More than 30 dancers of all ages and walks of life attended a lesson of African Dance on April 13, taught by renowned dancer Idy Ciss, 47, of Chicago.
In collaboration with the University Musical Society and the Detroit-based Heritage Works, the lesson served as a pre-show event to the concert later that night by Senegalese musician Cheikh Lô. Ciss, born in the West African nation of Senegal, demonstrated the traditional Jola dance – an eclectic mix of aerobic dance moves and fast-paced drumming from the Casamance region of southern Senegal.
Dancing since childhood and professionally from his early 20s, Ciss said that the Jola dance is popular because it is very social and intended for community participation. Both the dancers and Ciss were in good spirits, showing large grins as they rocked and swayed to the beat.
“The heartbeat is the drum,” said Ciss, alluding to a spiritual connection between dancers and the staccato rhythms of the Jimbe and Dundu drums.
The fast beat of the dance was intense for some, with several dancers sweating profusely as they sat on the sidelines after a few rounds of dancing.
“It keeps you in shape. Your whole body participates,” said Ciss, adding that the dance movements both exercise the body and release stress.
The hour-long dance session ended with stretching before the exhausted participants made their way to the Michigan Theater on Liberty Street to attend the Cheikh Lô concert.
A mix of sounds drifted onto Liberty Street from the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor – smooth guitar melodies, exotic drums and the sultry call of a saxophone. At the front of the stage stood Cheikh Lô, a thin man with dreadlocks reaching the belt of his striped robe. As the drums reached a rapid crescendo, Lô approached the microphone, singing in Wolof, the language of his people in Senegal, West Africa.
Born in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso to Senegalese parents, Lô grew up speaking French, Wolof and Bambara, the language of Mali – a country bordering Senegal. Influenced by Cuban and Congolese music from an early age, Lô performed as a drummer and singer in Burkina Faso before moving to Dakar, Senegal in 1981 to advance his career.
Lô spent time as a studio drummer in Paris before returning to Senegal to focus on his own music – a move that caught the ear of Grammy-winning artist Youssou N’Dour, who produced some of Lô’s early albums.
Lô’s style of Mbalax music incorporates his early Cuban influences; his complex guitar melodies compete with saxophonist Wilfrid Zinssou’s relaxed tones. A range of rhythms fill in the background of Lô’s music, including percussion by Samba N’Dokh, Khadim M’Baye and Ndiaye Badou. Thierno Sarr and Baye Mahanta Diop polish the sound with bass and electric guitar.
“In the ’60s, just before and when I was starting, I was impressed and influenced by a lot of Afro-Cuban music, such as Barosso, and also music from Congo, Guinéa, Mali and Senegal – basically all of western Africa,” said Lô in a translated email interview with the Washtenaw Voice.
Lô’s music has been popular in West Africa and abroad. He has won several awards in South Africa and earned a National Order of Merit from former Senegalese President Abdu Diouf.
“I think people listening to my music understand it and also its message about love and peace, and that makes me very proud,” Lô said.
Most of the songs Lô performed in Ann Arbor on April 13 hail from his most recent album, “Jamm,” which is the Wolof word for peace – a feeling invoked in the relaxed sound of his music. For Lô, “Jamm” came about as a response to violent international events.
“Côte d’Ivoire was inflaming and violent, and I had also been watching America’s 9/11, so it was kind of an intuition that maybe things could also start to go bad and degenerate in Senegal and elsewhere around the world, so I said to myself, ‘we need peace, we need to make it happen!’ and I decided to call my album ‘Jamm,’” Lô said.
The fear of strife in Senegal hit home in late 2011, when Senegalese youth opposed the presidential candidacy of the incumbent Abdoulaye Wade.
“We could see the situation becoming tense; kids were burning tires in the streets, shouting and showing (dissatisfaction). Fortunately, a couple of weeks before the elections, people started realizing that the only good way to express themselves was by voting democratically,” said Lô, whose relief came when Wade conceded victory to current President Macky Sall after losing his re-election bid.
Throngs of concert-goers filed out of the Michigan Theater onto Liberty Street following Lô’s performance. University of Michigan seniors Chris Crawford and Kim Grambo, both 21, stayed behind in the theater lobby, chatting with friends after Lô’s concert.
“Fantastic,” Crawford said.
Both students were enamored with Samba N’Dokh’s performance with the Tama, a traditional ‘talking drum’ of the Wolof people that mimics human speech. They were also impressed by the camaraderie between musicians.
“You can tell how much fun they have playing together,” Grambo said.
Timothy O’Donnell proudly displayed stickers emblazoned with his name and a date from the week before, plastered across an alley off of Liberty Street in Ann Arbor – souvenirs he had peeled from his hospital discharge papers documenting the most recent overdose in a long-running heroin addiction he picked up out west.
