Jan 09

Detroit Public Schools Teacher Responds to Emergency Manager Comments


Photo Credit: Steve Perez, The Detroit News

Mr. Darnell Earley was appointed in January 2013 as the “Emergency Manager” (EM) of the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R). If the name “Darnell Earley” sounds familiar, it may be because Mr. Earley was also appointed by Gov. Snyder to be the EM of the City of Flint Michigan; it was during that tenure that Mr. Earley and Mr. Snyder made the decision to switch Flint’s water supply from the Detroit Water Department to the Flint River “to save money”. As we now know, hundreds of thousands of residents in Flint have permanent lead poisoning damage due to the unsafe water conditions ignored by Messers Earley and Snyder and caused by their “money-saving” decision.

So now Mr. Earley (whose DPS salary is $225,000 a year) is in charge of the Detroit Public Schools, an unelected overseer who has proven that his previous decisions are unsound at best. The Detroit Public Schools are in such a dire financial condition (the EM was supposed to “fix” the finances) that they district says it will run out of money by April 2016. The working conditions of the schools are so deplorable that DPS teachers have been staging rotating “sick-ins” at different schools in the District (strikes by public school teachers are illegal).

Mr. Earley has commented that the teachers are the ones who are using DPS students as “political pawns” and “endangering their education” and are being self-centered and putting the District at further financial risk. Oh really?

Pam Namyslowski, a 4h grade teacher with 24 years of classroom experience at DPS, had some choice words for Mr. Earley. As you read her words, keep in mind that Ms. Namyslowski is a veteran EDUCATOR, as opposed to a carpetbagger “businessman” who has never spent a day in a public school classroom.

(Disclaimer: I am a retired public school teacher and college professor with over 30 years of experience teaching all grade levels from PreK through community college. Just in case you are wondering “whose side” I am on for this issue…)


I have been a teacher in Detroit Public Schools for 24 years. I feel the need to respond to some of the comments you made during your press conference this week. You described the actions of protesting teachers as “unethical”. I’m curious, then, how you would characterize the learning conditions of the children of Detroit Public Schools that have existed for years. These deplorable learning conditions happen to also be the teachers’ working conditions. We deal with unsafe environments – both in the neighborhoods surrounding our schools and often within the schools themselves. Unlike you, students and teachers do not have a driver and security guards. Students who travel to and from school pass numerous abandoned, dangerous buildings and have been robbed, assaulted, and raped. Teachers have been victims of violent crimes and have had their vehicles and personal property damaged and/or stolen, sometimes repeatedly. They suffer verbal abuse and some have been assaulted by angry students or parents. Many schools have numerous plumbing problems in the lavatories, drinking fountains, and sinks. Many outdated school buildings are crumbling – roofs, floors, windows, doors, and locks that are broken or in desperate need of repair. Far too many classrooms are overcrowded, creating conditions that are not even safe, let alone conducive to learning. I’m wondering where the concern and outrage over that is? In the past decade, teachers have lent the district almost $10,000 that we now fear we may never get back. We have taken a 10% paycut in a salary that was already significantly lower than surrounding districts.
You called upon the mayor, the city council, the clergy of Detroit to “be the voice of the children.” Mr. Earley, rest assured there is no one in this city, other than the parents, who care more about the education, happiness, and well being of the students of Detroit Public Schools, than we teachers do. We ARE their voice. We are on the front line, working side by side with them every day, trying our best to overcome numerous obstacles. In the winter, we often work in freezing rooms with our coats on with them. In the summertime , we survive with them in stifling heat and humidity in temperatures that no one should have to work in. We wipe their tears and listen when they are upset. We send food home with them. We encourage them to persevere and to be hopeful about their futures. We celebrate their successes. We comfort them when they experience loss and tragedy. We give up time with our own children to support our students, who we also consider our children. We spend our own money to buy not only learning materials, but things such as uniforms, hand soap, sanitizer, and Kleenex.
You accuse us of drowning out the voices of our students. You stated we are “using students as pawns to advance a political position.” You have it backwards. The children of Detroit HAVE been used as pawns. Their voices have indeed been drowned out. But make no mistake, this has not been done by the teachers. Educational decisions are now being made by politicians. Schools are being run like businesses. We have been vilified by these politicians. We have been made accountable for things we have no control over. We have been forced to administer numerous developmentally inappropriate tests to our students and then we and our students are judged by the meaningless scores. We have watched the debt increase to ridiculous, unsustainable levels under state appointed emergency managers, while the conditions we teach in have deteriorated alarmingly. We have been set up to fail in every way. The successes that happen in classrooms every day, both academic and emotional, largely go unseen, and most cannot be measured or displayed on a data wall. We, as teachers, know our students and what they need. It is heartbreaking to see that our students don’t have what they need and certainly not what they deserve.
The recent action of teachers is not an attempt to drown out the voices of the students. It is an attempt to finally make their voices heard.

