June 11, 2020

Can you guess where the photo above was taken? Click the image above for the answer and more.
Ann Arbor has been described as twenty square miles surrounded by reality. The image reflects a quaint belief that our community is somehow isolated from the violence, prejudice, and inequity that exist in the rest of the country. It is a white, middle class perspective. The protests that have been rocking our normally quiet county are a reminder that for many, the reality of oppression and racism was always right here. The problems aren’t broken policing and criminal justice systems, they say. The systems are working as they were intended to. That is the problem. 

It’s time for those of us who have been privileged enough to believe that our community is tolerant and progressive to get to know people outside of our usual circles, and seek to understand their experiences of our community. It’s time to get uncomfortable, and have the courage to reimagine the systems that have excluded so many from the peace and prosperity we are all entitled to, but only some of us enjoy. We’ll continue to follow these issues long term.  

Trilby MacDonald, Editor
Painted rock outside of Ann Arbor Huron High School, June 7, 2020. Photo by Trilby MacDonald.

In the News

Massive police brutality protest in downtown Ypsilanti on June 6.
When Terril Tamon Cotton, 37, inquired on the Facebook group Ypsilanti Area Discussion whether there was a protest being organized against police brutality, the response was, “Yes, if you organize it!” Cotton started calling his friends and networking on Facebook. Although the response was overwhelmingly positive, “I only expected like 20 people to show up,” he says. 

Thousands of people marched down Michigan Avenue on Saturday after a rally in front of the Ypsilanti District Library. Cotton, who is in a wheelchair, spoke to the crowd from the street and asked that they be peaceful “or go hang out somewhere else.”  He then invited anyone who had something to say to come and take the mic. Diverse voices from the community spoke for about an hour. 
Although photos of the protest showed people of color kneeling with Ypsilanti police chief Tony DeGiusti for a moment of silence, Cotton says Ypsilanti’s black community was largely absent. “The relationship between the black community and the police in Ypsi is not good,” says Cotton, who is African American. “A handful of black people told me they were afraid of getting picked up by the police.” 
Despite this, Cotton considered the march a huge success. “I'm glad the white people came because they are the controller of a lot of things so they needed to be there.”


The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority held a second round of public meetings from June 4-7 where more than 100 attendees learned about the People Friendly Streets project and provided feedback on plans to reconfigure several downtown streets to reduce traffic and make them more pedestrian and bike friendly. Changes will include restoration of two way traffic on First and Ashley streets and a protected bikeway on First and William. Future projects include an expansion of the sidewalk on the 300 block of S. State Street to accommodate additional sidewalk activity. For more information visit

Ann Arbor resumed in-person services at Larcom City Hall on June 8. Visitors will be asked to wear masks and observe social distancing, and will be screened for symptoms and Covid-19 exposure at the guest services desk.  

Washtenaw County plans to reopen with modified services on Monday, June 15. Customers will be asked to use face masks and observe social distancing, and some departments will be offering curbside services. Like the city, the county continues to encourage citizens to do as much as possible on their website.

U-M held a virtual town hall on Friday, June 5. “Constructive Conversations for Societal Change” was moderated by Robert M. Sellers, vice provost of equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. “Our conversation today marks our collective recommitment as individuals and as a university to ending systemic racism in our society and within our institution,” Sellers said. To watch the town hall, visit U-M’s youtube page. 

On June 2, Michigan’s first Fisher House opened. Families of military service people and veterans can stay free of charge while their loved one is receiving treatment. The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor initiated the project and launched the fundraising campaign.

June 15 will be a big day for local public libraries. The Ann Arbor District Library will begin the first phase of its reopening plan on then, including appointments to pick up materials on hold. The Chelsea District Library and Dexter District Library both anticipate returning to curbside service, the Ypsilanti District Library will open return boxes on  and begin answering the phones, and the Saline District Library will reopen for pickup of reserved items. 

Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation’s Youth Council is accepting applications for new members. Previously restricted to Ann Arbor high school students, the Youth Council has been expanded to include members from throughout Washtenaw County. The council awards $80,000 a year to local youth programs, services, and projects.

