Hey Detroit! Tell your story about the real Detroit when 3,000 journalists hit town!

Thanks for taking a chance to tell 3,000 journalists about the real Detroit, the one that isn’t all about bankruptcy and ruin porn. The Detroit chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists wants to help change the national narrative about our beloved Motor City. So we created a special magazine that will be given to our guests to tell them about things uniquely Detroit. The book is now closed. Look for it August 1!

When life gives you lemonade, forget about the lemons

DETROIT _ You could have knocked me over with a feather when I gave the amazing Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a copy of my book, “The Burden,” and he said he had just last week ordered copies for the bookstore at the National Lynching Memorial. Honored! Week made! No, month made! I was hosting, and he was the featured guest at, the Trauma Summit that Starfish Family Services held on June 22 to remind us that children are children, so we need to stop asking “What is wrong with them?” and instead ask “What happened to them?” Bryan was, as usual, astounding, and the summit will make a difference. As I continue my work studying the effects of trauma and toxic environments on how children learn and retain information, agencies like Starfish will be vital. Their employees, who are more like angels, are the ones on the front lines with teachers. They are the ones that need our help the most. And perhaps by the time I’m done, I can convince at least Michigan officials to pay teachers in urban districts what they should earn for the many jobs that they do.

When Thursday night becomes Saturday night

DETROIT _ Is there anything better than treating a Thursday night like a Saturday night, complete with great food, great friends and great music? Began the evening with a stroll along the Riverwalk where the Roberts Riverwalk Hotel has performers each week. The weather was perfect, the water was soothing and the jazz was really, surprisingly great. Even the vendors were at the top of their game. I bought a piece of strawberry shortcake layer cake that demanded a feature in a food magazine.Then headed over a few blocks north for food and indoor music. While it was refreshing on the riverfront, the music was blasting at They Say, where I hung with the girls. (Left to right, Rose Moten, Michelle Davis and Gail Perry Mason). They do say indeed!

That time a bunch of columnists got together…

CINCINNATI _ I had the most amazing time giving a keynote at the National Society of Newspaper Columnists conference here: Met fantastic people, visited a first-rate zoo (where I captured a photo of my grandchild’s favorite animal – the meerkat); heard amazing and empowering speeches from Connie Schulz, who received the Ernie Pyle award and Nick Clooney who showed where George gets his wit. I also signed copies of “The Burden.” Thanks everyone for making my weekend special! And Clarence Page asked for MY autograph! Be still, my heart!

THE BURDEN goes Underground: The museum signing

CINCINNATI – If you haven’t visited the National Underground Railroad Museum and Freedom Center, put it on your calendar now. I went to present “The Burden,” but I was moved by just being in that space. It is heartbreakingly real in its curation and beautiful in its imagery. And the conversations were amazing and included comments from a woman from rural Ohio who came alone, because she couldn’t convince her husband to come, and talked about driving past a little place called Colored Town and not knowing what it meant. She wants the world to be better. She wants America to be better. She’s interested in us finally talking to each other to get past America’s worst chapter post founding. I can’t wait for the next conversation, and I can’t wait to return to the center.

MACKINAC _ Solving Detroit’s problems a world away

MACKINAC ISLAND _ On this island five hours from Detroit, metro Detroit’s business leaders gather with elected officials, community leaders and national strategists to find ways to solve the city’s problems. Sometimes the actually get something done. This year was one of the most important ever because leaders were forced to focus on the education that comes before job training. My column appeared in the Free Press, but a few photos appear here. Now we watch to see whether business leaders, who seem to finally be embarrassed by the state of the schools, will put their money where our futures are.

Walter’s acting adventure continues…

Last Sunday, we journeyed to Dearborn to catch the final performance of “Sweet Charity” — my friend, Walter Middlebrook’s latest play. Yes, Walter has been an actor in community theatre for years all over the place. And the musical was FANTASTIC. I wish I could have taped and posted his performance. Alas, that is verboten, as you know. But perhaps one day, he’ll reprise his role at somebody’s house, if somebody cooks and invites people over. (Hint! Hint!) Anyway, here are some shots from post-show!




We are celebrating the great Bob McGruder at the annual NABJ convention in Detroit

DETROIT _ If you ever worked for, worked with – or greatly admired – Bob McGruder, then please join us to celebrate him in August. His legacy lives, and his friends will gather to remember him during the annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists.

The event will be held in Detroit, where the longtime editor of the Detroit Free Press inspired award-winning work and lived with his beautiful bride, Annette.

Please join us:

2 p.m. Saturday, August 4
The Rattlesnake Club
300 River Place Drive

(two miles from the GM Marriott Renaissance, the convention hotel).

Tickets are available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-bob-mcgruder-celebration-t…

Your $25 donation covers hors d’oeuvres and a champagne toast. The Snake also has a fabulous bar where you can get more booze if you want it. The event comes between the first ever NABJ Tennis Tournament (from 8 to noon) and the annual Salute to Excellence (from 6 until 9). This year’s salute is one we don’t want to miss.

If you cannot come, buy a ticket anyway. All leftover proceeds benefit the Bob McGruder Scholarship Fund curated by the Detroit Chapter of NABJ.

Rochelle Riley and Laura Varon Brown


“The Summer King” brings crowd to see Josh Gibson opera

DETROIT_ The region’s top arts patrons all converged on the Detroit Opera House Saturday for the premiere of “The Summer King,” the moving new opera detailing the life of Negro Baseball League legend Josh Gibson. I was thrilled to be there and honored to conduct an Opera Talk before the opera with Tigers legend Willie Horton, celebrated tenor George Shirley and Summer King composer Daniel Sonenberg.