Pam Namyslowski
4th Grade Teacher
Mann Elementary School

Sep 11

September 11th: Our 17th Wedding Anniversary

Although 17 years have passed since we got married, some aspects of our relationship will never change, they just become stronger through the time we spent together. Our wedding was 17 years ago, the celebration continues to this day.

I publish this post every year on September 11, to remind me to keep perspective and to celebrate the day with a love story.  This year, in honor of Nick Ashford, I am adding the video of “Solid as a Rock”, because that describes the relationship between my husband and me, even after after 26 years of love and friendship.

Our September 11th 

September 11, 1998.That is our wedding anniversary. It was chosen totally by accident: after “being friends” for over ten years, we decided in August 1997, to “take our relationship to the next level”. After several rounds of “telephone tag”, we made a date on Thursday, September 11, 1997 to take “the big step”…Everything went well and in February 1998, we became engaged.We chose as our wedding date, Friday, September 11, 1998–only because that date was exactly one year from the day we decided to make our relationship permanent. Besides, our wedding was very small: 10 guests, the minister, and our favorite Patti LaBelle song on CD. Then came 2001–after experiencing the shock along with the rest of America, I was kinda “bummed” that the Attacks happened on our third wedding anniversary, until…on Thursday, September 13, 2001, I saw a gentleman on TV walking around and around the Pentagon looking totally despondent and lost. I found out from the TV commentary that September 11 2001 was his TWENTY-FIFTH wedding anniversary, and he had lost his wife in the Pentagon. They were going to have a celebration dinner that night after she came home from work…of course, she never did come home. I was never “bummed” again; and the picture of that lost and broken man will never leave me.

Ashford and Simpson: “Solid as a Rock”

Sep 07

A History of Labor Day

The celebration of
Labor Day originated in Canada in the 1800s when a parade of support for the
Typographical Union was held in Toronto in 1872. The union was striking for a
58-hour work week. Several support strikes followed, and in 1873, the Canadian
Parliament passed the Trade Union Act which was designed to repeal anti-union
laws. Celebrations originally were held in the spring, coinciding with May Day
Workers Celebrations held in other parts of the world.

On July of 1882, the
Toronto Trades and Labour Council invited the president of the  American
Federation of Labor
 Peter J. McGuire, to speak at a labor festival.
In September of 1882, McGuire and the Knights of Labor organized a similar
parade in New York City, the first “Labor Day Parade” in the United
States. Although personally anti-union, United States President  Grover Cleveland  was forced into making Labor Day a national holiday in 1894 after several strikes in the
United States, notably the
 Pullman Railroad
Workers Strike
Chicago which halted mail delivery. In June of that year, Congress passed a
bill that made the first Monday of 
September a National Labor Day Holiday.

The holiday has historically been celebrated with a parade followed by picnics.
Over the years, labor and political leaders were the featured speakers. In the
1930s and through World War II, the labor movement strengthened, especially in
Detroit Michigan, where Teamsters Union President 
 Walter Reuther  helped negotiate benefits such as paid
vacation time and sick leave.


From the 1940s through the
1960s, it became a tradition for  Democratic Party candidates to officially
launch their general election campaigns in Detroit, boosted by strong union
support. But throughout the 1970s, the clout of the
union leaders dwindled, and the dwindling attendance at the Detroit parades
caused their cancellation until 1981.

Recently, Labor Day Parades and celebrations of union and other workers have been revived in Detroit and in Michigan, including the traditional walk/run across the Mackinac Bridge led by the current governor of Michigan.

Sep 04

The Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation Expands to Help a Community in Need

Hall of Fame Gymnast, Wendy Hilliard, wants to provide low-cost sports to inner-city residents in Detroit

by Brittany Dandy

image002Wendy Hilliard, hall of fame rhythmic gymnast and the founder of the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation (WHGF), recently announced her organization’s expansion from Harlem to Detroit, Michigan, where she and her team hope to help a community in need.

The Detroit, native was the first African American to represent the U.S. in international competition, but her historical accomplishments were not achieved without challenge. The lack of diversity in the gymnastics world, coupled with her personal experiences, inspired Hilliard to began a low-cost gymnastics program for urban youth. The program provides inner-city children opportunities to participate in the sport.