After a long day of boredom walking the balmy streets of downtown Ann Arbor last July, O’Donnell and his friend “Blumpkin” headed for their home for the night, simply known as “The Squat.” As Blumpkin dug through a trashcan outside of Bar Louie in hope of finding a discarded meal from nearby restaurants, O’Donnell expressed disgust between puffs from his last cigarette.
When the pair reached The Squat – one of several abandoned homes on North Main Street opposite of the Ann Arbor Community Center, they hid behind the house. They waited for the headlights of passing cars to disappear and then O’Donnell approached a boarded-up window, forced the board open and crawled inside with his rucksack and friend in tow.
Safely inside the abandoned home, O’Donnell and Blumpkin spread out their belongings on the litter-covered floor of an upstairs bedroom, creating a makeshift sleeping area surrounding an ashtray and stolen construction barrel lamp.
The upstairs bedroom of the home at 700 N. Main St has provided a night's rest to transients on many occasions, despite boarded-up windows and warning signs. (Jared Angle/The Washtenaw Voice)
Without any tobacco to smoke, O’Donnell used the dim glow of the lamp to illuminate the ashtray as he picked at scraps of marijuana that had been spilled in the debris earlier.
As he and Blumpkin smoked from a small metal pipe, they discussed their morning plans for stowing away on a freight train to Chicago, becoming drowsier with each subsequent puff of smoke. As the pipe was emptied and
the night grew colder, O’Donnell and Blumpkin each curl into a fetal position to sleep, with no blankets to provide comfort.
Located at 700 N. Main St. near Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown neighborhood, The Squat is one of seven consecutive homes slated for demolition and owned, according to city records, by a partnership between the nonprofit Avalon Housing and its sister company, the Three Oaks Group.
As an organization that provides reduced-rent housing for economically disadvantaged individuals, Avalon plans to
replace the blighted properties with a low-income apart-
But despite several attempts, The Washtenaw Voice was not able to interview the management of Avalon Housing about the houses’ present inhabitants.
Several neighbors on Fourth Avenue, whose houses face the abandoned homes, are frustrated with both the condition of the homes and the periodical presence of squatters. Fourth Avenue resident Nancy Eavy, 44, suggested that an increase of property crimes in the neighborhood could be related to squatters and other people passing through.
Several residents said they suffered numerous small thefts from their yards in the past year, including outdoor items such as propane tanks for
gas grills. One such property crime was more serious, involving a burglary resulting in the loss of valuable jewelry, among other items.
Citing concern over a possible decrease in the neighborhood’s property values, Eavy said she hopes that Avalon finishes demolishing the homes.
“Main Street is the gateway to Ann Arbor,” said Eavy, referring to visitors who come to the city. “These houses are the first thing they see.”
Further down Fourth Avenue, another homeowner, an elderly man who declined to be identified, said that the abandoned homes were in
livable condition before being neglected by the Three
“They’re extremely ugly,” the man said. “They represent a safety hazard.”
His theory for the continued condition of the homes stems from Three Oaks’ original purchase of them. The houses were converted into rental properties before being closed in 2010 and stripped of plumbing and appliances.
According to neighbor Margaret Shankler, the homes used to be valuable, with one home being worth $450,000 before Three Oaks purchased it. Shankler said that Avalon and Three Oaks have been unable to proceed with the demolition due to a lack of funding—an issue debated by residents in the neighborhood and discussed at numerous meetings with the Ann Arbor City Council and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.
According to Ann Arbor Police Department records obtained through Freedom
of Information Act requests, the department has had several encounters with individuals involved in squatting in
the past. However, the incidents were not related to squatting and did not take place in the North Main Street properties, according to police documents.
When asked about the presence of squatters in abandoned Ann Arbor properties, AAPD Lieutenant Renee Bush said, “I am not aware of the issue that you discussed.”
But Christine Schopieray, secretary to Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, said the city
government is aware of the presence of squatters, and that police officers conduct
routine patrols of the properties to search for illegal occupants.
A recent search conducted by the AAPD of the area found that the houses were not occupied, although a previously boarded window was exposed. Schopieray also said that Avalon Housing regularly investigates the vacant properties. Despite a fire set to one of the abandoned homes
and several thefts and the burglary on Fourth Avenue, the mayor’s office does not view the abandoned homes or squatters as a significant problem, she said.
ALBION – A crowd of more than 300 supporters, including students from nearby Albion College and skilled trades workers of all ages, gathered on the factory floor of caster and wheel manufacturer Caster Concepts to see former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speak as a part of his six-day bus tour beginning in Milford and ending in Novi.
Echoing the key points of his Feb. 24 address to members of the business community at a Detroit Economic Club luncheon, Romney discussed his plans to alleviate unemployment and the federal budget deficit while reminding voters to be involved in Michigan’s Feb. 28 primary.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney reaches out to shake hands with supporter Mitchell Martz.
