1) Last Sunday, I was invited by a friend to attend a vegan brunch hosted by Detroit Evolution - a venture run by a couple that teaches yoga, hosts movies, and cooks amazing vegan food, who had just moved their living and working space from Eastern Market to Corktown. The culinary highlight of the brunch was a vegan cinnamon roll that provoked superlatives from even this sworn enemy of the overrated breakfast standard. The cultural highlight of the brunch was the fact that it was hosted by a close friend of Detroit Evolution, Brother Nature Produce, an organic farm planted on 2 acres of city land in one of the most struggling parts of the city. Greg of Brother Nature uses land that would otherwise be sitting empty to grow high quality organic greens, herbs, squash blossoms, and tomatoes, which he sells to local restaurants and at Eastern Market. He is helping improve schools all over the city by running an "Ugliest Schoolyard" competition through which the Detroit Public School that makes the best improvements to its schoolyard - including planting vegetable & flower gardens - will get the best prize. SO - Support Detroit Evolution, Buy Brother Nature Produce! (Brother Nature is done selling for the season at Eastern Market, but you can friend/fan them on facebook - and they'll be starting up an affordable CSA soon! Detroit Evolution will soon be offering classes and sponsors lots of other cool events...check them out on fb too.)
2) On Wednesday, by that same friend's invitation (thank you Emily!), I attended a "virtual tour" of Southwest Detroit hosted by Southwest Solutions, a nonprofit that has been in operation (and growing and evolving) since 1972 - first as a counseling center for the homeless, and now as both a counseling center and a provider of affordable housing as well as other programs like the Go-Getters, a program run for and by homeless and formerly homeless Southwest Detroit residents with mental health concerns. (This past week was National Homelessness Awareness Week). It's not just what SW Solutions does - which is a lot (swsol.org) - that impresses me so much. It's their groundedness in respect for the people they serve: their clarity that the people they work with are contributors, not clients or customers, but people who can and do give to each other in a positive way on a daily basis. This approach, to me, is as fundamental to ending the cycle of poverty and dependency as is the material assistance provided by organizations like SW Solutions. But it's vital that that assistance continues - and grows. Support SW Solutions!
3) And in a totally different, but also inspiring-in-its-own-way world: I trained at Biggby Coffee in Southfield, a northwestern suburb of Detroit, the same suburb where the school for which I am writing grants is located (a suburb that has gone from being predominantly Jewish to a predominantly Black community in the past 15 years or so...an interesting study in and of itself). Biggby Coffee is a Michigan-born chain that started in East Lansing. I'll admit that when I first moved here, being primed by the subtler coffee shop aesthetics of Seattle, Portland, and Asheville NC, I was skeptical of a place that had day-glo bright colors, frogs as mascots, and sells Slo-Poke candies at the counter. But when a new Biggby opened in downtown/midtown Detroit around the corner from where I lived, my conversion to fandom began. It was completed this week. Biggby truly has some of the most intense training and best customer service policies I've ever encountered or heard of in food service. And some unbelievably tasty drinks - even though coffee purists would probably balk at their extensive menu of non-coffee items - but a I predict that a taste of a Chocolate Chip Cookie Creme Freeze would soften the hardest espresso-snobby heart. And a manager and staff with a very midwestern-in-the-best-sense work ethic and respect for customers and employees alike. So. Buy Biggby coffee, Michiganders! -
OK, off to a potentially dang cool party...which may or may not show up in a future blog post. We'll see. :)