Herb Boyd surveys the rich history of the city in new book “Black Detroit”

Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

Herb Boyd
Herb Boyd will sign copies of his book “Black Detroit” in Southfield and Oak Park on June 10 and 11. Photo Courtesy of Christopher Griffith

Herb Boyd lives a busy life as an activist, author and academic. He keeps one foot in the classroom by teaching history and culture at City College of New York, and spends the rest of his time writing, researching and demonstrating — which he’s done for the past 32 years.

Boyd has lived in Detroit for more than 40 years. He moved there from Alabama as a small child, months before the race riot of 1943. Reflecting on his childhood, he says Detroit was very different from living in Alabama.

“There was a lot of activity happening,” he says. “We had no television at that time, but once you got out on the street you saw how chaotic the situation was.”

“Black Detroit: A People’s History of Self-Determination” is a comprehensive history of the city starting from the year 1701 all the way up to Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy. It covers a number of historical events and mixes in elements of the people’s culture. “Detroit is an epicenter of politics, unions, music, sports, urban affairs, and so much more,” Boyd says.

He says his mother, Catherine Brown, is responsible for teaching him all he knows about Detroit and she is embedded in the book. The book also shares experiences he has had living in various places throughout Michigan.

“The gestation period for ‘Black Detroit’ was almost like that of an infant; it took me about nine months to get all of it down and several months of editorial help from my team of women to get it ready for the publisher,” the author says.

Boyd says the way his mother moved them from place to place gave him an opportunity to grow up all over Detroit, meeting tons of friends who provided the essential groundwork for the book.

When looking at Detroit from the past and the present Boyd thinks Detroit continues to be a tale of two cities — one gradually rebounding from a dismal economic period, the other spiraling deeper into the darkness of unemployment and homelessness. But looking toward the future of the city, “Since I’m an optimist I believe Detroit’s future is much brighter than the outlook proposed by many social and political pundits,” he says.

“The people of Detroit have faced much tougher times than the present, and through grit and determination we’ve managed to rebound and make a way out of no way.”

He reflects on his long history of activist work.

“One’s activism emerges from some very strange and unpredictable places. It’s hard to say when a feeling will possess you in such a way that you are moved to action,” he says. He didn’t initially plan on becoming an activist, but became a student leader in college and the next thing he knew he was out marching.

In times where people are becoming more active and vocal about demonstrating beliefs, he offers advice to those who want to get involved with a certain cause: Look toward your family, teachers and friends who get involved in something they believe, and it will make a believer out of you.

Boyd is working on a new book for Third World Press, focusing on the Harlem Renaissance. He’s also in the process of editing several books and submitting essays to a couple of anthologies.

• If you go: Herb Boyd will speak about his book “Black Detroit” at two events next weekend. The first will be at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 10, at the Southfield Public Library, 26300 Evergreen Road. The second will be 2-4 p.m. Sunday, June 11, at the Oak Park Public Library, 14300 Oak Park Blvd.

Local Author Releases Newest Book in Bestselling Mystery Series

By Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

Donald Levin pic 1.5 mb
Ferndale Author Donald Levin will hold a book launch event Saturday, June 10, at the Lawrence Street Gallery in Ferndale to celebrate the publication of his newest novel “The Forgotten Child.” Photo courtesy of Jeff Pearson

Ferndale author Donald Levin has always had a strong passion for the written word. Originally born in Massachusetts, the writer moved to Detroit as a small child and spent his days weaving together exciting fiction stories. In his thirties, he left Michigan to move to New York where he lived in various cities throughout the state.

There he worked as an adjunct college professor after obtaining his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo and also worked as a speech writer for the New York State Public Health Commissioner. When he retired from Marygrove College in Detroit, he was Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty. He currently stands as Emeritus Professor of English at the college. After retiring from teaching and writing professionally, he decided that he wanted to focus more on writing for himself and not others.

Writing professionally and academically over the years, Levin didn’t start to write novels until the 1970s. On top of novel writing, he’s also delved into poetry over the years. Some of his poetry works include: In Praise of Old Photographs (2005) and New Year’s Tangerine (2007).