As the speech ended and Romney signed autographs and greeted supporters, 73-year-old Mitchell Martz, of Parma, felt impressed with Romney following a firm handshake. “I was on the fence,” said Martz, who identified as a Democrat until recent weeks. “Mitt may have my vote.”
Not all of Romney’s supporters in the audience were elderly, however. Michael Ortiz, 23, of Albion, watched Romney from the crowded factory floor, sporting a workshop uniform with his name on it. Romney’s presence in the workplace was important to Ortiz, who said the candidate was able to address issues both nationally and locally. “I’m seeing it firsthand,” Ortiz said. Candidate Romney’s bus tour ended the day with an event in Royal Oak.
The demographic that attended Romney’s speech went hand-in-hand with the chosen location. Caster Concepts’ factory contains a variety of systems designed to aid workers in the manufacturing process, similar to the equipment that students in Washtenaw Community College’s Computer Numerical Control program are trained to use.
“It seems natural that the candidates would want to visit such facilities and talk about these skilled jobs due to the tremendous need,” said Ross Gordon, interim dean of Vocational Technology.
“It lends credibility to show they understand the skills shortage that American manufacturing is facing.”
Romney answered questions at a town hall meeting in Beavercreek, OH.
After success in the Michigan Republican primary, Romney moved south to Ohio in the days preceding “Super Tuesday,” hosting a town hall-style meeting with supporters in a similar factory in Beavercreek, a city of 45,000 east of Dayton.
Among the attendees of the Beavercreek rally were current and former automobile workers, including a former Delphi Automotive employee who had the opportunity to ask Romney about his controversial position on labor unions and the bailout of General Motors.
Jeff unzipped his tent and quickly looked around to make sure his belongings were safe – not an easy task against the constant struggle of protecting his food from mice and other woodland animals. In a home without walls, windows, or a sturdy front door, Jeff can’t stow his clothing in a dresser or store his food in a pantry. Instead, everything he owns is contained in a stack of plastic milk crates, and he sleeps in a sleeping bag on a thin mat on the ground.
Even in the summertime, Jeff said, sleeping in a tent isn’t the ideal lifestyle, but it’s far more comfortable, and safer, than the impending winter. His tent suffices in the summer with its thin mosquito net, rain cover, and impromptu shelves of crates. But once the snow begins to fly, he’ll have to winterize his tent and hope he’ll be able to stay warm throughout the night.
“It’s a big blow to your self-esteem to be here,” said Jeff, who asked that his last name not be used for this story. “I mean look at it, it’s not exactly home.”
By fall, Jeff started receiving Social Security disability payments and found a home. He was one of the lucky ones.
Many more — up to 50 in the summer and between 15 and 20 in the winter — call Camp Take Notice home.
This is their story.
A view of tents around the central path of Camp Take Notice. Residents have learned to tolerate automobile noise because of the camp’s proximity to two highways.
Just temporary — but for how long?
“Tent City” — a phrase that might evoke images of the infamous jail facility in Maricopa County, Ariz., where thousands of inmates serve their time in the unforgiving desert heat. But in Ann Arbor, it has an entirely different meaning. It’s a community where some of the thousands of homeless people in Washtenaw County can rest while they struggle to get their lives back on track.
Nestled in a triangular plot of trees about the length of three football fields and bordered by I-94, M-14 and Wagner Road, Camp Take Notice offers a drug-free environment where the homeless can set up a tent, away from the busy streets of downtown Ann Arbor. Originally formed in 2008, Camp Take Notice has existed in five previous locations in Ann Arbor before setting up on the city’s west side in 2010.
Caleb Poirier, 34, brought the tent city concept to Ann Arbor after spending time in similar camps near Seattle. While smaller than similar tent cities Poirier visited in other states, Camp Take Notice was designed to have a similar governing structure.
An impromptu set of railroad tie stairs winds its way from Wagner Road into the camp’s main path. M-14 can be seen in the distance.
While CTN offers solace to between 15 and 50 of Washtenaw County’s estimated 4,000 homeless people depending on the time of year, it is not universally embraced. The camp’s close proximity to Elizabeth Street, a small, unpaved street with about 15 single-family homes, has some residents concerned. Kat Miller, 31, lives in Ann Arbor and frequently parks her car at a relative’s home on the street.
Miller said that on two separate occasions, she came to the home and found a man searching for food in the garage. The second time, she told the man that he had to leave, or she would call the police to report him for trespassing.
Suspecting that someone has intruded on the property at least “five or six times” and defecated on the lawn since the second incident, she no longer parks her car at her relative’s home to ride the bus.
Further down the street, Melissa Sheffer, 30, relates her experience with the camp, which has been much more positive. She says the residents of Camp Take Notice don’t draw attention to themselves. In fact, she had only recently learned of the camp’s existence. She hasn’t had any problems with camp residents, and isn’t aware of any crime happening near her home.
Sheffer admires the willingness of the campers to seek employment and advance themselves, adding that they appear to be hard-working. “They take the bus, shower at the ymca, and go to work,” says Sheffer.
