which has included a broad spectrum of people, including widows and young people. Prior to becoming a widow, she co-founded with her husband the Joy of Jesus Ministry, which lead to them receiving the 107th Point of Light Award from former President George H.W. Bush, Sr. She has become known as one of the most influential women in Metropolitan Detroit. This writer, editor, phenomenal story-telling speaker and entrepreneur has survived childhood abandonment, abuse and teen pregnancy, emotional and domestic violence in her first marriage, alcoholism, and a family history of mental illness. She chronicles these events in her autobiography, “Born Grown,” which is one of several books she has published. Dr. Edwards received her Doctorate in 2016 at the dynamic age of 74. In 2004, Dr. Mary Edwards began her widowhood journey after the passing of Rev. Eddie K. Edwards. One month later she established Widows With Wisdom (WWW) Ministry, which became a Non-Profit in 2015. As a true visionary, she has supported hundreds of widows with grief counseling, aid, and wisdom on how to navigate their lives without their spouses. Through the efforts of her organization, WWW, she has sponsored and hosted a variety of programs purposed to touch the lives of those that needed assistance. Such things as: help with urgent moving expenses, assisting blind widows with regular doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, and other important errands. In 2007, she took another quantum leap and launched her book publishing business, Leaves of Gold Consulting, LLC. She has initiated several ventures, from establishing The Called and Ready Writers Guild, to serving as a radio talk show host and columnist for the Michigan Chronicle. Dr. Edwards has received numerous honors for her tireless efforts to affect change in the lives of Detroiters. She wholeheartedly believes that we must look to the future of our children, by leaving a rich, empowering legacy of accomplishment as an example for them to follow. She represents the epitome of a dynamic, lively, energetic, accomplished senior that continues to make an impression. She is clearly a source of inspiration, to be admired for the many acts of kindness and love she has consistently shown over the years.
Ms. Freddie Black started her career at the Nation Bank of Detroit (now Chase) over 70 years ago. She retired at age 62, went back to school to further her education and then returned to work until she was 81. Ms. Freddie became a volunteer in the Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP) in 2013. She has exemplified outstanding efforts and commitment by serving as a mentor to less experienced Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP) Team Members. Not only does she work in the MMAP program, she often helps other departments at Detroit area Agency on Aging with special projects. When asked why did you become a volunteer for the MMAP program at age 87? She replied “I enjoy sharing my knowledge with other people and feel that I can help make a difference in other people’s life.” She provides oversight and leadership on client data entry into the database that helps track client contacts and health care savings. Freddie makes sure entries are completed correctly, helps with client satisfaction surveys, and makes sure the surveys are entered into the database. Freddie sets the standard on consistent and timely in office support to MMAP staff by keeping a weekly schedule for the volunteers and assisting with preparation for outreach events and mass mailing projects. Her uncanny spirit is warm and inviting, she serves with not only a smile but with remarkable patience. She consistently reports to volunteer every Wednesday afternoon and always asks how she can help the program to become more successful. Freddie is truly an outstanding and compassionate individual. She recently turned 91 years old in July of 2017; she had three children, nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Freddie leads an active life including bowling every Tuesday, enhance fitness classes, and every now and then you may catch her dancing or singing. Freddie is truly priceless.
Frank Ross has been a Changemaker throughout his long and distinguished career, both for adults and youth. As the Director of the Wayne County Business Development Division, Frank created the Wayne County Minority Business Enterprise/Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program to improve the outreach and utilization of underrepresented suppliers. During his tenure, Frank also created the Wayne County One-Stop Business Resource Center, which stimulated economic development through business retention, attraction, and outreach, as well as the Urban Loan Fund, insuring capital access to Wayne County businesses totaling $1.6 million and leveraging $14 million in total projects.
Frank has also been an instrumental Changemaker in the community. As a veteran of the United States Air Force, Frank was instrumental in reestablishing the Detroit 100th Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol. An auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, the Civil Air Patrol is a 501 c 3 nonprofit service organization devoted to three programs: Aerospace Education, Cadet Training, and Emergency Services, including search and rescue and disaster relief. Since 1941, CAP has served America by providing these humanitarian services using volunteer CAP members consisting of Cadets (12-18 years of age) and Seniors (20 years and over). The Civil Air Patrol model promotes communicating to children the importance of personal integrity, volunteer service, a commitment to excellence, self-discipline and respect for others.
Serving as the Director of Wing Development, Frank spends countless hours instructing and mentoring CAP Cadets and helping develop Detroit youth into tomorrow’s leaders. Wearing the uniform of the United States Air Force, Cadets participate in structured programming and leadership training both on the drill field and in the classroom. Cadet activities include: flight training in CAP aircraft and gliders; public speaking; summer encampments, first-aid training; search and rescue missions; disaster relief assistance; survival training; aerospace education using STEM programs; drills and ceremonies; radio communications; computer training; and physical fitness. Frank believes wholeheartedly, and backs it up with his tireless dedication to the Civil Air Patrol, that providing this opportunity, particularly for urban youth, is an important service to Detroit and its surrounding communities.
As if the Civil Air Patrol doesn’t keep him busy enough, Frank also contributes to the community in the following ways:
Their first assignment was in American Samoa, where they spent three years teaching and running schools. They returned home and immediately asked for another assignment.
It was 2006 and they were sent to Kenya for two years. Their lives changed forever.
When the they left Kenya in 2008, Father Riwa’s words rang in their ears: “Remember the children.” “How could we forget?” said Bud. “These children lived in the most deplorable conditions. Homeless, victims of abuse. They sniffed gasoline to dull their hunger.”
Once back in Grosse Pointe Park, the Ozars gathered family and friends in their living room to strategize how to build a fund-raising entity for orphaned girls. Since, they have raised some $2 million through a 501(c) 3 organization called “Friends of Kenyan Orphans.”
“Our work supports facilities such as St. Clair Girls’ Centre in Nchiru, Kenya,” Sue said.
“The girls at these centers have escaped life-threatening situations.”
Bud, 77, and Sue, 75, go to Kenya every year.
Kathie is one of the most effective changemakers I know. She is transformative in every ministry I have seen her undertake. I could go on about her contributions to our church in personal ministry and effective leadership as a volunteer on Grosse Pointe Memorial Church’s Session, Stephen Ministry, Caring Committee, Presbyterian Women, and our Honduran Mission Trip leadership but today I want to let you know about her service through an organization called Warm Hearts Foundation. She is an extremely active board member and has been for many years. During her tenure, she opened my eyes and many more in our congregation to the issues facing small communities in Malawi and Kenya. More importantly, through Warm Hearts and the local connections they have to theses villages, she offered concrete solutions in the form of wells, school buildings, solar lamps, and scholarships to help the children in these African countries. Warm Hearts has put in almost 300 wells over the years. Her direct efforts over the past decade, through lobbying, presentations, coffees, visits from the local Malawi connection, arranging a trip to Malawi, and recruiting board members from Grosse Pointe, have raised thousands of dollars for an extremely effective organization. I know she has also personally sponsored students in the supported communities. She is primarily responsible for the commitment our church has made of almost $35,000 since 2009, responsible for the pledges and commitments of many individual donors, and responsible for bringing seven others with her to see the outcome of these efforts in a 2014 trip to Malawi. She continues to make a difference on the board today and continues as a very active member of Grosse Pointe Memorial Church.
When you walk into Helen Love’s office you’ll notice filled bookshelves on topics about aging. Books about brain health, about neighborhoods, about recording personal histories; program books from conferences and lectures; books filled with notes and post-its and brochures. On a wall adjacent to the bookshelves is a piece of paper with the word “elderly” printed on it and crossed out. This is to remind the guests of DAAA’s Senior Solution radio show, which she’s produced for 10 years, not to use that ill-suited word for older adults. Helen Love is a successful visionary leader, who understands and accepts the challenges of generating change with people/organizations. She is a systemic thinker, a strategists, a phenomenal communicator, and has the ability to make meaningful connections between people and organizations to make things happen. During her life, Helen has been played a significant role in connecting the right people to the right skills/ resources to take action together in the right way. Helen’s career began in cable, public and local broadcast television, including Tony Brown’s Black Journal/ WNET/New York, and Detroit’s PM Magazine where she produced community-based TV programming, mindful of the voices of minority people. Television brought Helen to Ford Motor Company as first producer to focus on the people of the company and where she was eventually named Executive Produced. There she launched the Ford Communications Network, connecting senior management, employees, dealers and potential customers, a new communication strategy for corporate America. She later moved to public affairs, ultimately serving as Director of Community Relations. While in that role, Helen served on numerous boards locally/nationally with a focus on arts, culture, and diversity and inclusion working to bring access to valuable corporate resources. Outside of Ford Helen has done work to collect and preserve essential cultural information about the City of Detroit and its many ethnic communities. One of her great contributions to that end the publication of Global Journeys in Metro Detroit, a book that detailed the who, what, and where of cultural/ethnic foods, events, and cultural locations throughout the city. After her formal retirement, Helen joined the Detroit Area Agency on Aging where she produces The Senior Solution radio program, hosted by Paul Bridgewater radio raise issues of older adults and people with disabilities, as well as educate those communities on services, resources, and developments in the aging field. She has taken up the fight against ageism and at any moment of any day she is building a rich network to do the same. She pushes people (friends, colleagues, and strangers) to think about their words, their perspectives, their interactions on aging and aging people, and encourages the inclusion and consideration of older adults at every turn. She asks people to get involved in the work and looks for opportunities to dovetail their work with that of aging issues. Whenever an opportunity has presented itself that will advocate for and support older adults she will stop what she’s doing to help.
