This Cool Story comes to us from Cool Cities Intern Emma Landgraf, who is working in Detroit’s Eastern Market. Note to readers (and potential employers): Emma recently proved herself both fearless and helpful by volunteering amidst total silence during a workshop activity. She cements her awesomeness in this post by including some multimedia for your viewing pleasure!

On Saturday, July 17th, 2010, Eastern Market held a rededication ceremony for Shed 3 as part of a project to make Eastern Market a “healthy urban food hub”. As the ceremony began, I attempted to set up my video camera and tripod. I’m not a master filmmaker, so I spent most of my energy trying to get the best shots and sound quality, not really processing what each speaker was saying. But, after the ceremony was complete and I sat in my office watching the film, I was amazed at how a shed renovation was able to demonstrate how Eastern Market helps make the city of Detroit a vibrant cultural hub.

Though each speaker had a unique message, certain subjects came up over and over again. More than anything, Eastern Market is a family place, where parents, children, and grandparents come together to enjoy food, culture, and fellowship. One vendor described how his family had been coming since 1891, when Eastern Market first opened. By renovating the sheds, Eastern Market was creating a sustainable environment that would support his family for many years to come. In a city that suffers from a lack of food resources, Eastern Market provides a bountiful harvest for tens of thousands of people. But, as representatives of the W. K. Kellogg and Kresge Foundations discussed, Eastern Market symbolizes the rebuilding of a food system in Detroit. The city can invest in something that will provide rewarding returns, and the renovation process sparks inspiration among those in Detroit who want to make a difference in their city.

The more I watched video footage of the ceremony, the more I realized that Eastern Market wasn’t dedicating Shed 3 to a handful of people; they were dedicating it to everyone. Each speaker represented a portion of the Eastern Market family. A pastor opened the dedications by thanking God for being a master farmer, builder, and producer. Following him were a representative from the Eastern Market Board of Directors, Mayor David Bing, benefactors from the W.K. Kellogg and Kresge Foundations, and two Shed 3 vendors. Every speaker made mention of the concept of teamwork, indicating that nothing would have been possible without every person’s unique contribution. And, even though they weren’t directly represented by a speaker, Eastern Market patrons and the city of Detroit wove their way throughout the ceremony, for it is the atmosphere of the market and its presence in Detroit that truly sets it apart.

At the ceremony’s conclusion, Dan invited all contributors to the Shed 3 project to come forward and cut the ribbon in front of the shed’s entrance. As the group gathered at the front doors, participants from all walks of life stood on even ground. In this moment, everyone was reminded how crucial each member of the Eastern Market family can be to defining its vibrant culture. And, as Dan counted to three and the participants cut the ribbon in unison, their image symbolized the relationships that will keep Eastern Market alive for years to come.

A Dedicated Resident

This post comes from Sam West, a Cool Cities intern working in Detroit this summer.

When I first started my internship at Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation (GRDC) I was told of a retired lady named Clarenda Webb. My supervisor, Pam Weinstein, told me that she was a neighborhood resident who would occasionally come into the office and do some work for the neighborhood. Nothing special stood out from her description; I just that she was a neighborhood resident who I would occasionally see. Little did I know how much I would actually see her.

Later I was introduced to her while working at the Northwest Detroit Farmers’ Market. She was quite charming and energetic, but besides her charisma I didn’t get to talk to her enough to have anything stand out. It wasn’t until Pam suggested that I ask Clarenda for help implementing my survey that I really began to know her. Immediately I was caught off guard by her enthusiasm for the survey. She suggested ideas such as a water cooler on a hot day, and pens to replace my cheap pencils. These all seemed like simple ideas but I really didn’t have access acquire any of these resources. This wasn’t a problem for Clarenda and by the next day I was with her driving throughout the entire neighborhood in search of who we could beg to get the necessary supplies. Once we got all of our supplies we topped off our adventure by going on neighborhood radio patrol in search of what was new in the neighborhood. It was definitely an exciting and productive trip.

Since then I don’t think I’ve gone a day in the neighborhood without seeing Clarenda. When a storm hit at the farmer’s market I was working on my survey with Clarenda and told her she could leave because of the rain. Moments later two tents, weighed down by four cinder blocks, were blown 5 feet in the air holding bringing the cinder blocks with them and destroying the tent (in retrospect cinder blocks 10 feet in the air are quite dangerous). I, along with some other volunteers, rushed to get the other tents down before any more tents were damaged. At one point in the chaos, wind, and pouring rain I saw Clarenda carrying a wagon full of cinder blocks to try to help, even though she knew she could get out of the rain and leave. Other days I’ll be working in the neighborhood, working with volunteers on events such as planting flowers at a neighborhood entrances and I’ll see Clarenda driving by radio patrol or promoting some event (neighborhood fish fry is the current event she is promoting). On the days she’s not in the streets she’s in the GRDC office as a volunteer trying to get some house boarded up (which actually takes a considerable amount of work, nagging and traveling through bureaucracy). She just does it all.