When it comes to poetry and novel writing he says there are striking differences between the two art forms. Poetry has a more intense narrative and can be written in a short amount of time as compared to fiction novels which are more of a long-term project. When it comes down to choosing between the two ultimately, he enjoys writing novels the best. “I like novels (the most) because I can immerse myself in an imaginative world”, says Levin.

Levin has been encouraged by many authors that have inspired him over the years. As a former professor, he is well versed in the classics, but he loves the mystery genre. Some of the writers he enjoys include Henning Mankell, Ian Rankin, and Walter Mosley. “I learned a lot from them (authors) and reading their books have inspired me to write my own books”, says Levin.

Levin says that he is a very diligent writer due to his previous years of professional writing. “As a speech writer, I sometimes had to write eight twenty-minute speeches in a week. I just learned that I had to stay focused and get it done”, he said. Levin does the majority of his writing in the Royal Oak Public Library from 10am to usually 4 or 5pm only stopping to take occasional breaks. At the end of the day he writes a note to himself as a reminder of where to start the new day.

Levin is currently promoting his newest novel “The Forgotten Child”, which is the fourth book in the Martin Preuss mystery series. This series follows a man named Martin who works for a police department and has a disabled son who lives in a group home due to Martin having a full time job and being a widower. The son, Toby, is based on Levin’s grandson Jamie, who also had disabilities and passed away three years ago. Levin wanted to set his series apart from other books in the same genre, by showing the fierce love between a father and son.

“The Forgotten Child”, picks up from the previous novel, “Guilt in Hiding”, in which Martin, newly retired from the Ferndale Police Department, passes his days quietly with his beloved son Toby. When a friend asks him to look for a boy who disappeared forty years ago, the former investigator gradually becomes consumed with finding the forgotten child.

The Martin Preuss series came about from Levin’s interest in the mystery genre. “As a boy, I loved to watch Dragnet and was a consumer of detective/crime fiction”, says Levin. He wanted to tackle the issues of people in society being affected by the extremities of crime and what crime says about the culture/society.

Levin is having a book launch event to celebrate the publication “The Forgotten Child”. The event will be held June 10th at the Lawrence Street Gallery at 22620 Woodward, Suite A in Downtown Ferndale, MI 48220. For more information about upcoming events visit http://www.donaldlevin.com to learn more about his books and upcoming appearances at local events.

Huntington Woods author to discuss her book about disability and inclusion

Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

Huntington Woods resident Janice Fialka is speaker and activist who fights for inclusion for people who live with disabilities. Courtesy Janice Fialka

Huntington Woods resident Janice Fialka is a speaker and activist who fights for inclusion for those who live with disabilities.

Fialka is the mother of two adult children, daughter Emma and a son, Micah, who lives with an intellectual disability. As a social worker, she spent 40 years working with adolescents and their families. But while caring for Micah, she refocused on disabilities.

She learned about the relationships parents with disabled children have to industry professionals and established herself as a major contributor to the national conversation about the topic. Her workshops, “The Dance of Partnership” train parents and the professionals who work with them to better understand their challenges and form creative partnerships.

Fialka now is a nationally recognized lecturer, author and advocate on issues related to disability and children.

In her latest book, “What Matters: Reflections on Disability, Community and Love,” Fialka discusses what it takes for families and communities to rise above labels that could signal a lifetime of low expectations and segregation. The book focuses on Micah’s experiences as one of the first students with an intellectual disability to be fully included in Michigan’s public schools.

After high school, Micah joined the new wave of young adults with intellectual disabilities attending college, and won a federal lawsuit that upheld his right to live in a dorm at Oakland University.

“For Micah, his situation wasn’t about having a deficiency, but was more of a civil/human rights issue,” Fialka says. “He’s not ashamed of his disability, he sees it as who he is.”

Today, Micah gives speeches across the country, serves on the U.S. Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, is a teaching assistant in the School of Education at Syracuse University in New York, uses technology to read and write and directs his funding and support needs.

Fialka’s goal for the book is to share what she and her son have learned, offering practical guidance about how to support those with disabilities. She says there are many ways people can learn about those with disabilities.

“There are so many books available about people living with disabilities, it helps to break the silence and open a discussion for questions. You can also research disability history and advocate for inclusion,” she says.