Virginia Ladd, President and Executive Director of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), has been a strong force in the autoimmune community for over 35 years. After being active in the lupus cause for many years, Virginia realized there was a bigger picture that wasn’t being addressed. As a lupus patient herself, and with many family members diagnosed with other autoimmune diseases, Virginia started researching underlying relationships among autoimmune diseases. Virginia quickly identified challenges in the community surrounding the perception and realities of autoimmune disease. There was no agency that focused on autoimmunity, no collaboration between national health agencies, and no national focus on the issues surrounding autoimmune disease. In 1991, Virginia founded AARDA to find solutions to the issues surrounding the autoimmune community. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Eastpointe, AARDA brings an unprecedented focus to autoimmunity and an increase in collaboration in autoimmune research, education, awareness and advocacy. An international speaker and advocate for autoimmune diseases, Virginia has won the fight to have autoimmune disease identified as a category of diseases. This has drastically shifted the public perception of no longer viewing them as isolated illnesses, but as a category of more than 100 diseases, including lupus, M.S., and Type 1 Diabetes. AARDA’s push for collaboration has led to groundbreaking research linking common factors and genetic backgrounds of autoimmune patients. Through Virginia’s innovative leadership, AARDA has organized cutting edge scientific meetings and established the National Coalition of Autoimmune Patient Groups (NCAPG), an expansive group of 38 national autoimmune disease-specific groups who use their collective influence to advance autoimmune disease awareness and advocacy. Virginia recently designed and implemented the Autoimmune Research Network (ARNet), a patient-centered registry, managed by AARDA in collaboration with members of the NCAPG. ARNet empowers autoimmune patients by providing a patient-friendly way to participate in research and clinical trials. Its collaborative approach brings patients with an array of autoimmune diseases, patient groups and researchers together to create synergistic breakthroughs in autoimmune research and treatments. Virginia has received many awards that recognize her tenacious efforts to spread awareness and education for autoimmune diseases and encouraging collaboration among researchers and others in advancing the cause of autoimmune patients on both national and international levels. Some of these honors include the prestigious Johns Hopkins University Heritage Award, the PhRMA Research & Hope Award for Excellence in Advocacy and Activism, the American Institute for Public Service Jefferson Award Honoree, and the AESKU Award for Life Contribution to Autoimmunity. As a changemaker, Virginia attends workshops on FDA issues and advocates for the passage and continuance of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PUDFA). She has testified on numerous occasions at FDA panels regarding a patient’s right to have a voice and choice in decisions regarding therapies that might pose serious side effects and valuable benefits in FDA reform. A true pioneer in autoimmunity, Virginia does not let her illnesses or age interfere with her continued patient advocacy and activism work for the 50 million Americans with autoimmune diseases.
Jim Garlough has served Habitat for Humanity for many years – he was part of the Wednesday crew for many years in addition to his great help on the blitz builds over many summers. He also has held leadership roles in Habitat for Humanity – Grosse Pointe Partners, a group which has done fundraising and planning for building individual homes and blitz builds for years. In addition, he volunteers annually at the Heifer Ranch for weeks at a time, using his skills in farming to make their program better. He traveled with his church to Honduras three years in a row to build houses for the indigent and was instrumental in the success of that program. He doesn’t hesitate to jump in wherever he sees a need including breakfasts served to the hungry at Crossroads, helping serve breakfast on the VERY early shift to the homeless who come to GPMC through Cass Community Services for a rotating Shelter Week, or working as a team captain in the recent Life Remodeled blitz near Central High School. He saw a need in a one-time visit to Mercado, a Gleaners program, this year and now volunteers every week to improve the experience for the needy who get food there. Wherever there is a need, Jim is a willing and very able volunteer. The lives of many are better for his involvement.
Nida Donar’s personal and professional career choices have been significantly impacted by her lifelong passion for advocacy for disenfranchised people. Responding to the call for community service in the 1960’s, she participated as a member of the Highland Park Model City neighborhood commission. She organized a biracial committee of citizens to respond to racial unrest in Highland Park after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. In the 1970’s, Donar organized Welfare Rights Chapters in Oakland County, raising funds to open and staff an office in Pontiac. She participated in campaigns to extend cross district bussing, support the United Farm Workers Union, and lobby in Lansing and Washington on welfare issues. In 1976, she became the federal food law specialist for Michigan Legal Services, where she developed a coalition that succeeded in bringing mandatory school lunch programs to all Michigan schools. She was a founding member of the SE Michigan Food Coalition, MI Fair Federal Budget Coalition, and the National Anti-Hunger Coalition. In 1989, Donar returned to Wayne State University to finish her social work degrees, moving on to be managing director of the SE MI Coalition on Occupational Safety & Health. She then became director of the Hunger Action Coalition, where she organized a successful legislative campaign to expand mandatory school breakfast programs. In 1999, Donar became executive director of Citizens for Better Care, an advocacy organization for older adults, and began teaching classes part-time in the Community Practice Track at Wayne State. Since her retirement, she has continued to teach B.S.W. students and supervise M.S.W. Community Practice field placement students.
Gail Cohen is an amazing woman who is dedicated to educating the community about what hate and evil can do. Gail is the Tour Coordinator at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, the first free-standing Holocaust center in the nation. Her title doesn’t do her justice. For over 34 years, Gail has worked tirelessly to coordinate groups coming to the Holocaust Memorial Center for tours and events. Each year the HMC educates over 50,000 people and Gail is the first stop for many of these individuals and groups! From schools to faith institutions to civic organizations, Gail not only makes sure they are scheduled, but that they have a qualified docent to lead them though the Center and a Holocaust survivor to share a first-person account with them at the end of their tour. She juggles the demands of her position with a smile on her face at all times and even in moments of stress never loses sight of why she does the work she does. Because of Gail’s dedication (and patience!) approximately 1.7 million people have learned about the Holocaust during her time with the Center. She is still going strong in her career and is committed to making sure that the world never forgets the six million Jews and five million other individuals who were murdered because hate went unchecked. Because of Gail, their stories are being shared and lives are being changed every day.
30 years ago when Evelyn was at the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (whose mission is to be a catalyst for economic development for the residents of Detroit) there were few retail opportunities or jobs in Detroit. Evelyn was one of the chief architects for the development of the Livernois Avenue of Fashion, which developed a number of small retail businesses and became a place where Detroiters could shop. After leaving the DEGC she became the founder of the Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). The mission of LISC is to revitalize communities. At LISC Evelyn would tell stories regarding activism during the Civil Rights era and say to staff as well as those she mentored, “You have to feel this type of work in your belly, and be committed.” Evelyn worked tirelessly to establish relationships with Community Development Corporations (CDCs), who were the first line of defense for community revitalization. She helped to facilitate the creation of hundreds of units of affordable housing using financing tools such as the Low-Income Housing Tax credit program. She also worked with local lenders and foundations to establish the Detroit Community Collaborative which included all of the major banks and foundations that provided operating support and technical assistance to support CDCs in their work. After leaving LISC she joined the administration of Dennis Archer, and in this role worked to create the Detroit Empowerment Zone Planning Strategy. This strategy was the first planning effort to engage residents and all stakeholders in having a voice and an actionable set of plans that would result in the revitalization of their respective communities. This model for community engagement, although not as comprehensive, is still utilized to this day to give residents a voice in their communities. After leaving the City of Detroit, she returned to LISC where, while not working specifically in Detroit, was in charge of efforts to assist New Orleans to rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina among other efforts to revitalize communities across the country. Since retiring from LISC she continues her work with the same passion as the day I first met her. Taking on another challenge, Evelyn is now the Board Chairman of Habitat for Humanity Detroit whose sole mission is to provide affordable housing opportunities for low income population and is experiencing difficult times. Even though retired, she is working to restructure this organization to do the work that is vital.
