NATION: Blackout Coalition Founder Face Backlash After Controversial Statements on Voting

The founder of the Blackout Coalition, organizer of #Blackout Day 2020, is facing backlash after posting a series of Facebook live videos last week that appeared to urge blacks against voting.

Calvin Martyr posted a short message last week in his Blackout Coalition Facebook group with a caption reading "You can be distracted if you want to and believe that voting for either one of these men will change things for us as descendants of slaves in America. The path to liberation does not lead to the voting booth... Ownership, equity, self-sustainment, and self-determination is the only hope for our children to have a future and our legacies to remain."

Martyr then created another video challenging his viewers to a debate on the topic, which seemed to rub supporters the wrong way. 

A massive trail of angry reactions followed with many commenters accusing Martyr of using his platform to suppress black voting and questioning his motives for forming the group. 

"It's a huge disappointment to hear this out of this group", wrote Tony Conley of Cleveland, OH. "Your words are helping to hurt our community and not in any way helping. Your 'do nothing' mindset will keep leading us to our deaths by inaction".

Celestine Izuakonaobi also expressed frustration and disappointment with Martyr's messages regarding voting, "Calvin has been able to get 1.8 million people in this group. We have a unique opportunity to push voting and voter registration to encourage people to vote, and today I heard the young man downplay the importance of voting. That in itself is dangerous. It was absolutely disappointing."


Four women affiliated with the coalition defended Martyr, stating that his comments were misinterpreted. "I think it was misconstrued when Calvin was on live", said one group administrator who goes by the Facebook name ShaSha Jade. "People took it as him saying don't vote at all. He was saying if you choose to vote... vote, but that's not our fight. Our fight is the economic withdrawal and economic empowerment of our people."

The Blackout Coalition, which describes itself as the fastest growing, pro solution, non-violent, anti-rioting, social injustice consequence movement founded Blackout Day 2020, an economic boycott urging blacks to refrain from spending money with any businesses other than those that were black-owned. 

Jade says the event was a huge success, resulting in over 40,000 new accounts at black-owned banks with over $50 million being deposited.

Jade says she would like to see another social media group rise up with a focus on voting in the black community.

Izuakonaobi has since formed the Committed Black Voters Coalition group on Facebook.


Pastor Marvin Winans Beats Covid-19 Returns To Preaching


[Detroit]
- Legendary gospel singer and pastor of Perfecting Church, Marvin L. Winans, has returned to the pulpit, preaching multiple services this week after being hospitalized due to coronavirus.


Winans appeared before thousands of viewers via Facebook Live this week, showing no trace of having battled a virus that has devastated countries worldwide, taking the lives of many.


Winans expressed thanks to his many viewers for their prayers and attributed his recovery to a work of God.


In an earlier Facebook live video, Winans cleared up circulating rumors that he had been gravely ill and on a ventilator. He stated that he had been hospitalized twice, but never experienced any severe impact of the virus.


Winans prayed for the families of those who have lost loved ones due to the pandemic, and shared an inspiring message concerning faith. 

While expressing gratitude for the opportunity to connect with congregants online, Winans says he is looking forward to soon gathering again face-to-face.


Perfecting Church presently hosts live streaming services on their Facebook page, Sundays at 10:45 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m.


Detroiters Overtaxed $600 Million Unite To Seek Justice

(Detroit, MI) – It was standing room only at the Considine Recreation Center in Detroit on Thursday as local residents packed the house seeking information regarding the City of Detroit's illegally imposed tax assessments.

Agnes Hitchcock, founder of Detroit based Call ‘Em Out, a community advocacy organization, called the meeting to formalize demands that Detroiters be “made whole” after illegal property tax assessments in excess of six-hundred million dollars.

“We have a list of over 2,000 Detroit homeowners that have called us whose properties have been over assessed with many facing foreclosure", said Hitchcock. "These illegal inflated assessments have placed Detroiters in unprecedented peril".

Sam Riddle, Political Director of Michigan National Action Network (NAN) is working with Hitchcock and says civil disobedience is one step available to aggrieved Detroiters.

“Majority Detroit has been treated as if it were a plantation for too long", said Riddle. "This meeting is the first step by Majority Detroit to inflict itself on a Detroit that has placed us on the backburner of justice. We can’t take this final insult that has cost too many their very last refuge – their homes”.

The Detroit News broke the story in early January, revealing results of an ongoing news investigation.