Caleb Poirer, 34, talks to a camp visitor.
When it comes to such issues in the neighborhood, Caleb Poirier and some of the more experienced residents offer important advice to new residents: “Don’t go on Elizabeth Street.”
Vernon Grob, 61, believes the concerns voiced by Elizabeth Street residents stem from a “not-in-my-backyard” mentality.
To rule out the possibility of complaints from the nearby communities, members of the camp adopted a strict panhandling policy that prohibits asking for handouts within a one-mile radius. Additionally, the camp’s leadership decided that other than walking to or from the camp, or waiting at the nearby bus stop on Wagner Road, camp residents should not loiter near the camp or surrounding neighborhoods.
Referred by a friend, David Williams, 57, is using Camp Take Notice to get back on his feet. Currently he has a job and is saving paychecks to rent an apartment.
Getting back on their feet — hopefully
David Williams, 57, is one of the hard-working people that Sheffer references. Originally from Inkster, a friend told Williams about Camp Take Notice, recommending it as a place to live while saving up for a home.
Williams used to receive unemployment checks until they ran out five months ago. He said he prayed that he would find a job before October so he could have a chance of finding a home before winter.
And his prayers came true. He was hired to a new job in mid-September. Now he’s pursuing his friend’s advice of saving his paychecks so he can find an apartment.
Williams has a word of warning, though: Some campers get comfortable with life in the camp and stop looking for employment and lodging. He says that the camp “is a great way to get back on your feet – as long as you don’t get stuck here.” He says that those campers who stay for too long can find themselves in a cycle of apathy and alcohol abuse.
Jeff displays the inside of his tent.
Another camper, Jeff, was able to leave the camp after waiting over a year to start receiving Social Security benefits. In the preceding months, Jeff talked about how finding work was difficult without a permanent address. Instead it was easier to find a temporary job lasting a few weeks, and to save paychecks from the various jobs with the hope of raising the money for rent payments on an inexpensive apartment.
Some campers come back to the camp even after successfully leaving, and they share their experiences with new campers, some of whom are homeless for the first time. According to Poirier, this relationship between campers, former campers and charities forms a community bond that helps further the camp’s goal of raising awareness of homelessness.
Needs met by warm hearts
An important factor in getting the majority of the campers organized for Camp Take Notice’s weekly Sunday meetings is the donation of a large, warm meal that can feed everyone adequately. These food donations are provided through a weekly rotation of different charities, churches and private citizens who support the camp.
Karla and Tim Dorweil made a large donation on Oct. 2, consisting of a variety of home-cooked food, including salad, whole grains and fresh strawberries. According to Tim, he and his wife “are careful shoppers,” and wanted to provide the best nutrition possible. Tim estimated the cost of the donation, which fed roughly 20 people with additional food remaining, at $80-$90.
Additional assistance comes from a variety of local churches, including the Zion Lutheran church. Camp residents are able to volunteer for woodcutting and collect their firewood from donors with trees on their property. By using donated firewood instead of cutting down trees in the camp, residents are able to stay warm without destroying MDOT property.
Fires are built with wood cleared from the properties of donors as opposed to fuel gleaned from cutting down trees on MDOT property.
Helping those who help themselves
While Camp Take Notice’s two-year presence on Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT)-owned land is technically illegal, MDOT’s Brighton Transportation Service Center manager Mark Geib, who oversees operations in Livingston, Washtenaw and Monroe Counties, offers a different perspective on the issue.
Geib says that as long as residents maintain a safe and clean environment in the camp and actively search for a permanent housing solution elsewhere, MDOT has no plans to evict the campers. He says that for the most part, there have been few complaints about the camp.
Keeping in accordance with MDOT’s conditions of safety and cleanliness, the residents of Camp Take Notice have turned waste management into a key element of daily life. As trash accumulates, bags are brought to a holding area by the road, where they are picked up on a regular basis by truck.
While the camp enjoys MDOT’s acceptance, some of the campers have been busy giving back to MDOT and highway commuters by volunteering their time in Michigan’s Adopt-a-Highway program. On Oct. 3, some 15 residents, including some sick and injured campers, scoured a three-mile stretch of highway to the west of the camp for garbage, collecting 20 bags by the end of the day.
Since then, camp residents have cleaned the road several times, and have taken the program a step further by cleaning up a section of Wagner Road as well. The spirit of volunteerism has taken hold within the boundaries of the camp as well, with residents undertaking cleaning projects and constructing wooden shelters for generators and trash.
Poirier described a “rent” system that incentivizes residents to take part in community service and camp chores in return for additional weekly bus tokens, which are vital to many residents’ job-seeking process.
Alonzo Young, 46, is a Washtenaw Community College student and has been a resident of Camp Take Notice for several months. His responsibility lies with performing security duties, such preventing theft and fighting, enforcing the drug policy and stopping excessive noise at night.