Bob Berg has been a pioneering changemaker through leadership roles in race relations and public affairs during critical moments in Detroit’s history. He has served nearly four decades as one of the state’s foremost public affairs advisors and communications strategists.
Berg’s career included serving in the roles of executive assistant for Public Affairs to Michigan Governor William G. Milliken from 1977 to 1982. While serving in this role, Berg worked behind the scenes to put limits on phosphates used in laundry detergents, an action that contributed significantly to Lake Erie’s recovery. In 1979, Berg worked as an advocate for adopting the Wetlands Protection Act.
In his role as press secretary for Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young, from 1983 to 1993, Berg developed relationships behind the scenes with national, state and local media outlets in an effort to improve the relationship between Mayor Young and the media. He also worked behind the scenes to assist displaced Detroit residents – who were force to move out of the Chrysler Jefferson residential building – with finding housing. As a result, over 90% of the 1,200 displaced residents remained in Detroit.
Known as one of Michigan’s most-trusted names and a respected authority in the public relations and public affairs community, Berg is regularly asked to speak about his experience working with Mayor Young and Governor Milliken, as well as his unique perspectives on Detroit.
Currently, as a founding partner of Van Dyke•Horn, formerly Berg Muirhead and Associates, he advises numerous clients and politicians regarding policy issues while serving on the Coleman A. Young Foundation board, and operates as the senior spokesperson and communications strategist for New Detroit Inc. – a coalition of leaders in civil rights – whose mission is to serve as the metropolitan Detroit leadership organization working to identify and eliminate racial disparities in the region by building economic equity, social justice and racial understanding. Berg also served on the board for The Roeper School as well as for the Detroit Police Foundation.
Over the past 2 decades, Berg has personally mentored Detroit Public Schools’ students through college enrichment at his alma mater, Illinois Wesleyan University. As a result, 18 DPS students have graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University within four years; two of which were Homecoming King and Queen; one is a doctor; one is a lawyer; one is an account and one opened a small business in Detroit.
As an extension of his career-long dedication to building communities and neighborhoods in unprecedented ways, in 2016, the Berg Muirhead Scholarship for Public Relations Student Advancement in the Department of Communications at Wayne State University was created in honor of his longtime professional partnership the Georgella Muirhead, and their contributions to the public relations industry. This scholarship aligns with Berg’s commitment to shifting public discourse, perception and realities regarding minorities in public relations by advancing Wayne State University students who contribute to the knowledge and promotion of social and cultural diversity to become the next generation of public relations leaders.
Chris Warner is very active within the Metro-Detroit area and other parts of Michigan. In fact, American House recognized her during National Volunteer Week in May 2017 for her many accomplishments. Chris Warner could be living a leisurely life, her calendar full of lunch dates and casino trips. She’s done her part. She’s raised five children, was married 46 years, is an entrepreneur and a cancer survivor – she can relax now. After all, these are her golden years. But Chris has other plans—she’s leaving a legacy. You can call her a “volunteer extraordinaire.” After her husband passed in the summer of 2003, Chris decided just sitting around didn’t suit her. Instead, she phoned a friend and began volunteering with The Parade Company. When Chris isn’t volunteering in The Company’s gift shop, or helping paint one of the many Thanksgiving Day Parade floats, she’s hard at work for a number of other organizations. In addition to her contributions to the Macomb Charitable Foundation, Chris and a group of her gal pals have been gathering for more than a decade to create “quillows”, hand-crafted fleece blankets with an attached pillow. They donate the quillows to agencies like Compassion Pregnancy Center and the Turning Point Shelter in Macomb County. The organization provides immediate safety and security for survivors of domestic violence. Always thoughtful, the group also makes educational activity bags with an enclosed book, for children who are residing at the shelter with a parent. But Chris doesn’t stop there. Her newest endeavor benefits children with special needs in Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District in Big Rapids. Chris’s “fidget bags,” designed to both calm and keep little hands busy, are a huge hit and in high-demand in the district. Stacks of fleece scraps are piled on the dining room table, ready to be shipped out. “I just sent a bunch of these back up with my daughter,” she explains. “She works in the Osceola School District.” To date, with the help of her sister, Chris has donated more than 300 fidget bags to teachers in the district who work with children diagnosed with developmental and cognitive disorders. Her decision to become a volunteer was an easy one. “I just decided I wasn’t going to sit around and look at these four walls.” she said.
Mary Turner has been a long-time public servant, particularly in Southwest Detroit and in the Latino community. She is originally from Mexico and moved to the US at a young age. Her family settled in Corktown. She currently is a caseworker for State Representative Stephanie Chang and Councilmember Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, helping hundreds of families with immigration issues, applying for citizenship, getting access to their DHHS benefits, preventing utility shut-offs, and more. She is passionate about helping eligible residents become United States citizens and spearheads the office’s partnership with the International Institute of Metro Detroit to hold an annual Become a Citizen Day in District 6. With every family she assists, she brings compassion. She sees every case to its end if she is able to, even if is months of perseverance before we are able to get the results needed. Before this role, she worked for State Representative Rashida Tlaib as a caseworker. Before that, she worked at LASED in Southwest Detroit for over 30 years. She is incredibly active at Most Holy Trinity Church and successfully petitioned City Council to rename part of Sixth Street for Father Clement Kern. Mary is a true advocate and leader in our community, as her work and her spirit has been an inspiration to other community leaders and to families across Detroit, especially Southwest Detroit.
Alma G. Stallworth, 84, has been a civic leader for several decades now dedicated to the lives of women and children. While most who know her know her for her more than 20-year service in the Michigan State Legislature, they may be surprised to know that she got her start in civic service through social work and community associations.
Through Head Start she assisted women and children in gaining access to food including during the 1967 Rebellion. In her own neighborhood her advocacy lead to the establishment of Beaubian, the first middle school in the neighborhood, as well as a change in zoning laws that required community leaders to be notified of new business developments in her neighborhood. The latter was in response to the growing number of liquor stores creeping into the community. She often tells a story about going to a community meeting to see the presentation of a state elected official and thinking to herself “I could do that.” In 1970, she did just that and served until 2005. Her decision to pursue office and her dedication to serving is inspiring; it is a story of the American dream and true democracy that is too rarely experienced by women of color—especially in the 70’s. She decided she could, so she did. The fact that she’d never been away from home before or never had a job with so much responsibility before did not stop her from going to Lansing. She saw a problem in her community, so she decided to do something about it—directly and through the infrastructure of the community.
During her time in office she established the Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan and its signature Drug Free Youth Program as well as a public policy program and internship for African American students.
These are the things you can google about Alma, or read about in her books. They are not things that you find out personally about her from sitting and talking with her, or hearing her speak at an event. Alma has an unwavering dedication to children and youth. Her service has been specifically directed to them through the Black Child Development Institute, the Luella Belle Stewart Center, the United Negro College Fund, committees on infant mortality and even a short stint on the Detroit School Board. Alma is the kind of woman who shows up to say what needs saying in order to make a difference in hearts and minds. She recently sat on a panel hosted by the New Detroit Coalition and discussed her perspective on race and social justice. “We’re too separated,” she said “People don’t know anyone who is different from themselves and until they do, we’ll continue to have issues of discrimination.” Alma takes the lead in service of her community tirelessly and continuously no matter her age or the challenges of her aging. She’s a true civic and community leader.
Since 1978, Helen Morrison has managed her own consulting business, Career Life Planners, which helps people of all ages with career and life planning issues. Utilizing her passion for people and her devotion to her faith, she was one of the founders of the Presbyterian Older Adult Network which in recent years became its own 501(c)3 organization. Her many accomplishments in leadership and mentoring were recognized in 2014 by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. Helen is a long-time supporter of Presbyterian Villages of Michigan, having served on the board as well as on numerous committees. Nearing 90, she is a positive force who has no intention of slowing down!
Isaiah ‘Ike’ McKinnon has an unfailing and deep love for the City of Detroit and its citizens, as well as a commitment of over forty-two years in a stellar career in public service, law enforcement and education. Ike has “retired” three time from the City of Detroit and has left the University of Detroit Mercy twice, always answering the call of whichever Mayor or University President summoned him to assist in carrying out their mission, whether it be in the role of Police Chief, Deputy Mayor or Professor. His energy and enthusiasm inspires and encourages others to follow his example and join him in making our community a better place for all. Detroiters know Ike is an individual they can trust, who is available to step up and give of his time and energy. A person who is always there to lend a helping hand to individuals, community groups, or corporations. His different career roles and his various Board memberships have allowed him to impact so many lives and during his police days, he even had the occasion to actually save a few. From his early days on the Detroit Police Department beginning in 1965, to his final role with the City as Deputy Mayor, he gave from his heart. His devotion and dedication to keeping the City safe and his energy and enthusiasm as a civic leader and teacher have been far reaching and news worthy. Returning to University life in 2016 and interacting with students keeps him energized and his latest project is recruiting young men of color into the field of education. Ike is a proven leader, a great boss, and a dedicated public servant. He is a person who doesn’t understand the words, “slow down and retire”, and at 74 is the epitome of the phrase “just keep keeping on.”