Fialka is working on multiple lectures and promoting the book through the rest of the year. Micah is writing his own book, and he will be featured in an upcoming documentary in 2018. A preview is at the University of New Hampshire website, iod.unh.edu/projects/intelligent-lives.

• Janice Fialka will talk about her book from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, March 26, at Book Beat Book Store, 26010 Greenfield Road, Oak Park. For more about Fialka, visit danceofpartnership.com.

Oakland University dance professor curates The Michigan Five performance

Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

Greg Patterson of Warren teaches dance at Oakland University. Courtesy Greg Patterson

Gregory Patterson shares his passion for music and dance through the students he teaches at Oakland University.

“I was always interested in dance as a kid, but was more of a sports guy growing up,” says Patterson, a Warren resident and associate professor of dance, who has been teaching at OU for 21 years.

Part of his duties is leading the Michigan Five, a performance highlighting the best dancers from colleges and universities in the state. Created to demonstrate to high schoolers what Michigan colleges offer in their dance programs, it will be at The Berman Center for the Performing Arts at on March 11.

“It’s an exciting idea because dancers are always looking for outside opportunities to perform,” says Patterson who curates the performance.

Participating this year are dancers from the University Of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, Wayne State University and Detroit Renaissance High School.

Schools chosen for The Michigan Five are confirmed in October, and their dances are prepared through their classes, usually modern and contemporary works.

This year’s show is dedicated to Carol Halsted, who was a vibrant symbol in the dance world of Metro Detroit. Halsted, who died in late January, founded the OU dance department and went on to become director of dance at Michigan Opera Theatre.

Patterson’s performance career stretches back to high school and college, where he participated in the musicals “West Side Story,” “Hello Dolly” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” He graduated from Bowling Green University with a psychology degree, but after taking some dance classes he decided to pursue it as a profession.

He eventually earned his master of fine arts degree at the University of Michigan and has danced professionally for more than 30 years — as a member of Harbinger Dance Company, Eisenhower Dance, Ann Arbor Dance Works and Rigmarole Dance Company. On top of that, he’s the dance program director and artistic director of Patterson Rhythm Pace Dance Company, which he created in 2000. And he serves as chairman of the Michigan Dance Council, as well as choreographing and assisting with musicals at Oakland University.

Patterson says he’s incredibly fortunate to be involved in so many aspects of dance, but his biggest challenge is always having too much on his plate.

“I just can’t seem to say no when people ask for help,” he says with a laugh.

For Patterson, the most rewarding aspect is “being able to see students I have trained to go on in life and become successful dancers, working with well-known choreographers, and having the opportunity to tour internationally.”

The Michigan Five performance takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at The Berman Center for The Performing Arts, 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield Township. This performance is sponsored by Harriet and Irving Berg. For more information about the show or to purchase tickets call 248-661-1900 or visit theberman.org/.

Oakland County resident composes score for upcoming indie horror film “The Dark Below”

Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

Oakland County resident David Bateman composed the music for this independent horror movie, “The Dark Below.” Courtesy David Bateman

Oakland County resident David Bateman composed the music for this independent horror movie, “The Dark Below.” Courtesy David Bateman

Oakland County resident David Bateman composed the music for this independent horror movie, “The Dark Below.” Courtesy David Bateman

Since his childhood local music composer, David Bateman, has always had an ear for music. Growing up in Royal Oak, Bateman began to study music at an early age by taking piano lessons.

“I remember my Dad playing this boogie-woogie riff on the piano all the time and being mesmerized that anyone could make that groove with their fingers,” he says.

Bateman, who now lives in West Bloomfield Township, was 15 when his father died, and music became a source of therapy for him. Since then he’s never stopped playing an instrument or learning music. He plays the piano, guitar and trumpet, among other instruments.

Bateman’s start as a music composer came during his high school years, when he wrote a lot of music and instrumentals in various genres for his own enjoyment. In the early ’90s, he was approached by his friend Michael Ozias — with whom he still works to this day — to write music for Ozias’ thesis film at Michigan State University.

“It was then, when I developed a passion for writing music to picture,” Bateman says. “I fell in love with not only the musical aspect of film scoring, but the technical side of things.”

