Michigan was part of the nation’s outback during the War of Independence. And most of the inhabitants probably liked that just fine. Battlefields are nice places to study, but from what I have seen, no place you’d want to be close to at the time.
Today, there will be speeches urging us to remember that we are all Americans. Some will scold those who are making our government’s present policies, or those who attack them.
Others will say that Americans should be united, just as they were in the days of George Washington and Valley Forge.
But what most people don’t realize is that a substantial minority of Americans at the time – possibly as high as 40 percent -- didn’t want independence. They were called loyalists, or Tories, and a fair number left for Great Britain or Canada, after the other side won the war. Naturally, that left the patriots with no one to bicker with except themselves, which they soon began to do.
President Washington wanted to avoid having political parties. That lasted about five minutes.
Which brings me to my favorite Fourth of July story, one with a moral we can perhaps learn from. It began on the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, and ended exactly 185 years ago today. Two of the founding fathers were, of course, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They were good buddies on July 4, 1776, when they signed the declaration. Later, however, they each became leaders of the first two political parties.
Grand Rapids Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is moving into a new location. Its new home is only 2 blocks away from where it is now, so today volunteers lined up to help them move. More than 60 people created a human chain, passing one box along from one person to the next.
“You know we depend on volunteers,” UICA Executive Director Jeff Meeuwsen said, “We’re very community-oriented and we said right away, how can we involve people in our move?”
The two acre park is a step towards the city’s goal to have every Grand Rapids resident live within ¼ mile of some kind of greenspace. That goal has been difficult to achieve since nearly all of the city’s land has already been developed. Plus, city government has been cutting down on spending for years.
13-year old Ashley Jones remembers the old vacant lot where the park is now. She refered to it as a ‘hot mess’ before the renovations.
“It looked crazy. It had the prickles when you walked it would stick on your shoes. There was no shade or nothing. And it was kind of boring.”
Designer Felicia Ferrone worked as an architect for six years in Milan, Italy before returning home to Chicago a year and a half ago. She now runs her own design practice and wishes Chicago had more of a reputation as a design center.
Ferrone thinks what has kept Chicago from being better known is its Midwestern work ethic.
“Everyone is just busy working, instead of clamoring for attention,” she said.
A look at how the ups and downs of the auto industry have affected Michigan's arts organizations.
The Detroit Three, aka the "Rocks of Gibraltar"
Up until a few years ago, it was hard to find an arts organization in southeast Michigan that didn’t rely on and receive generous amounts of money from the auto industry. We’re talking five or six-figure contributions.
Anne Parsons, president of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, says for decades GM, Ford and Chrysler were the corporate giants of philanthropy:
ANNE PARSONS: "They had been the “Rocks of Gibraltar” if you will, certainly our corporate giving."
JENNIFER GUERRA: "...and now?"
ANNE PARSONS: "Well I think it’s very different. They’re absolutely engaged corporate leaders, but I certainly think the impulse to knock on the door of one of the auto giants to have your problems solved or challenges met, I think those days are over."
For the past few days, we asked people whether they thought Detroit's image was on the rebound. We heard about the best and worst in the city. And people shared their visions of Detroit's future. Some people chose to show us their own Detroit in pictures.
On today's podcast, we talk with Michigan author Steve Amick about writing, humor, and the character of writers from the state. It's part of Michigan Radio's occasional literary series, Michigan on the Page. Amick is the author of The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, which takes place in a fictional town on the west side of the state.
We're back with more from our survey about Detroit's image. Many people think the city is and always was a great place, with a bad reputation. But others think the problems and challenges the city faces are just too big. Before we get to responses about Detroit's drawbacks, here's what people say is the coolest thing about Detroit.
Cars, and the pride of a town built on the automobile industry. If you are a car person, it is definitely a pilgrimage of sorts. - Robbert Liddell, Detroit
Our inspiration is Mayor Dave Bing’s Transform Detroit, a event that is showing examples of Detroit’s revitalization to about 50 reporters. Despite the positive picture the city is trying to present, we know not everyone believes the city is on its way back.