Karen Love has been a community leader for many years. She has served on many boards including: Four years on the Planning Commission for the City of River Rouge, Detroit Neighborhood Housing Services INC. 2010 NAACP Detroit Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner, Whole foods Detroit Community Benefits Advisory Board, Executive Council if AARP, SAGE Metro Detroit. She is currently a Senior Reach Board Member and just accepted a board position with the Henry Ford Transplant Institute. Karen retired as the Chief Operating Officer of the Michigan Chronicle. As COO she was responsible for local and national advertising sales as well as serving as the liaison to other African American newspapers and related organizations throughout the country. Currently she is Program Coordinator for the Senior Reach Program at Northeast Guidance Center. She graduated with honors from the Eastern North Carolina Theological Institute with a Bachelor’s Degree of Christian Education. She also holds a B.S. in Sociology from Eastern and a Master’s in Gerontology from the University of Southern California.
Ms. Marian J. Kramer serves as the Chairperson of the National Welfare Rights Union, the organization that fights for the rights of low income persons/families. She and her late husband raised five daughters then took on the task of raising three new babies, when her niece developed emotional health challenges. Marian has lead a national conversation against poverty for decades and most recently has made significant contributions to the current campaign against mass water shutoffs occurring in Detroit. She is a natural leader who has provided thoroughbred courage that began with her close involvement with the civil rights struggles. Fresh from those battles, she took on the captain’s role of building a movement for welfare mothers and their children, demanding and fighting for equality and access to a humanity that helped those beleaguered families excel. Several years ago, she was diagnosed with a brain aneurism. Her choice was to go forward with the delicate surgery required to remove it sit would not interfere with her work. Not one step was lost during that surgery or during the recovery that followed. Over these years, Marian has developed and helped to build an army of soldiers who have one focus: the steps that need be taken to eliminate poverty. She has not and will not waver from that path.
Rev. Holley has been called one of the most sought-after Pastors/ Businessman in the city of Detroit. In addition to serving as the senior pastor of The Historic Little Rock Baptist Church, he has overseen significant partnerships to meet unmet needs in the community. These have included: President and CEO of Country Preacher Foods, Inc., the largest minority food distributor in the world; Founder and Chairman of the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences
Founder and President of Middle College Academy, which addresses the needs of high school dropouts; and Founder and President of the Little Rock Christian Care System. The author of several books, Rev. Holley has a Doctorate of Ministry from Drew University and a Doctorate of Philosophy from Wayne State University. In addition to his community development efforts, Rev. Holley has and continues to serve on various advisory boards throughout the city and lectures to students around the country. Rev. Holley is often invited to provide counsel on civic and spiritual matters locally and globally. He has been honored for his tireless commitment to the city by the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, Crain’s Detroit Business, and the Michigan Chronicle, among others. Reverend Jim Holley is a proud father and grandfather, committed Christian, eloquent preacher, scholar, and compassionate pastor and loyal friend to those who have no voice in the affairs of the community. He believes, “The Will of God will never lead you where the Grace of God cannot keep you.”
Beverly Hall Burns has more than 30 years of experience as one of the state’s most well-known management-side employment and labor attorneys, but she is also well-known for her deep commitment to community involvement and the civic and cultural organizations she has served.
In her post-age-70 civic and community work, she is focused on the two ends of the age spectrum: early childhood and seniors. Both areas caught her interest when she was in her 60s—early childhood when Gov. Rick Snyder appointed her to the Executive Committee of the Early Childhood Investment Corporation, a statewide public-private organization dedicated to improving early childhood health and education programs in Michigan; and seniors when she was tapped, at age 67, for the Encore Innovation Fellowship in Michigan that aimed to raise awareness of the capabilities and contributions of people in their 60s and beyond. As the Encore Innovation Fellow, she created and implemented a pilot “Encore Executive in Residence Program for Michigan” in collaboration with the Governor’s Office.
Currently, she chairs the ECIC Executive Committee and serves on the Stewardship Board for Hope Starts Here, an early childhood partnership in Detroit that is funded by the Kresge and Kellogg Foundations and aimed at building a vision and action plan for early childhood in the City of Detroit. Based on that vision, the organization is building a detailed plan and direction for execution that is shared by the community as well as by experts and professionals in the field.
Beverly is also an advisory Board member to the new Figure Skating in Detroit program, which helps girls transform their lives by combining access to the artistic discipline of figure skating with academic assistance off the ice, focusing on improving competency in STEM concepts.
Beverly is an active participant in Michigan Women’s Foundation Power of 100 Women, a group that focuses its financial and volunteer efforts on the Foundation’s three-pillar initiatives: developing the next generation of women leaders, accelerating women’s entrepreneurship and advancing Michigan women’s agenda.
Additionally, as a current resident of downtown Detroit Beverly was elected to and serves on the City of Detroit’s Community Advisory Council for the Rehabilitation of the Detroit Free Press Building. Prior to her move to downtown, she was a longtime resident of Grosse Pointe, where she served—and continues to serve—on the Board and Executive Committee of the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce.
Beverly serves on the Board of Trustees for the Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation to serve Detroit’s aging population. The long list of her many past and current civic and community leadership experiences also includes:
City Year has an organizational saying: I’m Ready. Choose Me. No one has embodied this more than Penny Bailer. For over 40 years, Penny has dedicated her life and her career to serving the Detroit community. For 17 years, Penny was the Executive Director of the Michigan Metro Girl Scout Council. Under her leadership, membership grew from 21,000 to 43,000 girls participating in scouts and the Girl Scouts received an award from CRAIN’S for the “Best Managed Nonprofit.” While there, Penny also helped launch new programs specifically targeted at vulnerable populations, including a teen pregnancy prevention program. Then, for 14 years, Penny was the Executive Director of City Year Detroit. Penny served on the founding committee to bring City Year to Detroit – and shortly after the site’s launch, Penny stepped into the Executive Director role. Under Penny’s leadership, thousands of young people, ages 18-25, gave a year of their lives to serving the communities of Detroit. Penny led City Year through a strategic planning process that re-focused City Year’s mission on combating our city’s dropout crisis. Through innovative partnerships with schools and school districts, City Year AmeriCorps Members have provided critical academic and social-emotional support to thousands of students in Detroit public schools. In addition to her impressive career accomplishments, Penny is a volunteer extraordinaire. She served as a member of the DPS School Board, as well as a Board Member of New Detroit, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, City Connect Detroit, and YWCA. She was a founding board member of ARISE Detroit, co-chair of the Education Committee of the Osborn/Clark Park Promise Neighborhood, and a member of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren. In 2014, Mayor Duggan appointed Penny to the Detroit Housing Commission and in 2015 to the inaugural board of the Detroit Promise Zone Authority. On top of all of that, Penny also co-founded the DPS K-8 Golightly Education Center (later named a National Blue Ribbon School by President Clinton) and Chaired the Self-Governing School Council for Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School @ Northwestern. But anyone who has met Penny knows that she is filled with boundless energy. When she isn’t working, serving, volunteering, or advocating for Detroiters (particularly children), Penny can be found at Rotary Club or swimming at the DAC. In fact, Penny recently competed in the 2017 National Senior Games in Birmingham, Alabama, swimming both the 50 and 100 meter freestyle. Penny has lived in downtown Detroit since 1975 in Mies Van de Rohe’s Lafayette Park. She is proof that service to community is not limited by age. Her energy, love, and passion for the city of Detroit has been an incredible inspiration to so many for over 40 years.
Mrs. Jones, also known as “The Book Lady” has had a love affair with books since she was a small child. She is the daughter of a librarian and taught in the Detroit Public Schools. She opened The Booksellers Bookstore after she retired. Many people believe hard copy books are obsolete. Mrs. Jones does not share that belief. She carries a wide range of mostly non-fiction books and many of these books have a direct connection to Detroit. Mrs. Jones opened her store in the Cass Corridor area before the big turn around of that area. She is a woman of vision
Janet Webster Jones, also known as “The Book Lady,” has had a love affair with books since she was a small child. The daughter of a librarian, Janet is a retired educator from the Detroit Public Schools, where she spent a 40-year career. Her foray into book selling started while teaching a class about an Egyptian study tour she had taken. An attendee noticed Janet regularly brought in books about ancient African history to share what she learned with the class, and suggested she sell her books at a church Christmas bazaar. Along with other serendipitous experiences, a vending business emerged, and she found herself taking books to events and selling them to attendees. Janet opened her first brick and mortar store, Source Booksellers, in 2002. The store carries a wide range of mostly non-fiction books and many of the books have a direct connection to Detroit.