According to the article, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says the city is unable to correct the problem.
Meeting organizers disagree with the mayor and says city residents won't be made whole without a fight.

Entry into Wednesday's meeting had to be halted due to the overwhelming turnout.

"Sometimes you can be part of something that is very historical and be very unaware of it", said Riddle. "Detroit has not seen a room filled with this type of energy in years."

Hitchcock is asking Detroiters to tune in to 910 AM Monday morning, starting at 9 a.m. for details on an action that will take place Tuesday, January 28th.

The Pulse Institute has launched a series of public policy forums to address solutions. Riddle will appear as a panelist for the first forum, which will take place Wednesday, Jan. 29, 6 - 8 pm at the downtown campus of Wayne County Community College District.

Local Business Expo Will Raise Funds For Autism Awareness


Kimberly L. Johnson, Speaker/Event Host
[Detroit] - A local non-profit organization is hosting a business expo and luncheon to benefit children with autism.

The BOSS Foundation will be hosting their 2020 Clear Vision Conference, Saturday, November 9,  at the Best Western Premier in Southfield.

Shell Jones, founder of Play-Place Autism & Special Needs Center in Sterling Heights, will be speaking at the luncheon, where a donation award will be presented to a family affected by the disorder.

Speaker and event hostess, Kimberly LaJuan Johnson, is the founder of BOSS Foundation and has worked with autistic children as an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist.

Johnson says her goal is to raise awareness of the needs of underprivileged children with the disorder.

"I have seen a greater need for inner city children and their parents", said Johnson. "These are children who don't always receive as much attention in terms of medical care and other resources. This is where my passion comes in. There is a need to spread awareness and give back."

The conference is designed to inspire entrepreneurs, business leaders, and forward thinkers.

Guests will hear from various speakers on a variety of topics related to business, professional development, and personal success.

"This is a spirit, mind, body, soul, financial empowerment and development conference", said Johnson. "Guests will be motivated and clear to strive for their next level in every aspect of life."


Additional speakers will include health and fitness coach Olivia Williams from Scriptfit, and Shakeena Melbourne, Principal Attorney of Upton Law, PLLC. 


For more information, or to register for the 2020 Clear Vision Conference visit https://tinyurl.com/2020ClearVision.

Shell Jones
Founder - PlayPlace Autism & Special Needs Ctr.


Shakeena Melbourne - Upton Law, PLLC
Olivia Williams - Scriptfit

Detroit Youth Choir Rebranded A City


OPINION

by Donna Robertson

The word "Detroit" produces many different perceptions in the minds of people - some negative, but the Detroit Youth Choir is reshaping perceptions of Detroiters.

DYC shined on the America's Got Talent stage, sending a strong message that Detroit is a great city, with great talent and supporters who know how to stand united.

Detroiters sat glued to our screens for weeks - blown away by the choir's immense talent and explosive performances as we watched them compete for a million dollar prize.

We cheered on their outstanding performances, voted 10 times each for them to win, propelled them through every semi-final round, and watched the Detroit skyline light up in support and appreciation of DYC's  stellar representation of our city.

DYC showed the world that they are something special. Not just a choir that pours their heart and soul into each performance, but a rare jewel. A group with some of the most amazing youth on planet earth. 

Detroiters experienced sheer excitement as we watched DYC take center stage and reach for the stars. Their stories of determination touched us and drove us to tears. Their talents, energy, and enthusiasm drove us to cheers.

While the prize may have gone to the opponent, we know that this is just the beginning for DYC.

We know that their talent and determination will cause them to continue to rise and soar.

The same qualities that earned them the Golden Buzzer on AGT are the qualities that will cause DYC to remain unstoppable.

Lupus Detroit Walk Draws Hundreds to New Center Park


DETROIT - Hundreds of supporters turned out today for Lupus Detroit's 7th Annual Walk for Warriors at New Center Park.

Supporters from near and far showed up to walk and raise awareness.

The fundraising goal this year was $50K to continue support for individuals diagnosed with the autoimmune disease.

Rhonda Robertson participated in this year's walk and says she felt positively impacted. "This is  my first time walking for a cause", said Robertson. "This has made me feel like I'm part of something that's truly making a difference. I have lost friends to Lupus, and I have other friends who are fighting it. I wanted to show up and show support."

Robertson says this event has given her a desire to become more involved with the Lupus Detroit organization through voluntary efforts.

Lupus Detroit was founded seven years ago by CEO, Sharon Harris, and continues to grow, making a greater impact in the community every year.