After nearly two decades of success, Hilliard is partnering with Architect and Urban Strategist Tom Sherry to open a WHGF facility in Detroit, that will also include community programs for boxing, soccer, basketball, and fencing.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with  Hilliard to talk her foundation’s mission and purpose, the racial gap in gymnastics, and her new Detroit, initiative.

BlackEnterprise.comWhat is the Wendy Gymnastics Hilliard Foundation and its mission?

Hilliard: To provide free and low-cost quality gymnastics programs for inner-city youth and people of all ages and abilities in the sport of gymnastics – a traditionally expensive sport. To create affordable opportunities and help ensure that aspiring minority athletes have an opportunity to succeed in gymnastics. To provide children with the opportunity that I had in gymnastics.

Explain the racial-gap in gymnastics, which you’re striving to close, and how filling it will affect the youth and the world of gymnastics?

Especially in recent years, there have been African Americans at the top in international, World and Olympic competition. There has not been a significant increase of participants on the grass root levels – primarily because of the cost of training. Most of the top gymnasts are the only, or one of the few, blacks in their gymnastic clubs where they train. That is totally different at the WHGF. Many parents express relief that there is a place for their child to take gymnastics where they do not have to be the only black gymnast. Gabby Douglas talks about this challenge in her book.

What will the new community initiative include?

In addition to after-school gymnastics activities for all ages and levels of gymnastics, the facility will also include community programs for boxing, soccer, basketball, and fencing. More than 400 local youth participate in WHGF programs in New York, every week, and we will strive to reach similar numbers in Detroit, over time.  In New York, the WHGF has produced gymnasts that compete on a national and international level. I would love to definitely have competitive gymnastics teams in Detroit. My experience as a gymnast in Detroit, made a world of difference. Our team, The Detroit Metro Gymnasts, produced national and international champions and an Olympian. We were travelling worldwide constantly and that gave the City of Detroit pride, and will make a world of difference for the youth of Detroit. Detroit a great sports town and primed to provide opportunities for the youth on non-traditional sports.

What impact do you hope to leave on these communities and how have they been impacted thus far?

The current top contenders for the 2016 Olympics, including Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles and Nia Dennis, are increasing interest in the sport among African American youth. In addition to helping reshape the city of Detroit, [by] providing affordable youth activities, the WHGF wants to ensure that aspiring athletes have an opportunity to succeed in gymnastics, as I did. After the summer 2012 Olympics in London, where then-16-year-old Gabby Douglas made history, becoming the first African American to capture gold in the individual all-around gymnastics competition, there was an immediate impact on the sport’s popularity.

For the first time ever, the WHGF had a long waiting list to enroll in the classes Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation provides. There is no doubt that the 2016 Olympics will have the same effect. We just returned from taking eight athletes to the National Championships in Tumbling and Trampoline. For our first time at these championships, we came home with 9 National medals, including Gold, Silver and Bronze. I witnessed how much pride this gave my athletes and their families and NYC. That will stay with them always and it is something that they had to earn. That is why sports are so powerful. They traveled to another state (the first time traveling to Texas, for all of the athletes, and first time on a plane for some) they made new friends and saw others that they competed with during the year– and it was very very special.


Aug 05

Keith Owens Named Sr. Editor of the Michigan Chronicle

keithI can’t imagine a better time to be senior editor of the Michigan Chronicle.

I’ve been a journalist for nearly 30 years, working as a reporter, editorial writer, columnist, and blogger. In Detroit, where I have spent the past 22 years of my life, I have worked for the Detroit Free Press on the editorial board and as an op-ed columnist (prior to the strike), written a bi-weekly column for the Metro Times, won a few journalism awards. worked as a freelance writer, wrote and published four fiction and nonfiction books, and served as editor for both the now-defunct Michigan FrontPage and the Michigan Chronicle before taking a five-year detour from journalism as Director of the Office of Communications for the Office of the Wayne County Treasurer. Aside from my years as a professional musician, which I have been for even longer than I’ve been a journalist, that was the only non-journalism job I ever held during my professional career.

Well, OK, there were also those three years I slung boxes for UPS not long after the Detroit Newspaper Strike began. So yes, there was that.