She’s been one of the inspirational figures for me while working at GRDC. It’s just amazing how much she is able to accomplish and what dedication she has towards building community and beauty in the neighborhood. Detroit is facing issues, anyone will admit that, but there are so many dedicated and remarkable people in the city that you just have to admire. Clarenda is one of them, and it helps to know that any contribution I can give to the neighborhood will help people like Clarenda in helping to build a strong community.

The Little Saxophonist

Ashely Adams is a Cool Cities Intern in Benton Harbor, which is also a City of Promise.

Leaning back against the table, I coated myself in another layer of my SPF seventy sunscreen, though the sun still managed to turn my skin a healthy pink color. The Benton Harbor Children’s Art Fair was in full swing, children and adults alike enjoyed the perfect July Saturday. I was working the Instrument Petting Zoo and taking full opportunity of the momentary lull in traffic to wipe off the collection of woodwinds and brass instruments at my station.

I started on the trombone, certainly a fun instrument to play around with, though the slide had quite the potential to injure an unaware passerby. Luckily, after four years of marching band, I had become skilled enough in dodging instruments and managed to avoid getting smacked around. I moved on to the trumpet, recorders, slide whistle, flute (an instrument that after roughly ten years of band experience I still can’t get a squeak out of), and finishing with the alto saxophone.

As I finished cleaning off the mouthpiece on the sax, a young girl, no older than nine or ten, approached the table. She asked, “Can I play that?”

I smiled and, of course, obliged. While I loved showing off all the instruments to the kids, I always felt a little bit more glee at those who tried the saxophone. After all, it was my instrument of choice.

I slipped the neck strap over her head, instructing her how to hook it into the sax and how to hold it. Biting into my thumb, I showed her how to place her mouth over the mouthpiece. She puffed into the instrument and almost immediately got a sound out. Quite an impressive feat! I openly admitted that I barely was able to make a sound on my first try, and what I did make was best compared to a dying moose. She laughed, though wore out quickly from holding the saxophone and propped it up on the table, continuing to mash buttons. I laughed a bit, not realizing how heavy the sax could be for the kids. I had long since switched to the baritone saxophone, a behemoth of an instrument I loved to play (and for anyone who’s seen my small, five-foot frame marching it, that is a hilarious sight to behold). It was certainly nostalgic to be reminded where I came from, especially when I taught the girl how to play “Hot Cross Buns”.

After playing a rough, though very enthusiastic rendition of the song, the girl exclaimed, “This is great! I want to learn to play it!”

She ran off and returned three more times that day to play “Hot Cross Buns”. The last time she came, she told me how her auntie had signed her up for lessons.

At the end of the day, even after hours of heat and sun, I couldn’t help but feel happy that I was able to help a girl find music and hope that it had the same positive impact it had on me.

Where Cool Cities Interns Are Working

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Driving Detroit: An Intern’s Perspective

The first Cool Story comes from Oliver Honderd, who took a ride through Detroit and ended up seeing more than just the sights:

Late one afternoon a co-worker/boss of mine at the Eastern Market Corp. took me and fellow intern Emma Landgraf on a “Tour De Troit” as he referred to it. (The real Tour De Troit is a bike race I think). Michael (our tour guide) drove us around Midtown, past lofts converted from warehouses and vacant lots with beautiful, decaying houses.

He explained that Detroit has gotten an unfair wrap and took us to a number of places to prove his point. He pointed out his favorite bars and showed us the historic mansions in the Boston Edison neighborhood. We got to walk through the kitchen of Cuisine, a French restaurant, then tour the Fisher Building.

My favorite part of the trip, though, was driving through the “no man’s land” between Eastern Market and Uptown. On every block, a few gorgeous, red brick houses still tower over big patches of knee-high grass. I’ve never seen anything like it, and to me, the images represent what is exciting about Detroit: it’s a place with history, culture and beauty that is ripe with potential. It has a “blank slate” quality that makes me believe that I could make feasible, positive change. I know that sounds like something from an Obama speech, but by the end of the tour I agreed with Michael that Detroit is a special and cool place.

Since that afternoon, I’ve enjoyed browsing apartments listings and reading articles from Model D Media in my down time at work.

Oliver Honderd is a Cool Cities intern at the Eastern Market Corporation in Detroit, and has ensured his place in history by submitting the first Cool Story.

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