Creating a film score can be challenging, and as he jokingly says, it also requires copious amounts of coffee.

“I take a lot of time trying to make each music score unique and interesting,” he says.

In preparing most of his scores, he gathers a wide range of field recordings to combine them as a hybrid orchestra. From there, he plugs the sounds into special software to create a musical “instrument,” or overall atmosphere.

Bateman says his biggest challenge with music composition is scheduling enough time to work on a film.

“Sometimes the request is to have music completed in two weeks. That’s writing, recording, mastering and delivering the final mix,” he says.

Bateman mostly gets called to work on horror and suspense movies, but prefers composing a wide variety of scores. Some of his favorite films he’s gotten to work on include “World of Art,” “Arlo” and the “The Burping Pig.” He’s also worked on multiple shows on Discovery Channel’s Investigative Discovery series, including “Homicide Hunter,” “Deadliest Catch,” and “People Magazine Investigates.”

His most recent work is in the upcoming indie horror film “The Dark Below.” It is about a woman who struggles to survive under the ice of a lake while a serial killer stalks her from the surface. The film is directed by Douglas Schulze and stars screen veteran Veronica Cartwright, Lauren Mae Shafer, and David G. Brow. It premieres on March 10 in Los Angeles, but as of yet there has been no announcement for a Detroit-area release.

Bateman described this as one of the most challenging films he’s worked on during his career. While he has written 45-50 minutes of music in his average film score, for “The Dark Below” he had to write more than 90 minutes. Plus, this movie has very little dialogue.

“Since the film mostly takes place on and underneath a lake, I created a lot of custom instruments using objects such as ice, water, shovels, axes and ice picks,” Bateman says. “The music needed to tell a story and gradually increase in pace with the mood growing eerie and twisted.”

Before recording many of the parts, to achieve a tense and bone-chilling atmosphere, he held ice cubes in his hands while fans blew cool air on him, making the studio temperature uncomfortable.

“The actors and crew in this film worked through some brutal conditions and did such an amazing job onscreen, that I wanted to share the same commitment and intensity,” Bateman says.

Now he is finishing the score to the thriller “Anders Manor,” starring Christina Robinson (Actor on “Dexter”). After wrapping up that project, he’ll be working on an MMA action film called House Rules which stars Tom Sizemore.

For more information about Bateman visit batemanmusic.net/.

Zenith Brass presents 22nd fall concert with Beaumont Brass

Zenith Brass, a youth honors band, will perform its 22nd Fall Concert program Sunday, Nov. 20, at Oak Arbor Church in Rochester. Courtesy Le’Anna Miller

Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

It is a pleasure for Mark Petty to direct the Zenith Brass, a 25-member multi-school extracurricular honors band for brass and percussion students.

He founded the band in 1995 to provide challenging experiences for young musicians.

“I think the most rewarding part of Zenith Brass for me is creating a unique organization with such outstanding students who can work together for a common goal,” he says. “Members really value their experience.”

Zenith performs a wide variety of classical and popular music, including orchestra and opera transcriptions, marches and movie themes. The band, now in its 22nd year, has performed more than 460 pieces of music over the years. Membership is by audition.

All members of Zenith participate in music programs at their own schools. The all-brass instrumentation has a different sound from a school wind band, and gives members an additional challenge to build their skills. One of the band’s members, Elena Miller, a trumpeter and sophomore at Chippewa Valley High School, shared her own experience with the band.

“I enjoy the positive environment with other high-schoolers that share the same love for music as me,” she says. “I think that having the opportunity to collaborate with people who share similar interests, but are unique in their own way, is extremely important.”

The band typically rehearses from September through May and performs three concerts a year — in fall, winter and spring. They always learn a number of tricky musical pieces.

“Each piece has sections that are difficult in some way,” Petty says. “Technical challenges need motivation in rehearsals and individual practice time. Some pieces might appear easier at first but require rehearsal time to perform musically and with a beautiful sound. We always strive to convey emotion through our performances.”