But here’s the point of all this: I’ve had what I would call the sharp-edged privilege of having experienced my adopted home of Detroit from a wide variety of angles and perspectives. I don’t love Detroit just in the abstract, or because it looks good on a T-shirt,or because it is now the popular thing to say. When I moved here in 1993, saying you loved Detroit – especially if you were originally from Denver – was most assuredly not the popular thing to say. It was considered a trace of certifiable madness. But I loved Detroit from the minute I got off that plane in January of 1993, when I left a 70-degree Fort Lauderdale, where I had been working for the Sun Sentinel, to move to a 7-degree Detroit and join the staff of the Detroit Free Press (true story). And I still love Detroit today. So yeah, I’m one of those kind of Detroiters. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves and draw your own conclusions.

Meanwhile, while you’re doing that, I feel like I need to say again that this couldn’t be a more perfect time to have a job like this. Ever since I moved to this city I have been hearing about this Detroit Renaissance that would be here any day now. Just wait. It’s coming. No, really. Honest. Wait for it… But it never came…

Until now. For better and/or for worse (much remains to be seen), that Renaissance that Detroiters have been hearing so much about – and bitterly laughing about for years as the worst kind of inside joke – is at the front door and knocking with a sledge hammer. Blight removal is now actually happening, and it’s happening fast. And there’s actually new construction – in Detroit! That side of town we used to know as the Cass Corridor is now called Midtown and, well, let’s just agree that it’s a bit different from what we remember. And then there’s downtown, and the M-1 rail line, and there’s white people all over the place (seems like) talking about how cool Detroit is and they’re filling up all these clubs and coffee houses and yoga studios and …

And then there’s the rest of Detroit. In so many ways same as it ever was; still tough as a room full of pitbulls, still mostly black, still mostly poor, and still very much struggling and wondering how much longer we’re going to have to live like this. How much longer will the schools be like this? How much longer will all this violence continue? When will the buses ever run on time? When do we get our New Detroit?

But Detroit is still all one city. All of it. From the yoga studios and the chic coffee houses to the ‘hood. From Palmer Woods and Indian Village to Mack and Bewick and all of Southwest. As Detroit continues to grow, it needs to grow into a size that fits all of us comfortably and meets all of our needs.




And so the challenge for the Michigan Chronicle, as we move forward toward this New Detroit, wherever it’s headed, is to not simply report on the journey but to actively – sometimes aggressively – participate in it. Grab that steering wheel and yank it hard. Because the history of the Michigan Chronicle, and the history of the Black press, is not a history of standing on the sidelines, nor is it a history of impartiality. Because as Ida B. Wells made clear more than a century ago as one of the shapers/founders/creators of the Black press, it’s kinda hard to be impartial about things like lynching when your own people are the ones getting lynched.

The history of the Black press is a history of breathing air into the lungs of a community to create one loud voice comprised of so many that could not be heard any other way. The history of the Black press – and of the Michigan Chronicle – is a history of community uplift.

The future of the Michigan Chronicle will always include community uplift, with an expanded definition of both “community” and “uplift”. The future of the Michigan Chronicle is not only as the Black community newspaper of Detroit, but as Detroit’s community newspaper. See the difference? And also by the way, in keeping with where the future is headed, expect to see the Chronicle shed the terms ‘weekly’ and ‘paper’ as it continues to shift direction toward a more timely digital-first news and information delivery service.

And I get to be the editor while all this happens? No job should ever be allowed to be this much fun. Seriously. There ought to be a law.

But there isn’t a law against it, so stay tuned…



Jul 24

Let’s Celebrate Detroit’s 314th Birthday!

cakeWe are glad to celebrate today Detroit’s 314th birthday. And we couldn’t find a better way to celebrate it than writing a new post for our readers. And yes! You guessed it; this post will be dedicated to our beloved hometown. We will share some curious facts and history that will remind us why our city is so particular and awesome at the same time.

Let’s start with a little bit of history.

How did the first natives got to Detroit? Well, Odawa people came from the eastern areas of North America. Near what is now Detroit, once there, the group divided into three groups, the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi.

Historically, the first recorded mention of Detroit was in 1670, when French missionaries found a stone idol venerated by the Indians there and destroyed it with an axe. Early settlers planted twelve missionary pear trees “named for the twelve Apostles” on the grounds of what is now Waterworks Park.

Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac in 1698 proposed to his government in Paris that Detroit be established as a shelter for displaced Indian allies. Paris approved and in 1701 Cadillac led a party of 100 Frenchmen to establish a post called Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit.

Later, an investigation by de Pontchartrain showed Cadillac was a tyrannical profiteer whose mischief hurt the French cause, so Cadillac was removed and sent to faraway New Orleans as governor of Louisiana.

