Return of the French Dukes
The Dukes also are scheduled to perform at the Old Neighborhood Reunion Picnic at Hudson Mills Metro Park, 8801 N. Territorial Road in Dexter, on Saturday, August 4. The picnic begins at 11 a.m., but the drill team won't perform until approximately 3:30 in the afternoon, according to Audrey Lucas, a member of the reunion picnic committee. She says with many residents getting up in age and with some passing, former north side residents decided to form a committee to launch the yearly picnic to commemorate the old downtown black neighborhood, "so funerals wouldn't be the only place we would see each other."
Sadly this year's picnic, along with the scheduled performance of the French Dukes, is being held as a memorial to local actor and committee member Steve Dixon, who died just three days short of his sixty-third birthday on February 25, 2012, while awaiting a heart transplant. The members of the French Dukes thought the performance in his honor was fitting tribute to a former supporter of the drill team, and an individual who still holds a special place in the hearts of Ann Arbor's black residents.
The roots of the drill team run deep in the community and returning members range in age between their 40s and middle 60s. Lisa Jones, 45, recalls that her father, Kerry "Jimmy" Jones, was one of the original drill team members, and Billie Jackson, the Vietnam vet who founded the team, is the father of one of current members, Corey Dameron.