“I look out for people, I’m a caring person,” Young said regarding his duties. When residents who violate these rules are caught, they risk being evicted from the camp, especially if the offense leads to police intervention, which the camp works to prevent.
In the event that a resident of the camp is evicted for a rule violation, a committee at the camp decides whether the eviction will be temporary (up to two weeks) or permanent. In the event of a two-week eviction, the campers can return, at which point they tell their version of the events that led to their eviction, which can then be rebutted by other campers in a meeting.
After opinions are voiced, the residents are allowed to resume living in the camp. In the case of a permanent eviction, however, a camper must go through an appeals process, which includes a discussion among campers, a group vote by the camp, a decision by camp leaders and, finally, a counseling process to ensure the campers abide by the rules if they are allowed to return.
Additionally, the residents of the camp are required to keep a fire extinguisher near each of the camp’s several firepits, which are used to provide warmth and to cook. Poirier says following these rules and making democratic choices keeps the camp orderly and ensures that the camp is safe from eviction by MDOT.
Common health issues create uncommon hardships
Vernon Grob, 61, a resident of Camp Take Notice.
Brian Durrance, 49, of Ann Arbor, a board member of MISSION, a nonprofit collaboration between homeless and homeful people.
Since the residents of Camp Take Notice don’t have the same access to hospitals and disability services as people with homes and jobs do, staying healthy can be a struggle. Counted among the 30-plus residents of the camp are a pregnant woman and individuals with serious health issues, such as mental illness, diabetes, high blood pressure, broken limbs, and pulled muscles.
Poirier and other members of the camp’s executive committee dedicated a new “office tent” to help relieve some of these problems that residents have. A set of drawers has first-aid supplies for residents, and the office contains paperwork with important information on the residents, which helps keep track of supplies as they are issued to residents, such as tents and sleeping bags.
The residents don’t have the luxury of an elevator, and the stairway leading into camp from Wagner Road is treacherous at best. Constructed from donated railroad ties, the stairway winds down the camp’s dirt path, making the trip downhill safer, especially during rainy and snowy weather.
Improvements to the stairway have been a hot topic at the camp’s Sunday meetings, but the issue is not without controversy. Officially, MDOT has requested that no permanent structures, such as metal railings, be installed in the camp or near Wagner Road. Concerned about a backlash from MDOT, some campers voted against the building of a railing on the stairs, eventually leading to a compromise with the camp’s majority for a less-visible, semi-permanent railing.
Camp residents vote on weekly meeting agenda items, while a University of Michigan School of Social Work student takes notes.
Shelter Association of Washtenaw County
Despite having created a system for waste disposal, drinking water, heating and cooking, the camp still lacks running water and a physical address to receive mail, which is where the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County (SAWC) comes into the picture.
SAWC’s program at the Delonis Center downtown offers showers, laundry, mail, and storage services, which residents of the camp rely on to fulfill the needs that the camp cannot provide. Additionally, the Delonis Center has offered the ‘Warming Center’ program in previous years, where the homeless can stay on the first floor of the five-story structure and away from the biting winter cold.
The future of the Warming Center was in jeopardy, however, according to Shelter Association CEO Ellen Schulmeister. Citing the difficulty of finding donors to fund the program through the winter months, she said that the likelihood of the program being continued was questionable, adding that Shelter Association employees were trying to solve the situation.
As of mid-October, the Warming Center gained the funding it required to operate, albeit at a smaller occupancy of 25 people per night. At Camp Take Notice’s Oct. 23 meeting, a number of residents showed interest in participating in the program, which is open to men and women. At the Warming Center, they will have access to caseworkers and a full night of sleep on a clean mat with blankets in a heated room.
Barry Minowitz, 58, is the Operations Manager from the Shelter Association. He provided a sign-up form for residents to access the Warming Center. He also informed residents of a church-based program known as the Rotating Shelter, where a small amount of Washtenaw County’s homeless can register on a first-come, first-served basis to access shelter in a network of local churches. Deriving its name from the fact that residents will sleep in a different church every night, the Rotating Shelter is offered to men only.
Two covered tents and supplies under a tarp in Camp Take Notice. Many residents shelter their tents with tarps to shield them from wind and rain.
Staying warm and dealing with difficult weather
As the summer months give way to fall, weather that most homeowners wouldn’t bat an eye at has been plaguing residents of Camp Take Notice. Most recently, heavy rains pounded some of the smaller, flimsier tents until they collapsed, soaking through clothing and spoiling food.
The camp’s executive committee has been planning for future rains and inevitable winter snow by stockpiling heavy-duty tarps and receiving donated winter tents which can keep residents warm at temperatures approaching zero degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to sturdier shelter, the campers were able to get a few propane tanks – enough to use sparingly for cooking, but not enough to run propane heaters full-time.
A ‘mega-tent’ of connected tarps encloses smaller tents to protect them from inclement weather.