The organization offers emergency assistance to those diagnosed with Lupus, as well as grants for education, and an annual scholarship.

The event offered fun activities for all, including dancing, face painting, and raffles with great prizes.

To donate or learn more about warrior support meetings, visit www.lupusdetroit.com.



Detroit-Based Clothing Company Donates To Detroit Youth Choir



by Donna Robertson

A local clothing company is gifting the Detroit Youth Choir with T-shirts that help spread a positive message about Detroiters.


Detroit Made Inc. surprised the choir with a donation of 70 shirts as an appreciation gift for their impressive representation of Detroit on a national stage.


DYC recently performed on the hit show America's Got Talent, earning a spot in the competition finals. 


"Our shirts make a statement", said Detroit Made owner Erik Williams. "Our motto is Detroit Made - Real City. Real People. This donation is just a way to show how proud we are of young, talented, hard working individuals from our city who are committed to pursuing their passions and living their dreams. They are setting a great example for their generation." 


Williams felt prompted to make the donation after DYC performed at his church in Detroit.


During that guest appearance, he met with the choir's director, Anthony White, and learned that they share a similar vision of empowering lives. 
"I wanted to show my personal support by sowing a gift into their lives", said Williams.

Detroit Made launched their online apparel company a year ago with a goal of using their motto to help reshape perceptions of Detroiters.

The company plans to continue supporting and partnering with other constructive efforts that promote the city of Detroit and the metro-Detroit region.


DYC's next scheduled appearance on America's Got Talent will be Tuesday, August 27th. Voting will run from Aug. 27 at 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. on Aug. 28.

(L-R) Rian Williams, DYC Director Anthony White, 
Detroit Made Owner, Erik Williams


DYC Choir member in Los Angeles preparing for  AGT rehearsal.

Detroit Mother Creates Scholarship to Honor Slain Son

by Donna Robertson
Barbara Jones never imagined a day when she would not be able to hug her child, hear his voice, or see his beaming smile, but just over a year ago, twenty-four-year-old Conte Smith-El was taken from her in a senseless act of violence.

The grief is still fresh. The thought - still difficult to process. Yet, in spite of her tragic loss, Jones has found strength to give, creating a Wayne State University scholarship in her son’s name.

Jones remembers her son as a kind-spirited young man, who had been diagnosed with special needs as a child. Growing up in school, he sought to befriend others, but his kind gestures were often rebuffed.
"The bullying started in middle school", said Jones. "The older he got, the worse it became."

In Conte's freshman year of high school in Detroit, he was attacked by a group of outsiders who invaded the school terrorizing students, and singling him out as an easy target.

Conte’ was attacked at the time and ended up in a hospital emergency room.

Horrified by the incident, Jones says she took steps to protect him by enrolling him in a new school, but the bullying continued.

That's when Jones decided to make a major career change. She returned to school to study conflict resolution, with the goal of advocating for her son, and educate other youth in peace education.

After Conte' graduated high school, Jones once again felt a change of environment would be good for her son who was by then, becoming a young man.

She suggested he relocate to Colorado Springs where his sister Charmaine Jones had been living since leaving Detroit.

Conte’ agreed, and Jones planned to soon join him in relocating.

With Conte’ in a different environment, Jones felt she could rest easier, but the events that soon unfolded were unlike anything any parent could have ever fathom.

As Jones went about her work day at Wayne State University, she received a phone call.

A young man had been found shot and killed in an armed robbery at his workplace in Colorado Springs. It was Conte'.

“It felt as if I had been stabbed in the heart”, said Jones.

Jones says the news was so overwhelming that she instantly rose from her chair and announced her resignation from working in conflict resolution.

In light of her son's tragedy, she felt defeated, as if all her work have been in vain.

Jones’ boss encouraged her to take the time off that she needed, but to not give up her mission of spreading peace to a generation.

"My faith has been tested", said Jones, "But my strength lies in Jesus… just to even want to wake up and put my feet on the floor."

Upon learning details of her son's death, Jones was made aware that he was robbed and killed while working in an unlicensed cannabis shop.

“Conte’ just wanted to work, and he was having a hard time finding work”, said Jones. "I feel my son was taken advantage of by this business owner."

Jones has been traveling back and forth to Colorado to attend court proceedings in pursuit of
justice.
At home, she has made a decision to continue her work in conflict resolution. With the help of her daughter Charmaine, and friends at the WSU Center for peace and conflict studies, Jones created the annual Conte' Emanuel Smith-El scholarship.