Born in Detroit in 1939, Julie Tenbusch has dedicated most of her life to serving the people of Detroit, first as a teacher for ten years at Hutchins Middle School in the 1960’s. After giving birth to my three siblings and me, she went back to nursing school at Mercy College in Detroit and enjoyed a long, successful career over 30 years in nursing, mostly at Sinai Grace (formerly Mt. Carmel) in northwest Detroit. Not long after Julie retired from nursing five years ago at the age of 73, she started her own business with a good friend of hers that she met in nursing school 40 years earlier. Her friend, Mary Wallace, had a family recipe for scones that we all loved. Julie and Mary went to Michigan State University and asked for their help in figuring out a packaging model to bring their scones to market. That was just one of the many issues they faced in figuring out how to turn a favorite family food into a thriving business, but they went after it and just keep going. They created a company, called Wallace Scones, and rent space at an industrial kitchen in Southfield where they make the scones. They used to make and cut the dough by hand, but this proved to be a huge challenge as sales grew. Last year, they made a significant financial investment in a dough-cutting machine to keep up with the demand. Their product is now available at more than 40 markets and stores across southeastern Michigan, and they were recently featured on a TV show called “Authentic Michigan.” On just about any weekend, Julie can be found at an art fair, festival, or a local grocery story sharing a free sample and encouraging people to buy Wallace Scones to take home. What makes my mom and her company so special is that the product represents who she is. A ton of work goes into making it taste great, but all the customer has to do is put it in the over and it seems like they made it from scratch. Julie has given her who life to help others, not just as a teacher and nurse, but as a caretaker for friends and family members in hospice situations, and as a grandmother too many who aren’t even her biological grandchildren. She quietly, lovingly and consistently puts others first, but in a way that always makes you enjoy and remember the experience without realizing how hard she works to make it possible. Julie had no plans of starting a business when she retired, but she saw a good idea and went with it. Now they give 10% of all profits to the Mercy Education Project. Even as an entrepreneur, she is still taking care of others.
My first job was in one of Bill Pickard’s McDonalds. I remember thinking to myself “Wow, I didn’t even know you could own a McDonald’s.” In my teenage mind they were all owned by the larger company, not individuals and certainly not a Black man with whom I’ve had conversations in my living room. And at the time I had no concept of how successful Bill was. It wasn’t until I googled him as an adult after hearing about a speaking engagement he’d be attending that I learned of his self-made multi-millionaire status or multi-enterprise business. Bill’s humility softened the room as we sat and discussed ideas and current events.
Bill didn’t give me the job. I submitted an application, I interviewed with the manager, and learned what it was to work a job on your feet all day. I learned what it was to be up before dawn to open a store and to leave late at night to close one. I’m grateful for my experience there and the things that I learned and for the ways that my eyes were opened to one facet of entrepreneurship.
Today, many of my peers and friends are pursuing entrepreneurship from the innovation facet. They are trying to create something new or approach old problems with new tactics and they’re amazing. But, I don’t see as many people taking the approach that Bill takes and the approach that some of us, who maybe aren’t the most innovative, could learn from. His approach is one of accessibility—he sets an example that I feel like I could follow. Build the capital, build the network and build your business.
In a perhaps uncommon twist, Bill is also an MSW and his social work values shine through in his dedication to giving back. While he donates to universities and colleges, his work in this area is also fueled by a commitment to provide job opportunities for people of color–people who “look like us” as he says—just like he did for me when I was in high school. And in Detroit, jobs for people of color are essential as well as for youth. Bill’s businesses are some of the first jobs for many young people who would otherwise be unemployed in southeast Michigan. Bill has paid his knowledge forward through a book written to be digestible for the average reader and actively gives speeches to engage young people in entrepreneurship.
He has not only built and maintained successful businesses for more than 40 years, but he opens doors for others to do the same. This world would be greatly improved if more businessmen and entrepreneurs were like Bill Pickard.
Bill Pickard is the definition of an entrepreneur. He serves as CEO and chairman for multiple enterprises, including VITEC L.L.C., Global Automotive Alliance L.L.C., Grupo Antolin-Wayne, ARD Logistics, L.L.C., and Commonwealth Regal Industries. Mr. Pickard is also the owner of several McDonald’s franchises and co-owns five black-owned newspapers. In a perhaps uncommon twist, Bill is also an MSW and his social work values shine through in his dedication to giving back. While he donates to universities and colleges, his work in this area is also fueled by a commitment to provide job opportunities for people of color–people who “look like us” as he likes to say. Bill has paid his knowledge forward through a book written to be digestible for the average reader and actively gives speeches to engage young people in entrepreneurship. He has not only built and maintained successful businesses for more than 40 years, but he opens doors for others to do the same.
When it comes to being an entrepreneur, Timothy Moore is ahead of his time. Forever pushing beyond the limits of expectations as a person of color, Timothy Moore has helped to build a family legacy. The first venture happened as a record store owner in Tennessee. Mr. Moore set his sights on other business opportunities and became the first African American business owner with his mother and sister of a Pizza franchise. The business took off providing numerous jobs for his community. As the business expanded, the family received a contract to operate Pizza Queen in Cobo Hall for over 30 years. The location was not in the basement either, the storefront had visibility right in front of the Joe Louis statue at the entrance of Cobo. Timothy Moore has always believed firmly in overcoming adversity and defying expectations; he moved his family to California in the 80’s where he sold Robot Machinery. After spending years on the west coast, he moved his family back to be closer to his origins. Always pushing his children to excellence and exposing them to a life without limits Timothy Moore went into the limousine business. Something truly innovative sparked Mr. Moore’s attention in the year of 2007, and he began researching and developing a platform for internet TV. After years of refining through trials and taking changes, Timothy Moor has embarked on another unique venture with UIN. UIN is a subscription based independent internet media company. Business associates become media partners by owning and producing media content through the UIN network. Affiliate owners are able to gain an income through a paid subscription service. The idea was so innovative during a time when print journalism was losing its way; UIN won The Journalism that Matters Innovation award in 2010. UIN and detiptv.com (local affiliate) has interviewed countless numbers of activist, business owners, intellectuals, local city officials, entertainers, and much more. In 2016 UIN and detiptv.com had the honor of covering the 2016 Democratic convention as the only African-American independent media company of its kind. Always one step ahead, UIN and Detiptv.com had added a UIN Smartbox to the products and services they offer which are the only 4k smart box with a browser. Timothy Moore is a local hero, and his company is making a difference in the community and is well respected. People often say that Mr. Moore deserves way more recognition than what he receives for his constant innovation and confidence to forge away for communities that often do not have a voice.
Jim Jenkins, 72 is President and CEO Jenkins Construction Inc. Jenkins is a Detroit native. He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Tennessee State University. Mr. Jenkins created his company in 1989 when Jenkins decided to branch out on his own. He worked previously for Turner Construction Co. as a purchasing manager. Jenkins Construction has since worked on joint-venture projects with Turner and other contractors, such as Walbridge Aldinger Co. and Skanska U.S.A. Building Inc. Jenkins ranked by Crain’s Detroit business Magazine as one of the general contractors in Metro-Detroit. Among his most notable projects are construction of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the new Cass Technical High School. Some of Jenkins Construction’s initial projects included the Fox Theatre restoration and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan office building and parking structure downtown. He has been at the construction helm of numerous Detroit church projects including Greater Grace Temple and Fellowship Chapel. Among his most notable projects are construction of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the new Cass Technical High School. Jim not only continues to use his business acumen to continue to support Detroit development, but more notably as he has aged he has been a principal force in helping expose inner city children to construction trades through summer employment that provides exposure to residential property renovation, maintenance and blight prevention.
A man of many talents, Walter Hamilton, Sr. is a former postal worker and probation officer in addition to being an entrepreneur. As the owner and property manager of four single-family homes and two 20+ unit apartment buildings, Walter has always supported his loving family through hard work and his industrious spirit. Appreciating the value of a dollar and being a Mr. Fix It guy, he taught his children the same values and encouraged them to find ways to repair things on their own before spending unnecessarily. Whether it was installing carpet or fixing a gas stove, he was going to do it himself. Almost 90, Walter has a quiet strength and believes the best of everyone. He is always finding ways to give people a chance and helping them grow into the best version of themselves. Walter, a veteran, was married to his loving wife Willetta for 61 years.
