June 18, 2020

Can you guess where the photo above was taken? Click the image above for the answer and more.
Juneteenth celebrations are taking place across Washtenaw County this week, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. This annual celebration coincides with an impassioned national discussion spurred by the murder of George Floyd about how to root out systemic racism in our public institutions and our private lives. A bill to train police in implicit bias and de-escalation sponsored by Sen Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) passed the Senate and heads to the House floor, as calls to defund the police raise questions about how this training would be paid for. 
From Manchester to Ypsilanti, downtowns are swirling with people enjoying basic freedoms denied for months for safety reasons, many without masks, despite the continued threat of Covid-19. The palpable tension between our need for individual liberty and our responsibility for the safety and rights of our fellow citizens presents an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of freedom, and for whom.  

Trilby MacDonald, Editor
Graffiti alley, downtown Ann Arbor. Photo by Maggie McMillin.

In the News

Downtown sprang to life this week, as restaurants opened dining rooms and turned streets into patios during weekend closings.  Haircuts are back, too-- Phase 5 of the Michigan’s Safe Start Plan permits  “personal services including hair, massages, and, nails.

Ann Arbor reopened playgrounds and the skatepark and resumed full curbside compost collection. And bottles can be now returned statewide

Ann Arbor senator Jeff Irwin introduced a bill  to train police officers on implicit bias, de-escalation, and mental health screening  “Officers are drilled on tactics, firearms, and forensics. They practice shooting and driving,”  Irwin wrote on his state website. “What is missing from our fundamental police training standards are how officers can identify mental illness or their own implicit biases, and use that knowledge to de-escalate a dangerous situation.” A link to the Washington Post’s police shootings database noted that more than 77 individuals have been killed by police officers in Michigan since 2015. Nearly half were non-white and close to a third were suffering from documented mental illness. 

Ypsilanti Mayor Beth Bashert, Chief of Police Tony Deguisti, and other officials will hold a public forum on racism and policing in Ypsilanti from 7-8:30 pm on Thursday, June 18. For more information and to find a link to the event, click here

A Juneteenth demonstration will be held on June 19 from 12-2pm on the U-M Diag, organized by Survivors Speak and local activists. Speakers include Eli Savit, Solomon Rajput, Debbie Dingell, Trische Duckworth, and Sha’teina Grady El. Juneteenth is an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. 
Homeowners in foreclosure for unpaid property taxes got another month to pay when  Governor Whitmer extended this year’s  redemption date to June 29. Washtenaw County Treasurer Catherine McClary is going further: if a homeowner wants to pay but cannot do so by June 29, she’ll  request an extension to next year’s redemption date, March 31, 2021. “I have never had any problems with any of the Judges in this county, no matter who I draw for each foreclosure year. They have all helped me help people keep their homes,” she says. McClary has a timeline that explains the tax foreclosure process  here and answers  questions by email at
The State Court Administrative Office has laid out a four phase plan for reopening the courts based on data from local hospitals and the health department. Currently, all court proceedings, probation interviews and other public services are conducted via videoconferencing, phone calls, online, and by mail.  In-person services will resume in late June and early July. Click on Detroit: All About Ann Arbor
According to a recent survey, a third of Michigan teachers are considering quitting before the fall term. The survey of 15,000 K-12 educators by the Michigan Education Association  found deep concerns about safety on the job amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Bridge Magazine
Early this month, five artists teamed up to create a "Black Lives Matter" mural in the popular Graffiti Alley off of East Liberty. The mural features the names of every black person killed by police in the U.S. since 2014. The artists (who declined to be credited, noting that their work is "about the movement") hope that it will make viewers consider their complicity in police violence and join the effort to protect black lives.

How does a rowing crew train when it’s not safe to put two people in a shell, let alone twelve? For Skyline High, the answers are rowing machines and solo boats. Read our feature here.
Left: Washtenaw Rowing Center, September 2019, Huron River in Gallup Park. Photo by Lindsay Davis-Brady

Right: Women's boat getting ready to push off the dock during the Royal Canadian Henley race, in St. Catherines, ON, August, 2018. Skyline athlete and national champion Helen Ross faces away from the camera. Photo by Lindsay Davis-Brady.
For the first time in its history, the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County has no one on its wait list. After cases of Covid-19 were detected among shelter guests, Washtenaw County responded with an emergency appropriation to move many of them to a hotel closed by the pandemic, preventing a wider outbreak. Read our feature here.
Shelter Association staff members. Photo courtesy of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County.


Attend a Juneteenth celebration sponsored by the NAACP from 12-2pm  in Wheeler Park, including a screening of Suppressed, the Fight to Vote (6/20). Listen to livestreamed music with Lansing folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jenn Sygit (6/19), search the woods for fungi on Father’s Day using Leslie Science & Nature Center’s online resources (6/21), and learn about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Title VII protections for LGBTQ Americans (6/22). Also, hear Michigan-based experimental poet Jennifer Sperry Steinorth read from her 2019 collection (6/23) and play pub trivia over Zoom (6/23). 

See our online calendar for more information about local events.
outbreak. Read our feature here

The Helpers

By Ella Bourland
  • Local activist Mandi Steed’s project Paint the City uses eco-friendly spray chalk to paint sidewalk, streets, and other outdoor spaces with quotes and stories of the Black Lives Matter movement. Steed is actively looking for local businesses to stand in solidarity with BLM; email with inquiries.
The above image, made by 13-year-old Addyson Dixon, reflects all the worries a child of color has to experience. Photo: Mandi Steed.
  • On June 19 and the days following, United Way of Washtenaw County’s National Day of Action calls on locals to engage in meaningful remote, virtual skill-based, and select in-person volunteering, as well as Juneteenth advocacy. “No one person or organization can do it alone,” says UW Washtenaw’s senior development associate Madeline Mortimer, “it takes all of us to step up.” To get involved, sign up here.
  • Ypsilanti-based all-natural body care shop Jane’s Roses donates 19% of all profits during the month of June to organizations directly centered towards Black assistance. 

Play On

By Stephanie Sorter

The Brass Tacks Ensemble theater group is taking the time away from stage productions to create new theater and performance pieces for online audiences while continuing its play reading and writing groups by video call.
The Brass Tacks Ensemble moves online
For more theater and music
  • Jeff Daniels’ Online and Unplugged series, a collection of four folk music concerts originally live streamed in April and May to raise money for the Purple Rose Theatre, is available on the Purple Rose’s YouTube channel.

    The Wild Swan Theater has released Wild Swan in the Wings, an online resource filled with theater games and activities for kids.

    U-M SMTD regularly shares playlists curated by its staff and educational livestreams on how performers can stay afloat in the midst of a pandemic.

    The Ann Arbor Acoustic Jam has shifted their usual in-person jams and songwriting sessions to a virtual format. Read Patrick Dunn’s review here.
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