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…

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.


Conversation at Community House show commitment to unity

DETROIT _ If any community shows that a unified neighborhood works, it’s the North Rosedale Park neighborhood, which is diverse and whose residents have been a family for years. I was so thrilled by our conversation at the Community House, I’m committed to doing neighborhood signings across the region. To book one, send an email to

Detroit’s Freedom Weekend was a hit for NAACP

DETROIT _ I was honored to participate in the NAACP Freedom Weekend, which featured a powerful conversation “Being Black Is Not A Crime” and the annual Freedom Dinner, which filled Cobo Hall to hear Sen. Cory Booker. Two highlights: I was on the panel with Tiffany Dena Loftin, National Director for Youth and College Division of the NAACP, and I got to hang out with my friend, Pat Cole between speakers at the dinner.


Carmen Harlan launches her second act, and it’s fun!

She’s launched her Second Act as a designer and fashion mogul. The April 28 party to celebrate the arrival of The Carmen shirt was a star-studded evening with great food, drinks and a fashion show! Chuck Bennett described

As social chronicler Chuck Bennett reported, Carmen collaborated with New York-based designer PingPong Khumwan of Maison Khoomwan “on the rather impressive clothing collection. The style of the shirt is the same, but available in different colors, fabrics and patterns. They range in price from about $325 to $590. A diverse group of models strutted the runway to a live performance by Carmen’s son, Joey Cobb, who is a budding hip-hop artist. “Every Detroit woman needs one in her closet,” advises Carmen. “It’s one of those go-to pieces.” Approximately 200 people attended the event, including Florine Mark, Christina Lovio-George, Sue Marx and Carmen’s WDIV-TV successor Kimberly Gill.”

Carmen, the face of local news for three decades, now is the face of fun!











I was so honored to have been invited back to The Book Beat in Oak Park, Michigan on Saturday.I got the double bonus of signing, for a while, with Karen Dybis – who is on her third book, but is known for her scrumptious history of Better Made, yes the local company that makes the potato chips – and Rebecca McBrayer Scarcello, co-host of “The D Brief” podcast. The conversation was great, the learning was plentiful and yes, I left with a bag full of books!