Conte's scholarship is the first in the history of the WSU Center for Peace and Conflict Studies to honor the memory of a young African-American.

Jones is reaching out to others who are interested in supporting her mission by donating to the scholarship fund.

The first award will be disbursed Fall 2019.


Local Entrepreneur Aims To Inspire Detroiters


Detroit Made, Inc. owner, Erik Williams
By Donna Robertson


In a typical work week, Erik Williams is monitoring sales, marketing product, taking orders, checking inventory, and preparing to ship new merchandise for his online business. His startup company is just a few months old, and Williams is wearing all the hats of a brand new business owner - but things didn't come easy.

The idea started around the kitchen table ten years ago.  Williams and his family were brainstorming ideas for starting a new business. The goal was to create a line of apparel  that would make a positive statement about the city of Detroit. 


With great anticipation, the family sought to put their vision into motion. However, the challenges that arose were unexpected, so were the unforeseen circumstances that would threaten to derail their pursuits. 


When Detroit Made Inc. was launched in 2018, Williams credited the power of faith with his family's ability to conquer hardship.
Life had thrown him a curve ball. One of Williams' family members had received an unexpected diagnosis of stage 3 cancer. Another life-threatening illness with a second family member had followed.

Plans for a business had been placed on the back burner for quite some time, but Williams never gave up hope of accomplishing the family dream. He kept believing things would get better - and they did.

Both family members survived their illnesses with miraculous outcomes. The potentially deadly cancer was gone. The other severe illness was healed - and though remnants of Williams' personal battles still remained, he chose to pull his pursuits back into focus. Teaming up with family members once again, Williams set out to accomplish his desired task. 




His first batch of T-Shirts rolled in during the warm weather season, bearing a statement of pride about the people of the city - "Detroit Made, Real City Real People". The positive reaction from Detroiters has given Williams a great sense of gratitude. He is also thankful for having the personal strength to push through obstacles and bring his merchandise to the market.

"Our brand speaks to the success that all Detroiters have inside of us”, said Williams. “It represents the heart of the city and the community we love".


Williams' daughter and business assistant, Taylor Clark, says she is excited about seeing their  vision unfold. She also expressed the importance of focusing on the good things about the city. 

"Often times I hear people saying "there's nothing in Detroit", or "I can't wait to leave", said
Clark. "But that stems from the media's negative representation of our city, and the citizens giving up, because they start to believe it. We have to change that. We must highlight the positive things and be involved in its renaissance."
The web-based apparel company has rolled out a line of hoodies for the fall season, and soon plans to expand, adding hats and athletic gear, but this is only the beginning for Detroit Made, Inc. 

“Our long term vision is to build something that employs creative minds and to manufacture our own products”, said Williams. He also expressed the desire to add a philanthropic entity with scholarships and other endeavors to help strengthen the Detroit community.

Detroit Made apparel is available at https://detroitmadeinc.online.



Proud moment with Michigan's lieutenant governor-elect, Garlin Gilchrist II

                                   

Donna Robertson is Publisher and Editor of FocusDetroit E-Magazine. A native Detroiter, Donna has been writing professionally for over 25 years. She is a graduate of Rochester University where she studied Mass Communication/PR, and Specs Howard School of Media Arts where she studied Broadcasting. Donna is also owner of Express Image Creative Group.


Donna can be reached at expressimagecg@gmail.com

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Local Group Makes Music To Heal Social Injustice



By Donna Robertson

A music video with a powerful message is making a statement on social media.  The video, featuring the song “All We need Is Love”, is from the Love Project CD, produced by native Detroiter, Big Huss, on Roxy Records.

Present racial tensions and conflict in the black community led Huss, along with Roxy Records president Alex Thomas, and a collaborative of artists to launch the musical project.

The video begins with music accompanying clips of several news reports on violence and injustice involving the community. It transitions into a powerful performance of various artists from diverse cultures promoting love and unity.

The completion of the CD was no small labor of love. Huss says the team of artists, musicians, and rappers spent 50-weeks not only recording, but having heart-to-heart discussions with one another about current social issues and their global impact.

“The times we live in is baffling”, said Huss. “A lot of things I don't really understand. I want to use my talent to reach as many people as I can with positivity”. Huss says this project is about more than just making music, but starting a movement.  “It’s about building up one another”, he stated. “I’m trying to save our youth.”  