Changing Gears is asking you about the best and the worst of Detroit, and the factors that are shaping your views of the Motor City. We’ll keep updating throughout the week. Here’s a sample of the first responses.
Detroit is great city, it’s just that people tend to judge before getting to know it. It’s like an old car, it’s broken down, but you love it to death. -Kira Plotivrnkov, Warren, MI
Art deco grit -Garlin Gilchrist II, Washington, DC
What’s the coolest thing about Detroit?
The coolest thing about Detroit is what it used to represent. Detroit was the American Dream. Millions of people were able to go to college because of the salary and benefits that the big three provided for their parents and grandparents.
When I am away from home and I hear someone ignorantly speaking about Detroit, I feel like someone is disrespecting a family member and I always make sure to chime in and talk about all the great things that this area offers. Joe Egan, Royal Oak, MI
It’s attitude. The city and its people genuinely seem to have a sense of community and pride in rebuilding Detroit. The willingness to learn from mistakes and try new civic ideas is appealing. -Michael McAfee, Austin, TX
The state’s popular Pure Michigan tourism campaign is headed to the race track this summer.
Pure Michigan will sponsor its first NASCAR race at the Michigan International Speedway. It will be billed as the Pure Michigan 400. ESPN will be broadcast the race nationwide and run Pure Michigan ads during the event.
Michigan boasts plenty of summer festivals celebrating fruit, vegetables, music, and food. But there’s a relatively new festival that pays homage to the creation of comics.
The third annual “Kids Read Comics” festival happens this weekend in downtown Chelsea, west of Ann Arbor. It features workshops with names like “Make Your Life Into a Comic” and “Nobody Likes a Boring Story.”
His first novel, The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, takes place in Weneshkeen, a fictional boat town on the western coast of Michigan. The novel is filled with scenes familiar to many Michiganders—the conflict between townies and summer people, between farmers and daytripping Fudgies.
Sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. today, at least 50 people file out of Holland City Hall. I hear some say, “They don’t get it, but you tried.”
A few people wearing "Holland is Ready" buttons hug one another -- some are tearing up -- after city council voted 5 to 4 against the recommendation to adopt the proposed anti-discrimination laws. The recommendation included providing homosexual and transgender persons protection from employers and landlords who discriminate against them.
TROY, Mich. (AP) - Friends, family and supporters of the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian have paid tribute to the polarizing assisted-suicide advocate during a public memorial service in suburban Detroit.
A large photograph of Kevorkian resting his face in his right hand stood near his American flag-draped casket during the service in a chapel at White Chapel Memorial Cemetery in Troy.
Kevorkian will be laid to rest later Friday during a private grave-site service for those closest to him.
He died in a hospital last week at age 83.
Kevorkian was an advocate of allowing health care professionals help gravely-ill people die and he claimed he assisted in about 130 deaths. He spent eight years in prison for second-degree murder after "60 Minutes" broadcast video of him helping someone die in 1998.
Gender identity and sexual orientation are a hot topic right now in the city of Holland. That’s because Holland city council is considering adding local laws that protect people against discrimination for being gay or transgender. The ordinance would give them protection from discrimination by employers and landlords. The issue is extremely divisive in the generally conservative city.
Reverend Ralph Houston reads passages from the bible to city council at an informal meeting last night. He says passing the ordinance would lead to moral chaos.
There's no shortage of musicians who got their start in Michigan: Madonna, Iggy Pop and The White Stripes come to mind. Problem is, they left the state to make it big.
Emily Fox reports there's a movement to try to encourage musicians and bands to stay in Michigan. On today's Artpod, we look at how local "music collectives" are hoping to keep homegrown talent in the state.
My American Unhappiness, the second novel from Dean Bakapoulos, the author of Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon, is about an unhappy (surprise!) man working in the humanities in Wisconsin who makes a series of terrible decisions for the ostensible purpose of getting married and keeping his family together.