From October through early spring, residents who find the insides of their tents too cold can move to the community tent, where two wood furnaces burn firewood, which is easier to come by than propane. Additionally, the camp will undergo an organizational change – instead of consisting of many tents spread out over a large distance in the woods, the camp will condense to a small area around the community tent, so the residents can stay close together.
Richard McKendry, 40, gazes at the rest of the camp on a cool October evening.
Richard McKendry, 40, says keeping snow off the ground will be a challenge in the winter. Instead of trying to clear the entire area that the camp currently occupies, the situation will be simplified as the tents move closer together and only a smaller area will require clearing.
Residents have found other ways to beat the cold than huddling together, though. In two different sections of the camp, residents have placed their small tents together between trees, and built a much larger tent around the trees, enclosing the smaller tents. Creating an additional buffer zone between the tents and the outside world, the residents living in these “mega tents” are able to keep items outside of their tents while still protecting them from the elements.
With the camp located on the eastern edge of Scio Township on the border with Ann Arbor, law enforcement responsibilities lies with the Washtenaw County Sheriff Department and the Michigan State Police. While the sheriff’s department denied a Freedom of Information Act request for police records regarding Camp Take Notice, Director of Community Engagement Derrick Jackson confirmed that deputies conduct a weekly patrol of the camp to “check in on folks and see how things are going.”
“It is actually state property, so it’s technically the Michigan State Police [responsibility], but obviously it’s in Scio Township and we want to make sure we keep an eye out and make sure everything is okay out there,” said Jackson.
The Ann Arbor Police Department responded with one police record dating from April 18, 2010, which resulted in no arrests. Residents of the camp attribute Camp Take Notice’s success to the current location on mdot-owned land.
The camp has endured fewer interventions from law enforcement since it moved from the former locations behind Arborland Mall and the Ann Arbor-Saline Road Park and Ride, which were much more visible to the public.
Some furry friends
While for some residents life in Camp Take Notice can be bleak, they are able to take solace in the feeling that they are part of a community that provides a shelter for those who have none. And as the campers have each other to lean on, they have three more close allies — a family of cats, brought to the camp during the summer.
Dashing around playfully and jumping into the laps of residents while they eat their Sunday dinner, the cats bring joy, a little excitement, some warmth and a few smiles. They heighten spirits among the campers.
As nighttime falls and the residents retire one-by-one to their tents, the cats are never far behind. Those residents who leave their tents unzipped are frequently greeted by the cats, which will curl up and make a camper almost feel like home.
A large group of protesters marched toward Parker Mill Park on Geddes Road with signs criticizing Gov. Snyder’s policies.
On Martin Luther King Day, protesters from across Michigan encapsulated the spirit of the fallen Civil Rights leader to show Ann Arbor, and Gov. Rick Snyder, exactly what democracy looks like.
“If Democracy is good enough for Egypt, if democracy is good enough for Libya, then it’s good enough for Michigan,” said Rev. David Bullock, president of the Rainbow push and Highland Park chapter of the naacp.
Led by Bullock and Rev. Charles Williams II of the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit, nearly 1,000 protesters from about 50 different activism groups gathered near Washtenaw Community College on Jan.16. They met by the pavilion at Parker Mill County Park on Geddes Road to show their displeasure, outrage and frustration with the Snyder-supported Public Act 4, more commonly known as the Emergency Financial Manager law.
The Rev. Charles Williams II looks toward the crowd while the Rev. David Bullock speaks to the protesters.
Rallied in opposition to the controversial act, which allows the governor and other state officials to institute emergency managers to oversee cities with ongoing financial mismanagement issues, the protesters took their concerns, chants and signs to Snyder’s front doorstep, essentially occupying the entrance of his gated community, roughly a mile east of campus.
As the last of the protesters arrived at WCC, where the majority gathered before the official march began, members of Occupy Detroit, Occupy for Democracy and the AFSCME labor union distributed megaphones among the organizers so they could speak openly to the crowd.
The rally led protesters east down Geddes Road from Dixboro Road, taking the group to Parker Mill County Park, and later to the governor’s Superior Township residence. While some protesters marched on foot, many more came by bus, from cities including Benton Harbor, Detroit, Muskegon, Inkster and Flint.
The effort was aided by the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department and Michigan state police, who helped close down Geddes Road and ran crowd control.
Two officers with the Michigan State Police stood guard by the entrance to Snyder’s gated community.
For Williams, the coalition building that went into the rally was “unprecedented.”
“I haven’t been to any other protest that has had so many diverse and different types of people,” Williams told The Washtenaw Voice. “That shows that we are all Americans, that we all unite around democracy, and that it isn’t just for some, but for all of us.”
Williams, 30, and a graduate of Eastern Michigan University, said that seeing older African-American’s interspersed with young white men and women rallying peacefully together encapsulated the spirit of the auspicious occasion.