Several community organizations have partnered with The Love Project as supporters. Artist have returned the generosity by becoming volunteers for many of the non-profits that are involved.

Roxy Records Vice President Venetia Lyons says she is excited about the fact that this project is bringing people together. 

“We all can come together and make a difference in our homes, communities, and in the world”, said Lyons.  Lyons adds that she would like to see different cultures dispel fear and mistrust by creating opportunities to meet, interact and to get to know one another.

“Music is a powerful tool to help get this done”, said Lyons. 

The Love Project will be launching their CD release event  June 16, 1 - 9 p.m. at at Thinkers Co-working & Loft, located at 14346 Jefferson Ave. The event is open to the public. CD sales will raise money for the Love Project II, a youth recording project.

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Students Reunite with Teacher After 4 Decades


Retired DPS teacher, Bruce Peterson (c) with former students
by Donna Robertson

With a welcoming smile, he stood at the classroom door warmly greeting his students as they skipped gleefully into his art class. They knew it was time for fun and creativity with their favorite elementary school art teacher.

Towering at 6-foot-9, the teacher’s striking presence amazed the tiny fifth and sixth-graders. In the years to come, those former students would recall his caring nature as being equally amazing.   
     
Fast-forward 40-years into the world of social media and online searches, and someone was looking for former Detroit Public Schools teacher, Bruce Peterson.  70-year old Peterson recognized the name on the other end of a Facebook friend request. It was his former Courville Elementary School art student, Christopher Buckingham. 

Amazingly, more friend requests began pouring in from other Courville alumni.  By 2017, Peterson had reconnected with over 500 of his former students. His life as a retired teacher would become more interesting than he ever imagined.
  
It was the 1970s when his career began at Courville on Detroit’s east side. Since that time, his students had became parents, and grandparents, but they never forgot the teacher who had such a powerful and positive impact on their childhood.  

After teaching for 30 years at DPS, Peterson says he feels truly honored to be sought out by his former students. He describes reconnecting with them as the highlight of his life.

Keller Coleman was 10 years old when he was in Peterson’s art class. He has fond memories of his former teacher. “I remember that yellow VW Bus he drove to Courville everyday,” Coleman says with a smile. “He was always energetic and he challenged us as art students to think outside the box. He taught us abstracts and how to make art out of concrete. I will never forget that.”

Peterson taught all phases of art to fourth through sixth grade students. “Thirty-five in each of 10 classes every week,” he recalls. “I'm amazed at how many of them I still remember by name!" In 1977 Peterson started capturing photos of his students. His collection grew to over 300 images that he has in recent years posted to Facebook. 

 “I have photos of my fifth - sixth grade students from 1977- 1984. I also have photos of my kids as adults,” said Peterson. "I run into students all the time now. I've taken easily 100 selfies with former students”. 

Peterson is still a working artist, and can still be found selling antique art at the Detroit Antiques Mall. It was the mall where Coleman, along with other alumni surprised Peterson, laying out a delectable spread of food prepared by gourmet cook, Marjorie Bell, for his birthday. 


Former students have also honored Peterson and expressed their appreciation in other ways. He has accepted invitations to events such as the Fleming Block Party where he enjoys reuniting with former students in the Courville neighborhood. Peterson has also become a member of the Sunday Breakfast Club, a monthly gathering of men who are also alumni. 

Peterson says when he was teaching, he was simply doing his job as an educator, never realizing what a great legacy he was leaving in the minds of the children. 

When asked what wisdom he would share with today’s educators, Peterson replied, “It's not so much what you're teaching, but how you teach it. How you treat the children is what they will remember most.” Peterson and Coleman are now co-administrators of the Courville Elementary Alumni Facebook group with over 1,000 members.

 
Sunday Breakfast Club

Bruce Peterson, Schamel Coleman, Keller Coleman
Peterson and former students
Fleming Block party


 

Focus Detroit E-Magazine would like to thank WXYZ-TV Detroit, Channel 7 for airing our story. See video below.


Special bond between students and former teacher rekindled decades later




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Donna Robertson is Publisher and Editor of FocusDetroit E-Magazine. A native Detroiter, Donna has been writing professionally for over 25 years. She is a graduate of Rochester University where she studied Mass Communication/PR, and Specs Howard School of Media Arts where she studied Broadcasting. Donna is also owner of Express Image Creative Group.

Donna can be reached at expressimagecg@gmail.com

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