I am a native Detroit-er, now residing in Georgia. I have fond memories of growing up in Detroit and welcome the opportunity to nominate my dad for this award. My dad’s a former postal worker, veteran and probation officer, retiring at the age of 52 y.o. He’s a man of many talents, being a family man, practical man, loving man (without the fluff), showing his love, by doing! Entrepreneur, owner and property manager in Detroit of four homes, and two 20+ unit apt buildings. Dad knows the value of a dollar and has trained us up to appreciate its value also. He’s practical (to a fault at times) just wanting to “do it all himself.” Funny, yet scary moments include his trying to repair a gas stove. Thank God, we all survived! We now encourage his utilizing experts in their craft. Sometimes this works, but other times it doesn’t, being the Mr. fix-it-myself type of guy! How do you convince a man almost 90 years old that there are alternate ways to contribute to the lives of others versus manual labor? No more carpet laying, painting walls, driving across country to take kids to and from school! One of the most memorable moments is when I first committed my life to Christ and was quite zealous and outspoken, seeking to convert “everyone” overnight! He wasn’t sure if I was involved in a cult or not, so he surprised me by walking in my classroom door, immediately after class, asking “How’s my daughter? I just came to have lunch with you!” Who travels from Detroit, MI to Baton Rouge, LA, unannounced, just to have lunch with his daughter? My #1 Favorite Dad! My Dad loves “saving” money, which can challenge his making healthier eating choices. The Hostess Bakery was a challenge for the entire family and the “2 for 5” at Burger King is a major pull, but I’m thankful that he now wants to learn how to incorporate a more plant-based, nutrient dense eating regimen. Although I know he isn’t totally free from occasional “less healthy” choices, I’m thankful he is willing to listen and learn! These new “smart phones” are “dumb phones” in my dad’s book, but he is frequently asking questions, being inquisitive throughout his life! He has a quiet strength, believing the best in EVERYONE, even though they may not have a track record of dependability. He gives EVERYONE a chance to grow and helps others who are somehow “trying to do better!” It causes concern with my family, but he is willing to take “risks” – some calculated and others not so much! I proudly acknowledge my mom, Willetta Hamilton, who was the most sacrificial, virtuous, loving woman I have ever known. On May 1st, of this year, my mom made her transition. I have no doubt she is smiling as she admires her “favorite-only” daughter proudly nominating her industrious and loving husband of 61 years, my 90-year old Dad, as of October 9th!
Elaine C. Driker is a lifelong Detroiter and one of the City’s best known advocates and activists.
Her significant contribution to Detroit’s business community as an entrepreneur was born out of Wayne State University, where she has been an active volunteer for decades. Specifically, Elaine founded the Detroit Orientation Institute in the early 1990s, in response to a recommendation in the City of Detroit’s 1987 Strategic Plan. The aim of the Institute was to offer the media and business community an objective and balanced view of the city. Since its inception, more than 3,000 metro Detroiters from business, nonprofits and media organizations have taken part in the program. While Elaine retired from her role as Director of the program in the early 2000s, it is a testament to the strength of the organization she founded that it is still going strong, with the next “class” of participants scheduled in October.
Elaine served as President of Hillel of Metro Detroit, which is based at Wayne State and covers six campuses: Oakland University, Lawrence Tech, University of Detroit Mercy, University of Michigan- Dearborn and Oakland Community College. The organization helps college students and young adults to connect with the Jewish community through interactive programs on all six campuses. As the organization’s president, Elaine was credited with raising the bar for fundraising and board engagement.
She has also served as a member of the Board of Visitors in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Wayne State University. She was elected Emeritus board member of the Detroit Institute of Arts, served on the Detroit Institute of Arts Board of Directors and chaired the DIA’s Governance and Nominating Committee.
In 2014 Elaine and her husband Eugene were recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Detroit Chapter, which awarded the Drikers the George W. Romney Award for Lifetime Achievement in Volunteerism.
Thelma Raziya Curtis, known as “Raziya,” is the founder and director of Healing Support Network, Inc. (HSN), a small nonprofit organization that believes they are collectively responsible for each other’s health and well-being. For 30 years she has helped to feed hundreds of older people of color who are unable to care for themselves, feeding them raw, vegan and vegetarian meals to help them maintain their health through illnesses. HSN’s mission is to assist the immediate and extended communities in helping to reduce healthcare costs, and improve mind, body and spirit by providing raw, began and vegetarian education and training opportunities to their membership and the public. HSN was co-founded in October 1987 when three women (Thelma Raziya Curtis, Silva Williams and Yvonne Watkins) with severe health challenges and tragedies came together to support each other through difficulty and also transforming their health through nutrition. Raziya has continued to support and operate the Healing Support Network almost single-handedly for the last 30 years educating older people of color about how to prepare raw, vegan and vegetarian dishes, meals to live a healthy lifestyle. HSN has been a membership-based organization that strives to use people’s relationship with food to reduce health ailments. She recognizes the difficulty in changing dietary habits and aims to overcome the barrier of isolation in diet and health transformation. Mostly, she aims to turn grief into joy. HSN holds support groups, rejuvenation retreats, healthy lifestyle coaching, raw, vegan and vegetarian cooking classes and “food preparation parties.” The organization aims to take a seed to plate approach and to have fresh food, know where it comes from, and feel the difference in health. Through this approach, HSN wants its participants to view food differently and value its healing powers. Ms. Curtis, who’s now in her 70s, is a raw, vegan and vegetarian master chef also operates Raziya’s Rolling Pantry which makes available numerous healthy outreach projects, programs, foods, classes, and healthy parties to the community. HSN continues to provide nutrition information, dinner meet-ups with health awareness opportunities and presentations at events for community organizations. She’s been a gardener all of her life since she was a child growing up on her grandfather’s farm and thought it was fun. Raziya recognizes the power behind agriculture as a healing tool and she still thinks gardening is fun.
Betsy Creedon first came to TechTown Detroit in 2011 to manage BOOM the New Economy, an accelerator program for baby boomer-aged entrepreneurs. To our great fortune, she stayed on after that program wrapped up as Director of Entrepreneurial Services. In this capacity, Betsy has had a major hand in the launch and growth of countless technology businesses that are helping to reinvigorate Detroit and position the city as a center for creativity, innovation and progressive problem-solving. Betsy runs TechTown’s Business Accelerator Fund (BAF) program, through which she advises and supports businesses applying for BAF funds from the State of Michigan. In this role, Betsy has helped 25 tech startups secure nearly $500,000 and create more than 40 jobs. Those firms have gone on to raise over $18 million. Betsy also oversees the TechTown Business Incubation Center, which provides customized support to tech startups as they prepare for launch. These businesses are not only driving Detroit’s economy, they are changing the world. TBIC’s first graduate is Sentinl, whose product is a biometric gun lock which has the potential to prevent hundreds of accidental gun deaths each year. “Betsy is my ambassador to the Detroit and probably beyond. She’s my go-to-share good-news, but even more importantly I go to her when I want to get over bad news. I find her infectious positivity-combined-empathy therapeutic. When I’m 25, I’d love to have such energy and the ability to make friends like Betsy.” –Omer Kiyani, Sentinl/IDENTILOCK® Betsy also developed and continues to run the DTX Launch Detroit summer accelerator for Michigan college students. Just wrapping up its fifth year, DTX Launch has introduced more than 200 students, undergrad through advanced degree, to the fundamental concepts of launching a business. Several of these students still operate their businesses with major success, many others return to tell us the skills they learned in DTX Launch have proven invaluable in their next pursuits. Betsy’s career prior to TechTown is equally impressive. Her 40-plus-year career in documentary, advertising and educational film-making has taken her around the world. She served as Director of Programs for Worldwide Documentaries, promoting the broadcast, distribution and educational use of both A Closer Walk, a film on HIV/AIDS pandemic, and Not My Life, a film exposing modern day slavery and human trafficking around the world. This led her to GM, where she retired as the Director of Business Operations for the Global Public Policy Center before joining TechTown. Beyond her myriad accomplishments, Betsy is a highly respected colleague, who exudes positivity no matter what challenges come her way (and they have). She travels extensively, is active in her church and can often be found cooing over speakerphone to her grandchildren. She sets the standard for what it means to be a trusted colleague and exemplary human. Those of us nominating her have more than once exclaimed, “I want to be Betsy when I grow up!