While the main action of the novel takes place in Madison, WI, the protagonist, Zeke Pappas, has a number of connections to Michigan. His time at the University of Michigan features many references to university and Ann Arbor town life including [mild spoiler alert!] Alice Lloyd Hall, the Fleetwood Diner, and beloved professor Ralph Williams’s popular Shakespeare class.
It was all a part of a scene being filmed as part of the Flint collaboration 25-plus musicians who’ve recently felt led to make an uplifting anthem for the city.
Two months in the making, this scene was among the final, yet most powerful, pieces to add to the original Flint-inspired song and music video.
“It was such a beautiful sight to see,” said Yusuf Bauswell, 38, of Flint.
Bauswell, along with Bernard Jackson -- another Flint musician -- spearheaded the project and sent out a calling for people wanting to support their cause.
The Journal reports that Yusuf Bauswell and Bernard Jackson started writing the song together several months ago. They invited other recording artists to help them out and together they created the song and are now working on making the accompanying music video.
June 20 is the scheduled release date for the video.
Here's a clip of the song along with the call for people to help with the music video:
When Jack Kevorkian died Friday, I was on vacation in the Scottish highlands. For once in my life I was without a cell phone, but someone I was with got the news. I mentioned Kevorkian's death to an Israeli woman on our tour.
"I thought he died years ago," she said. She was not alone.
I've run into plenty of people who didn't know he was still around. And in a sense, Kevorkian the assisted suicide crusader had ceased to exist.
Since being released from prison four years ago, he had mostly faded into obscurity. He largely lived the life of a cranky recluse. He divided his days between the Royal Oak Public Library and a cheap apartment across the street. There was a time when I felt that I knew him better than any other journalist. I covered all his trials for the New York Times, did major pieces for Vanity Fair and Esquire, and saw him frequently for six years in the 1990's.
Here is a piece on Jack Kevorkian from Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett.
In Hulett's story, we hear the thoughts of Jack Lessenberry, who covered Kevorkian for the New York Times and Vanity Fair; the Oakland County prosecutor in 1999, David Gorcyca (who convicted Kevorkian); and Geoffrey Fieger, Kevorkian's lawyer.
Hulett reports that Kevorkian once said that Johann Sebastian Bach was his god - and that nurses caring for Kevorkian played Bach during Kevorkian's final hours.
Update 10:05 a.m.
Here's the 60 Minutes piece that led to Kevorkian's conviction in 1999. Kevorkian administers the lethal injection (previous patients reportedly administered the drugs themselves). He was daring authorities to convict him and adding more fuel to the assisted suicide debate in the country:
The New York Times reports that Kevorkian's advocacy changed how hospitals approached end of life care:
From June 1990, when he assisted in the first suicide, until March 1999, when he was sentenced to serve 10 to 25 years in a maximum security prison, Dr. Kevorkian was a controversial figure. But his critics and supporters generally agree on this: As a result of his stubborn and often intemperate advocacy for the right of the terminally ill to choose how they die, hospice care has boomed in the United States, and physicians have become more sympathetic to their pain and more willing to prescribe medication to relieve it.
Kevorkian called end of life treatment in hospitals cruel.
In this 1996 60 Minutes interview with Andy Rooney, Kevorkian said many hospitals take food and water away from a dying patient - treatment the U.S. Supreme Court supported, according to Kevorkian.
"Our august Supreme Court has validated the Nazi method of execution in concentration camps - starving them to death!"
Here's the interview (Geoffrey Fieger, Kevorkian's lawyer is by his side):
Assisted suicide advocate, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, is dead at the age of 83.
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra will keep its executive director for the next few years. The DSO announced this afternoon that its Board of Directors renewed CEO Ann Parsons’ contract through 2014.
Parsons led the Detroit Symphony through the recent dispute with its unions that shutdown the DSO for much of the past year. The six month strike came to an end after musicians agreed to a 25% cut in pay.
In hopes of luring back its fans, the DSO is cutting ticket prices for the upcoming symphony season.