Encamped shortly outside of Snyder’s gated community, Williams and others delivered their message to Snyder’s Chief of Staff, Dennis Muchmore. They spoke more of disappointment than anger.
Community High School student Fauster Kitchens, 18, of Ann Arbor, joined in the various chants.
“Our message to Snyder (and Muchmore) was that we don’t want our democracy taken away from us,” Williams said. “We don’t want our elected officials to be flushed down and thrown away. We elected them to represent us, and we don’t want that to be dismantled.”
Although his feeling of joy was apparent, Williams said he is not happy about what is to come.
“I am proud of what we did, but I am not proud that we had to do it,” he said. “I’m afraid and concerned that we’ll have to do more. I am hopeful, but we need to be thinking aggressively about how we can change that paradigm.”
Others had a more pointed message to give Snyder, like Keith Kuchner.
“I want Snyder to resign and go to jail,” said Kuchner, 59, from Dearborn. “I have more respect for the Mafia and organized crime than I do for the man. At least when they whack you, they’ll let you know about it.”
For Esperanza Orozsco, 24, of Milwaukee, being able to attend two recall rallies for two different governors was a high point of her activism.
“I was involved in the Madison protests, so I’m here to bring the spirit of Wisconsin with me,” she said.
As Williams prepared to deliver his speech and air his grievances in front of the gated neighborhood, arguments began among protesters about the purpose of the protest, with some raising concerns that the movement should be more about economic disparity than the Emergency Financial Manager law.
For inactive-duty U.S. Marine Emmitt Harness, the perspective gained from his time in Iraq fueled his outrage toward the governor.
“I’m here because I got to witness first hand why the government sent people like me to war,” said Harness, 26, from Flint. “It was corporate greed and doing whatever it takes, even taking away people’s land, to achieve that. I want my presence here to incite more awareness among veterans.”
When an older protester told those surrounding him that the protest must be focused solely on economic issues, Harness and his cohorts – other members of Occupy Flint – began chanting, “It’s not one thing, it is everything.”
Emmitt Harness, a 26 year-old former Marine, raises his fist along with the hundreds of other protesters outside Snyder’s gated community.
Causing more mild chaos, and against the wishes of the protest organizers, members of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (bamn) delivered their own speeches, one that included a section of King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech.
Yet not all were there to protest these causes.
“I am here in a counter protest to the protest,” said Stacy Swimp, 43, of the Frederick Douglass Foundation of Michigan, a conservative public policy and education institution. “My organization believes that the charges being brought up against Snyder are based on racism and falsehoods.”
It is a shame, Swimp said, that “black pastors from Detroit have chosen to protest against Snyder in Ann Arbor,” when corruption and mismanagement of funds ruined their cities, not Snyder.
Williams told The Voice that such claims were absurd, and that he did not find many in opposition to the message of the day.
No matter what the personal opinions of the various protesters, and counter protesters, the parallel between the rally and King’s own fight for equality was not lost in the events of the day
“There is a parallel here between us and Dr. King,” said Naomi Zikmund-Fisher, a 41-year-old social work student from the University of Michigan who held a sign commemorating King and other Civil Rights leaders. “We are here trying to change a discourse of allowing an elected official to do whatever he wants with our democracy.”
West DES MOINES, Iowa – If youngsters here at Valley High School had their way, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul would face Barack Obama in November’s presidential election.
Paul, the conservative congressman from Texas, was received by exuberant cheering and applause at a rally sponsored by the nonprofit “Rock the Vote,” just hours ahead of the state’s presidential caucuses last Tuesday. By contrast, U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and several members of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s family garnered a fairly tepid response from the crowd.
Representative Ron Paul (Jared Angle/The Washtenaw Voice)
Welcome to democracy in action in middle America, where candidates for the highest office in the land come seeking endorsements from average voters.
“Students are future taxpayers and homeowners,” said Valley High Associate Principal David Maxwell, 41, of West Des Moines. He spoke to the purpose of the rally: to get students interested in the political process.
Which fairly well sums up Iowa’s role in presidential politics.
“We’re a small state, but we actually get time with these candidates,” said Joel Jollymore, 37, of Des Moines. “I’ve probably had Rick Santorum’s ear for 20 minutes to a half-hour.
“When you campaign in Iowa, it’s like Iowans are buying a car. They kick the tires, and they kick them hard.”
A Ron Paul supporter debates with a Rick Perry supporter at Cattell Elementary in Des Moines. (Jared Angle/The Washtenaw Voice)
Hours after the rally, Iowans cast their votes, giving Romney an eight-vote victory over Santorum, with Paul finishing a healthy third. The next morning, Bachmann bowed out of the race after finishing last among the six viable candidates on the ballot with just five percent of the votes.