Mr. Collins is an entrepreneur and urban consultant for Carl Collins Reality. He was appointed by the late Erma Henderson to the Detroit Building Authority where he served as treasurer for over 20 years. he is also the founder of Charity Motors. Mr. Collins mentors and sponsors youth who want to play golf. He is also involved in an all men’s group that travels to places of black historical significance.
Mr. Collins is a long time entrepreneur and owner of Carl Collins Realty. In addition to his business venture, he was appointed by the late Erma Henderson to the Detroit Building Authority where he served as treasurer for over 20 years. Carl also served as the President of Charity Motors, which over the last 20 years has given away more than $100 million in charitable gifts and car subsidies to those in need. Beyond his work with Charity Motors, Carl mentors and sponsors youth who want to play golf and is involved in a men’s group that travels to places of black historical significance.
Lois has been a sculptor for over thirty years. Today she specializes in public sculpture and her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts as well as the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City and in spaces across the state of Michigan. She creates hand welded and fabricated shapes of metal with spray painted surfaces that rely heavily on her use of space and form. Working in a minimalist tradition she brings a high level of technical accomplishment to these abstract works. Lois entered the art world as an adult after having raised three children and earned her BFA from College for Creative Studies and her MFA from Eastern Michigan University. She has taught at College for Creative Studies, Wayne State University, University of Michigan, Marygrove College, Madonna College, and Macomb Community College. Lois’s work developed out of the competition for attention between second-wave feminism and the then development concern of “solidifying Detroit” or the Cass Corridor style. Her work is political in its references, components, and messages. Lois’s first major public commission came in 1996 for Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan; other public works include Curved Form with Rectangle and Space near the Detroit Scarab Club, outdoor seating for the Boll YMCA, as well as a site specific sculpture for the Grand Blanc Bus Terminal. Lois has received more than 11 major grants and in 2008 she had a Retrospective at the Saginaw Art Museum that showcased 29 years of her work. Lois has maintained a studio practice, completed numerous private commissions, and remains an unabashed feminist.
Dr. Cledie Taylor was educated in the Detroit Public Schools where she eventually returned—after completing college at Wayne State—as an esteemed art and art history teacher. As a teacher at Cass Technical High School Cledie spent time discussing her trips to Europe and Africa with her students in the classroom and through one on one mentorship. There she influenced and guided many students through their arts careers including top fashion designers like Kevan Hall and Tracy Reese (both of whom have been honored by Michelle Obama). As an instructor Cledie opened the eyes of her students to the possibilities of what they could do with their creative interests and crafts. Since then, Cledie has retired but continues touching and changing lives through art. As a curator she developed the Charles H. Wright Museum exhibition Collect: The Power of Knowing to show lesser known works especially from the African continent and she established The Arts Extended Gallery, formerly located in Midtown and now on Detroit’s West side. She transformed the vacant property next to her own into the local gem that shows various forms of art. Cledie is constantly dreaming up possibilities for the gallery which has even included boarding for artists. The gallery hosts exhibits, workshops and tours that include teaching about the cultural elements of the art shown there. Cledie continues to be an arts educator touching lives in the city of Detroit.
At 81, Grosse Pointe Shores resident John Osler plays tennis most mornings, paints in his Eastern Market studio, designs posters, writes a regular blog, listens to jazz, and smiles a lot. John got his start in art as an illustrator in the 1950’s and 1960’s but over time he became more engrossed in photography. However, over time John’s spirit called him to journey to new cities like Jonestown, Mississippi where he went for blues and found inspiration to paint in the welcoming and spiritual community or New Orleans where his love of jazz called him to local clubs. John was deeply inspired there, and around the world, by the spirit and culture of people of color who called him to paint vibrant and sometimes large pieces. Upon returning to Detroit, John began to paint portraits of his travels and primarily African American subjects. His work can capture the movement of a Jazz drummer, the compassion in the eyes of a stranger, and the love graciously extended to an outsider. He has published a book where his photos can be found, Detroit Jazz; photographs musicians for Dirty Dog Jazz Café, and is planning more travel around the country and the world with Phyllis, his wife of 55 years. John created the 2014 and 2015 Detroit Jazz Festival posters and is known for doing intimate photo portraits of Jazz musicians in Detroit and elsewhere. His blog discusses jazz and highlights the musicians he meets throughout his continued travels. Originally from Birmingham, Michigan John graduated from Cornell University and started his career as a mechanical engineer in California in the 1950’s. However, his heart always leaned to the arts.
George R. N’Namdi began collecting art in 1968 and by 1981 he had opened his first gallery, Jazzonia. The family based G.R. N’Namdi gallery was launched in 1982 and is a nucleus for African American visual and performing arts as well as one of the arts cornerstones of the Midtown arts district. Under N’Namdi’s leadership, the Gallery has also served as a catalyst for the economic development in the Sugar Hill District of Detroit. Originally from Columbus, George continues to be an avid collector and has holdings that include galleries in Chicago and New York and he is a champion for Arts & Culture in Detroit. More than an arts collector, George is an educator, psychologist and activist as well. George holds a BA in Education from Ohio State University, a Master’s in Education, a Master’s in Psychology and a PhD in Psychology from the University of Michigan. In addition to teaching courses at the University of Michigan and providing therapy to prison inmates, George and his wife founded the Nataki Talibah School House in 1978, an independent high performing grade school with an emphasis on the arts. George believes that is especially important in the African American community to have opportunities to learn about one’s history and culture and facilitates that learning through the arts. Programming at N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Arts is designed to promote understanding, appreciation, and knowledge of the arts. Visual arts are the primary display of the gallery but the Center also includes a music lounge where only vinyl music from the 60s and 70s is played as well as a movement center for drop in dance classes such as African Dance, the Lindy, and Tango. George is also a curator for Midtown’s DLECTRICITY and supports other projects that bring art to the community. A tireless advocate, you can often catch George at arts and development focused events discussing importance of ‘the funk’ of Detroit and how to maintain it through community visibility and expression.
Artist Charles McGee is one of Detroit’s most accomplished modern artists, and at the age of 92 is still literally making his mark on the city.
His paintings and sculptures are prominently on display at the DIA and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and at William Beaumont Hospital, the Detroit People Mover Broadway Station, and in the very office where I work. This year Charles painted an 11-story-tall mural, “Unity,” at 28Grand, the new micro-loft Bedrock apartment building.
His career has spanned nearly eight decades and has included the founding of his own art school and gallery in Detroit, teaching art at Eastern Michigan University for 18 years and being named the inaugural 2008 Kresge Eminent Artist and recipient of a $50,000 award from the Kresge Foundation. He is one of the founding members of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit. His work is considered by fellow artists to be a benchmark for artistic excellence and has been celebrated in hundreds of exhibitions from Detroit to New York to Bankok.
It’s an impressive legacy for someone who started out humbly. Born in South Carolina in 1924, Charles’ first works of art when he was a child were ax handles that he made for his grandfather. His family moved to Detroit when he was a grade school student, and he worked hard to overcome a late start in academics to become such a good student that he was double promoted in the 8th grade. But by the time he finished his 10th grade year, he left school to go to work. He later enlisted in the Marine Corps, retuned to Detroit to take factory work, which left his mind free to create art in his spare time. He attended classes at what is now the College for Creative Studies, where he honed his craft and later left manufacturing work when he landed a position as a cartographic draftsman for the Corps of Engineers.
In a 2008 profile of Charles, Kresge Foundation President Rip Rapson called him an outstanding individual who “exemplifies what it means to be eminent and to be a Detroiter. He is an artist of international renown who in his life and his work is energetic, passionate, always probing and eager to reinvent.” He is known as a trailblazer, mentor and teacher, and a passionate promoter of the arts community whose work today enriches and beautifies the daily lives of ordinary people in the Metro area.
The Detroit Free Press said of Charles, “It’d be hard to overstate McGee’s influence on Detroit’s art scene, with his decades of art advocacy, teaching, curating and singular creation.”
Kresge Arts in Detroit Founding Director Michelle Perron said of Charles in 2008: “‘The creative mind,’ McGee has written, “continues always to test the parameters of conventional knowledge, forever in pursuit of new vistas.”