Zenith Brass will perform a variety of brass compositions, including the Toreador Song from Bizet’s 1875 opera “Carmen,” in their 22nd Fall Concert on Sunday, Nov. 20. In addition, they will perform original music by English composer John Ireland and by Royal Oak native James Curnow. This concert will feature guest artists in the Beaumont Brass faculty quintet from Michigan State University. This professional group will perform several pieces from their recent tour in New York City and Cleveland.

Zenith works to convey a bright image with its music.

“Brass music can be very brilliant and exciting,” Petty says. “The all brass band also can play with a warm emotional sound that is not as often encountered in a wind band or orchestra. It’s not that brass is better, it’s that it is different and can stretch players to grow in new directions.

“I also think that any youth music program displays the best of students. They are among those that we all can take pride in.”

For the program information, upcoming concerts or to learn more about this talented group of young musicians, visit ZenithBrass.org. Zenith Brass’s 22nd Fall Concert program is at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20, at Oak Arbor Church, 495 Oak Arbor Circle W., Rochester.

Farmington native’s first novel “Letting Go” of the past

“The Art of Holding On and Letting Go,” by Kristin Lenz, a Farmington native, was released in September 2016. Courtesy Elephant Rock Productions, Inc.

Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

Oakland County author Kristin Lenz has always been a writer at heart.

As she grew up in Farmington and attended University of Michigan, she says she lacked confidence to pursue a career in writing. Instead, she chose psychology as her major and went on to earn a master’s in social work at Wayne State University.

Then, her husband’s job took them cross-country to Georgia and California, giving Lenz opportunities to work in various areas of social work.

“Social work greatly expanded my world view,” Lenz says. “It gave me the confidence I needed to pursue writing again, and I’ve been so inspired by the resilience of the children and families that I’ve worked with.”

Inspiration for her first novel, “The Art of Holding and Letting Go,” came as Lenz and her husband fell in love with the outdoors near the mountains of Georgia and California. She followed the careers of well-known mountaineers who died attempting epic summits, and studied the effects their deaths had on their families. Lenz says she wondered what it would be like to be the child of a professional mountaineer, and asked herself just how that child’s upbringing would be different.

Her story further developed after she moved back to Michigan.

“I was struggling with this transition and the losses that came with it,” Lenz says “I had left my job, close friendships and a beautiful climate with daily access to nature. I was a new mom, feeling isolated and uncertain in a new environment while simultaneously trying to raise my baby daughter. My grandmother died suddenly.”

She believed everyone can relate to this feeling of loss during times of transition, at any age.

Her coming-of-age novel follows the story of a 15-year-old competitive rock climber. Cara, the main character, has enjoyed a roaming life with her mountaineering parents and makes the natural world her jungle gym. When tragedy strikes on an Ecuadorian mountaintop, her nomadic lifestyle comes to an abrupt halt, and she’s forced to move to her grandparents’ home in suburban Detroit.

Through the novel, Cara embarks on a year of discovery, uncovering unknown strengths, developing friendships and finding first love. It’s a journey that illustrates the transformative power of nature, love and loss, and discovering that home can be far from where you started.

An avid reader and writer, Lenz says reading builds empathy by inviting you to walk in someone else’s shoes and experience other time periods, environments and cultures.

“Our world needs thoughtful writers with diverse voices who open doors, especially as a contrast to the vitriol that’s often spewed on social media in response to current events and our toxic political climate,” Lenz says.

She will have two book launch parties to celebrate “The Art of Holding and Letting Go.” The first is Sept. 18 at the Office Coffee Shop at 402 S Lafayette Ave, Royal Oak. Oak Park indie bookstore The Book Beat will sell copies , along with fellow author Laura Romito’s new line of specialty cooking salts, High 5 Salts with Benefits. (foodgeekfoods.com)

Then on Sept. 25, Lenz will be at Nicola’s Books, in the Westgate Shopping Center at 2513 Jackson Ave, Ann Arbor, with author Shutta Crum, who has written many books for children, including her new middle-grade novel, “William and the Witch’s Riddle.” (shutta.com)

When she’s not working on books, Lenz does freelance writing for nonprofit organizations, keeping her involved in social work. She also manages a blog for the Michigan Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

For more information about Lenz, visit kristinbartleylenz.com.