As of June 8, Michigan Medicine had 22 patients admitted with Covid-19--less than one-tenth of its April 15 peak of 229, and the lowest count since March 23.  The cumulative total  of laboratory-confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19 in Washtenaw County stood at 1,635, with 104  fatalities.
Photo of Zaynab Elkolaly by Jasmine Tamimi, June 22, 2019, on the U-M Diag in Ann Arbor. 


Zaynab Elkolaly, 19, is an Ann Arbor native, activist, organizer, student and hijabi Muslim woman of Egyptian and Persian heritage. Until May 31, 2020 Elkolaly sat on the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission, charged with reviewing complaints against the Ann Arbor Police Department. 

Elkolaly explains that the AAPD use of force policy looks good on paper and may not need revision, but in her tenure on the commission she found there was a gap between the policy and the practice. “People are very easily afraid when they have a certain prejudice against someone of a different race, and are more likely to react with violence,”  she says. Elkolaly believes that if Sha’Teina El Grady, a black woman who was punched by a sheriff’s deputy during a confrontation in Ypsilanti on May 26, had been white, the confrontation “would not have resulted in as much violence.” 

When asked about the tension between the need to protest police brutality and the need to stay safe from Covid-19, she says, “In Minnesota I would say it [protesting] needs to be done. Here [in Ann Arbor] there is not that same level of dire intensity.” In Detroit, Elkolaly says the need to protest police brutality is urgent, but the risks are also higher, and not just for Covid-19. “As a Muslim woman I am more likely to be called a radical and a terrorist. I am worried about surveillance.” She advises her fellow activists to cover their faces while demonstrating in Detroit. “I want to continue to do my activist work and am afraid of being apprehended by the police under false pretenses.” 

Prison Break

Sheriff Jerry Clayton has long been a champion of reducing Washtenaw County’s jail population. COVID-19 has given him a mandate to fasttrack a plan that was already in motion to divert nonviolent offenders away from jail to mental health and social services. Last year at this time, the county jail held 365 prisoners. On June 10, the number stood at 151. This breathtaking drop can in part be attributed to a general reduction in crime rates, but 127 inmates charged with nonviolent offenses were released to reduce the spread of Covid-19: the sheriff’s office identifies candidates for early release, and the courts decide who stays and who goes. An additional eight prisoners who tested positive for the virus were also released.

 “We work with the person before they are released on a discharge plan, a warm handoff from the jail to community partners to help them reenter society successfully,” Clayton says. He says  they have a 96% compliance rate with telephone reporting.  

With the gradual loosening of restrictions, Clayton is watching arrests--and the jail population--creep up. “Which concerns me,” he says. “From our perspective the risk of having Covid in the jail hasn’t changed.” 
A link to the latest Washtenaw County Sheriff’s office Jail Intake and Release data can be found here

The Pivot

Under Governor Whitmer’s Safe Start program to reopen Michigan’s economy, this week restaurants began to offer dine-in service, though at 50 percent their usual seating capacity in order to maintain social distancing. 
Zingerman's Roadhouse drive up (left), Spun in Kerrytown (right)
On Monday June 15, Zingerman’s Roadhouse will re-open its dining room after being closed for three months. Guests who were used to the bustling atmosphere, where Zingerman’s co-founder Ari Weinzweig circulated with a water pitcher, will find many changes. The Roadhouse is closing every other booth and spacing tables  six feet apart, there will be no seating at either the bar or the counter facing the kitchen, and guests must limit their stay to 90 minutes. You can read all the changes here

Weinzweig is characteristically philosophical about the new way of operating. “Will it be somewhat different? Yes. Is it different from a year ago, or 10 years ago? Nothing stays the same from one day to the next, including you and me,” he says. Zingerman’s plans to re-open all its “community of businesses,” but not necessarily right away. Weinzweig  points out that the Covid-19 virus hasn’t vanished. “We’re not through it yet. Ask me better in a year,” he says. 