Currently 76, Mary Luevanos maintains the active involvement in the arts that has marked her entire life and has led to her being one of the most respected and beloved cultural leaders in Southwest Detroit. Mary is widely known for championing and facilitating the arts in Detroit’s Mexicantown; for teaching art classes and workshops; and for creating and sharing her own vibrant art that draws from her rich Mexican heritage as well as for being a community advocate. A proud native Detroiter, Mary grew up in Southwest Detroit with a family accomplished in the arts. Her grandmother from Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico, loved opera and painting and spoke five languages; her grandfather was a storyteller. Both of her parents loved to dance; her father sketched and played percussion instruments, recalling ancient Aztec traditions. Mary’s parents encouraged her in the arts and her early emersion in the arts shaped her life and led to her strong commitment to introduce art to older adults, teenagers, young children and families in Southwest Detroit. Mary has worked tirelessly to introduce printmaking, painting, poetry, and traditional Latino folk arts through community workshops that engage children and their parents. She has offered art programs independently—often donating materials—and through several Southwest Detroit cultural organizations: Nuestras Artes de Michigan, Detroit Puppeteer Guild, TAP (The Alley Project), Artes Unidas de Michigan, and Matrix Theatre, and she has served on governing Boards for LASED, Patton Park, CLAVE (Community for Latino Artists, Visionaries and Educators), and Dearborn Senior Television. Mary has taught many generations in the Southwest Detroit community the meanings of traditions through art and storytelling. Recently, Mary completed a two-day book-making workshop at St. Stephen’s Church, encouraging young people there to write, journal, and sketch their summer 2017 experiences and helping them to realize their potential to become writers, artists, journalists, etc. Throughout the rest of the summer Mary assisted young artists at TAP to develop technical skill and inventive thinking to transform their course graffiti into the well-developed and accomplished murals for which Southwest Detroit is becoming known. Mary also actively pursues and exhibits her own art. Her art has recently been shown in Detroit’s Allied Media “Women in Hip Hop as Resistance” exhibition and Kayrod Gallery’s “Latino Arte en Michigan.” Mary’s accomplishments as an artist have been nationally recognized by the Wayne State University’s Chicano Latin@ Center, Michigan Commission for Spanish Speaking Affairs, Matrix Theatre, Latino Caucus of New Detroit, and she is a National Football League Hispanic Heritage Award recipient. Mary has made her life’s work to address the challenges and concerns of her community through art and community activism. In the Southwest Detroit community, Mary is a cornerstone of the Latin@ community and is known and loved as abuelita (grandmother) of art and culture.
Shirley Lolles is a committed student of art as well as an advocate and facilitator for others to be the same. She emerged as an artist later in life dedicating herself to learning to paint and to showcasing the work of other older adults throughout the Detroit area. Her life is filled with art—in addition to the multiple exhibitions she curates and/or participates in each year, she remains enrolled in art classes and is a tireless ambassador for others to learn art as well. Never passively engaged, Shirley is dedicated to improving her technique and expression in the making of her art. Her paintings, masks, and multi-media pieces reflect her ancestry, her family, and community. They reach out, engage and activate the Detroit community to participate in the arts. Shirley’s work can not only be found in exhibits but it can also be found in murals on school walls in Detroit. At age 70 Shirley founded Creative Spirits, a group of peer artists who show their works collectively in exhibits around the region. The group is dedicated to highlighting the art of individuals over 65. Creative Spirits is also open to intergenerational art experiences for younger artist to work with older adults. Shirley has shown a commitment to enriching communities through art by creating or facilitating increased access to art for older adults and youth. She has organized many art shows so that others may experience the art of older adults and intergenerational groups. She has curated shows at many places including Hamtramck library and Southfield City Hall.
Billy Davis knew from an early age that he would be a guitar player and from there he went about creating a spot for himself in the field. His entire life has been dedicated to music. He has spent a lifetime brushing elbows with the greats, starting with his boyhood friend, Jackie Wilson. Billy Davis contributed greatly to the music industry during his tenure with Hank Ballard and The Midnighters, which earned him an inductee statue from The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. While performing with Hank Ballard early on, in Seattle, he was befriended by a young Jimi Hendrix, whom Billy showed how to play electric guitar. Jimi, his father, and Billy would all become friends, and Jimi and Billy remained very close until Jimi’s untimely death. Billy Davis also has inductee status in the R&B Hall of Fame in Detroit, and the DooWop Hall of Fame in Boston. At one time Billy Davis left the road and became a trained counselor of underprivileged youth for over a decade, continuing his mentorship in a different manner. To this day, occasionally a man will seek him out to let him know the difference he was able to make in a young boy’s life. Music is Billy’s art, it’s in his soul, and he never left it. More than a decade ago he gathered a band to perform his own compositions, of which he has many. He continues to be a mentor to youth, including a young nine-year-old talent who plays harmonica, sings standards, and is learning the guitar. Billy Davis has also been working on telling his story through a book he has been writing for five years. In it, he details the many famous friends he has enjoyed in his lifetime, and tells of his life journey, which actually started at the top. Hank Ballard was one of the most popular music artists at the time Billy Davis joined him on guitar, in 1959. He worked with Hank for almost thirty years all told, with a break early on to serve in the United States Army. Billy is currently at the top of the ‘Duo’ category of the Michigan portion of the Memphis International Blues Challenge. With one more round to go, he expects to win the Michigan and go on to compete on an International level for the top prize in Memphis in early 2018. He will be representing Michigan citizens at their best, working and sharing their art well into their seventies and beyond. Billy Davis is an undiscovered treasure in his own home town, a delight to learn about, and know. Billy Davis has had an ageless impact on everyone he meets, becoming an inspiration to all.
Nora Chapa Mendoza has worked for more than 40 years as a full time visual artist. She is a painter who served the state as a member of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs for 10 years, co-founded Nuestras Artes de Michigan (a Latin@ art group with chapters in Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Lansing) and continues to find time to educate and mentor young people through a variety of programs in Detroit. Nora has been recognized with numerous awards including the Governor’s Arts Award and Michigan Artist of the year in 1999. She is one of the eight artists that participated in the renovation of Detroit’s Music Hall. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, and her work is represented among many important collections around the world. She has played an important role in establishing the prominent position of women and Latin@s in art. In 1981 she opened Galeria Mendoza in Detroit which became the first legitimate Latin American art gallery established in Detroit. Nora is a Texas-born artist who studied at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit as well as Madonna University. Her work includes political abstract paintings, restoration, workshops, and murals. Nora works to create environments where differences are valued so that future generations do not have to experience the discrimination she experienced in her own life. Of her art Nora says, “In order that my art reflect my life, it is inevitable that the artist free the spirit and spontaneously embrace the soul. Each day I look eagerly to yet another opportunity to observe and express the pain and dignity of the human endeavor.”
As an immigrant, educator, and Arab American, Dr. Ameri has worked tenaciously at dispelling stereotypes and promoting respect between diverse peoples. This work is most visible as the founding director of the Arab American National Museum (AANM) in Dearborn, Michigan, the only institution of its kind among the 22,500 museums in the United States. AANM showcases the rich and diverse heritage of the Arab American community, highlighting the significant contributions Arabs have made and continue to make in the U.S., while also drawing attention to the intrinsic value of America’s culturally diverse population. Dr. Ameri was born November 23, 1944, in Damascus, Syria and grew up there as well as in Amman, Jordan. She received her B.A. in Sociology at the University of Jordan, Amman; her M.A. in Sociology at Cairo University in Egypt; and her Ph.D. in Sociology at Wayne State University in Detroit. She has served as acting director of the Institute for Jerusalem Studies in Jerusalem; visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies; and researcher at the Palestine Research Center in Beirut. She joined ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) in 1997 as Director of Cultural Arts Programs and oversaw the creation and curation of the $16 million Arab American National Museum, which opened in 2005 to great acclaim and draws increasing numbers of visitors each year from the U.S. and around the world. Under Dr. Ameri’s visionary aegis, AANM has earned many accolades, including two prestigious badges of honor: acceptance into the Smithsonian Institution’s Affiliations Program and accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums. Also with Ameri’s guidance, the Museum’s diversity-themed youth photography program, SURA Arts Academy, became one of just 14 programs nationwide to receive the 2008 Coming Up Taller Award from the President’s Council on the Arts and the Humanities for exemplary after-school youth programs. She retired from AANM in 2013, yet remains active in the community as a consultant and volunteer. She continues her mission to mentor young women of Arab American heritage—one of her mentees has since become deputy director of AANM. Dr. Ameri herself has received numerous honors, including the 2005 Michiganian of the Year Award from The Detroit News. In 2016, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. Additionally, Dr. Ameri is co-author of Arab Americans in Detroit: A Pictorial History (2001, Arcadia) and Etching Our Own Image: Voices from the Arab American Art Movement (2007, Cambridge Scholars Press). She was a contributing author and coeditor of The Arab American Encyclopedia (2000, UXL), and author of Telling Our Story: The Arab American National Museum (2007, self-published). Most recently she published a memoir, The Scent of Jasmine (2017; Interlink) recounting her childhood in Syria and Jordan, and has conducted a series of readings in Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.