Francois Marie Picoté, sieur de Belestre was the last French commander at Fort Detroit (1758–1760). He surrendered on November 29, 1760 to the British.

After learning about Detroit’s French heritage (I’m sure many of you didn’t know that), you should see some interesting facts that make our city so special.

– We had the first concrete roadway in the country

In 1909, the first mile of concrete roadway in the United States was paved at a cost of almost $14,000 (in case you wonder, that is the equivalent to over 2 million dollars today). And that’s the humble beginning of Woodward Avenue.

Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan, from Rober...

Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan, from Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


– Only floating post office in the U.S.

J.W. Westcott II is a boat that delivers mail to other vessels and also provides a pilot boat service to ferry pilots to and from other vessels. The boat also operates out of Detroit, Michigan, and is the only floating post office in the world that delivers mail to ships as they are underway.

– We love techno music!

In fact, this electronic music genre emerged in… Can you guess it? Yes! In Detroit!
The first recorded use of the word techno in reference to a specific genre of music was in 1988. Many styles of techno now exist, but Detroit techno is seen as the foundation upon which a number of subgenres have been built. We even have our own Electronic Music Festival held each Memorial Day weekend.

English: Picture of the Main Floor at Electron...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

– The hometown of many stars

There is a wide range of personalities that were born in Detroit. Just to mention a few, we can mention: Diana Ross, Alice Cooper, Francis Ford Coppola, and J.K. Simmons among many others.

– We had the first auto traffic tunnel between two nations

The Detroit-Windsor tunnel that connects Michigan, U.S. and Ontario, Canada was completed in 1930, and nowadays, is the second busiest crossing between the United States and Canada.

English: Customs booths at the Detroit-Windsor...

English: Customs booths at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apr 14

EM Orr: Punitive Policies AGAIN

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is ready to present another backwards-thinking policy that will NOT boost revenues for Detroit, but instead will punish people who live, work, and most importantly visit our great city. 

Presently, if you receive an expired parking meter ticket, the cost is $20, but that fee is reduced to $10 if you pay the ticket within 7 days. Mr. Orr wants to increase the regular expired fee to $45.00, which would increase to $65.00 within a short time. The EM posits that this will increase revenues for Detroit by punishing people who have expired meters.

Instead, such a policy will cause people, especially visitors, to think twice about coming to Detroit, and more people who do get tickets will not pay such exoribant fees. Many more tickets will go unpaid, and far fewer people will visit Detroit. Those who us who live and work in Detroit already pay higher fees for just about everything as it is; yet Mr. Orr thinks it is a good idea to make us pay even more.

This is a backwards-thinking policy and de-incentivzes people to park in Detroit to live, work, shop, or attend events.

People should make their voices heard at a public hearing today, Monday, April 14, 2014, at 3pm at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Builiding downtown.

Mar 13

Happy #313DLove Day, #Detroit!


The City of Detroit was founded in 1701, 313 years ago by Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, a French fur trader and explorer.








March13Today is March 13.










313logoThe Area Code to call anyone in Detroit is “313”.








twitterlogoToday, 03/13, at 3:13 pm, those of us who live, love, and work in the “D” will tweet our #313DLove!









313DayHappy #313DLove Day, #Detroit!












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Mar 10

March 10th, 1965: The Temptations

On this day in 1965, the Temptations‘ “My Girl” is the nation’s top R&B song.

Photo: On this day in 1965, the Temptations' "My Girl" is the nation's top R&B song.

Thank you to Ken Coleman on Facebook www.onthisdaydetroit.com


Mar 10

March 10th, 1972: The First Black U.S. Political Convention

On this day in 1972, the first black U.S. political convention opens in Gary, Indiana.

Spearheaded by Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher, poet and activist Amiri Baraka, and U.S. Rep. Charles C. Diggs, Jr. of Detroit, the meetings are designed to create a comprehensive and unified agenda for the nation’s 22 million African-Americans.

Held at Westside High School, the three-day event attracts 8,000 Republicans, Democrats, nationalists, Socialists, and independents from 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Those attending include Jesse Jackson, Walter E. Fauntroy, Ronald V. Dellums, Richard Roundtree, Bobby Seale, Louis Farrakhan, Barbara Jordan, and Julian Bond. Among the Detroit attendees are recording artist Kim Weston; state Sen. Coleman A. Young, state Rep. Morris Hood, Jr., and Diggs.


Thank you to Ken Coleman on Facebook www.onthisdaydetroit.com

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