When the pandemic struck, Spun was sent spinning. The Kerrytown yarn shop did not have an online marketplace, relying instead on phone orders and in-person sales. Owners Pete and Carol Sickman-Garner had to hustle to build an online ordering system from scratch. By early June, Spun was able to take web orders for delivery or in-store pickup.  On a warm afternoon, eight shopping bags full of yarn and knitting accessories sat on a table in front of the store’s open door.  Walk-in shopping is allowed on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturday. Displays have been spaced out to accommodate social distancing, and  no more than four people will be in the store at a time. Customers who prefer to shop alone can make appointments online  on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. These are limited to 20 minutes, and cannot be used to get help finishing projects. 
Even with the upheaval, Pete  says the store’s sales have been strong. Spun benefitted from a flurry of interest in knitting and other crafts while people were stuck at home. “If we wind up at break even, I’ll be very happy,” he  says.


A full calendar of upcoming events is available online and in our June print issue. We’ve picked out some of this week’s highlights for you here.


Sunday June 14 & Wednesday June 17: Ann Arbor Farmers Market. Every Wed. & Sat. Preorder and onsite shop with safety guidelines communicated by staffers. 7 a.m.–3pm, Farmers Market, 315 Detroit St. 794-6255,


Sunday June 12: Raphael Bob-Waksberg & Julie Buntin: Literati Bookstore. Online reading by  Bob-Waksberg, comedy writer and executive producer of the Netflix series BoJack Horseman, and conversation with U-M creative writing professor Buntin. Bob-Waksberg’s brand-new book Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory is a collection of short stories about the ups and downs of love. 7 p.m., visit for meeting URL. Free. 585-5567.  


Sunday June 14: “Sidewalk Chalk Day”: Ann Arbor Summer Festival/Ann Arbor District Library. All invited to participate in this chalk-drawing contest by taking photos of your work and sharing it to social media with the hashtag #a2chalkday. All day. Free. 994-5999,


Tuesday June 16: “Singing OUT”: The Ark. Online concert celebrating LGBTQ+ pride with songwriter Heather Mae (“the queer Adele”) and the stylistically diverse Crys Matthews. 8 p.m., preregister at for livestream URL. Tickets $15. 761-1451.

The Helpers

  • York Ann Arbor’s multimedia art auction, open June 8-July 8, gives 70% of proceeds to bail funds & Black Lives Matter and 30% back to the artists. To bid, comment under the piece you like. Artists: email to submit work of any medium; include name, Instagram handle, PayPal email, the piece’s title, medium, size, and starting bid.
York Ann Arbor’s multimedia art auction, open June 8-July 8, gives 70% of proceeds to bail funds & Black Lives Matter and 30% back to the artists.
  • The State and Michigan theaters offer I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck, 2017), Tony Morrison: The Pieces I Am (Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, 2019), and Whose Streets? (Sabaah Folayan, 2018) to purchase for home viewing, with ½ of proceeds sent directly to ACLU of Michigan. 
  • U-M students raise $23,000 and counting in funds for racial justice organizations during a livestream benefit variety show Freedom Fundraiser
For more news on local businesses and people that are helping the community, click here.

Play On

Covid-19 may have canceled the Tony’s, Broadway’s biggest night, but that doesn’t mean theater is completely gone. Local theater groups are coming up with new ways to stay connected to their audiences. For Dexter’s Encore Musical Theatre Company, which has shut down and canceled all summer programs, this means Facebook videos. 
For the past two months, Encore employees and friends have been making videos about how they’re dealing with quarantine and featuring favorite moments from past shows. One features child actress Jojo Engelbert singing “In My Dreams,” from the musical adaption of Anastasia. While no reopening plans have been announced yet, associate artistic director Matthew Brennan says in his video that everyone at the Encore is “feverishly figure out how we can all get back in the same room, see each other again, and share some great stories, music, and laughs.”
Watch the videos and stay updated through Encore’s Facebook page.
Encore Musical Theatre Company
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