At one of those polling places, voters from five different precincts in Polk County gathered at Cattell Elementary, a small school located north of downtown Des Moines. As the voters looked for their designated areas, out-of-state campaign volunteers attempted to sway the undecided voters toward selecting their candidate. While some open-minded voters accepted flyers from the volunteers, other voters shunned them and made their way straight to the school’s gymnasium and cafeteria.
As some 150 voters took their seats, the members of each precinct recited the Pledge of Allegiance as a preface to the debates that were to follow. People of every age were present, including small children who were oblivious to the long-established process that was about to happen.
A campaign official reads the Iowa caucus results to voters from Precinct 25. Four precincts at Cattell Elementary selected Ron Paul, while the remaining precinct selected Rick Santorum. (Jared Angle/The Washtenaw Voice)
Among those present were Grand View University students and first-time voters Kyana Fox, 23, of Des Moines, and Katie Carruthers, 21, of Springfield, Minn.
“We walked into it not knowing what to expect,” Fox said, adding that the caucus system “shows democracy,” because it enabled her to listen to others from her precinct as they debated the qualities of each candidate.
Some voters were resistant to the views of their peers, however, leading to a few tense moments as supporters of different candidates began shouting at each other.
Jollymore was one of the voters who used the opportunity to speak for his candidate (Santorum) with the hope of convincing the audience.
“I think it gives people an opportunity to open minds,” he said, “and I actually had several people walk up to me and tell me they had walked into that room undecided and had decided to vote for my candidate after listening to me speak.”
Anna Sluka, 27, of Muskegon, defies police orders to leave the lobby of Hotel Fort Des Moines, where former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was delivering a speech. (Jared Angle/The Washtenaw Voice)
After a nail-biting, 10-year wait, fans of the Halo franchise finally have a new game to beat while they bide their time for 2012’s highly anticipated “Halo 4.”
Perhaps most importantly, players can look forward to stepping back into the armored boots of the Master Chief, protagonist of the original Halo trilogy.
For those looking for the next cutting-edge shooter to round out their collection, they’ll find that “Halo: Anniversary” is very “Spartan” when it comes to features. Missing from the game are the dual-wielding of Halo 2, the power-ups of Halo 3, and the night vision of “Halo: ODST.”
“Halo: Anniversary” wasn’t intended to replace the previous Halo games – it was made to hit players with a roundhouse kick of nostalgia.
While players are reliving their memories of the original release of “Halo: Combat Evolved” – or perhaps being introduced to Halo for the very first time, they’ll be pleased to experience the new game’s revamped graphics, re-mastered audio and redesigned characters.
Players will feel more connected to the environment during gameplay than in other shooters as the field often contains realistic rain and snow and is pockmarked with bone-shattering explosions and merciless enemies.
These gameplay changes were made possible by a two-part replacement of the game engine. The campaign uses the Saber3D engine, which it shares with Sierra’s “TimeShift,” while the multiplayer uses the same system as 2010’s “Halo: Reach.” The multiplayer offers a variety of level choices, with both original and new maps from Halo and Halo 2. Additionally, the Firefight mode makes a return, with a level inspired by the campaign mode, operating much like “Firefight from Halo: Reach” but with a few changes.
Between fierce encounters with intelligent enemies, players can catch a breather and partake in another Halo pastime – finding the game’s Easter eggs, cleverly tucked away in obscure places by the designers. Some of the Easter eggs are purely for racking up XBOX 360 achievements, while others can tweak the gameplay when activated from the menus.
In retrospect, “Halo: Anniversary” is a truly solid game for diehard fans, despite the fact that it may leave newer players wishing for more. But when the bells and whistles are left out, players will see Halo’s true soul – strong gameplay, a good story and an alien-blasting good time.
Editor’s note: If you intend to see this movie, you may you may want to wait to read this review.
In 2008, the stressors of financial speculation and risky stock trades force an investment firm, inspired by the failed Lehman Brothers, to conduct massive layoffs in their risky analysis division. At the center of the drama, Zachary Quinto, who played Spock in 2009’s “Star Trek,” performs as analyst Peter Sullivan. Sullivan is trying to keep calm as hundreds of his coworkers pack up their personal belongings and are escorted from the office by security.
At the end of his workday, Sullivan’s boss, Eric Dale, played by Stanley Tucci from “The Lovely Bones,” finds himself among the 80 percent of workers who are being laid off. As Dale is leaving work for the last time, he encounters Sullivan, gives him a flash drive containing financial data that still needs to be analyzed and utters the words, “be careful.”
Haunted by Dale’s odd behavior, Sullivan decides to stay late in the office and look at the contents of the flash drive. After hours of work, Sullivan discovers that the financial figures on the flash drive suggest that the company has exceeded acceptable investment risk levels for mortgage-backed securities (MBS) assets, and faces the prospect of losing tens of millions of dollars.
Sullivan immediately contacts his superiors, Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) and Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), who in turn summon the top management of the company, played by Demi Moore, Simon Baker, and Jeremy Irons. After meeting with the firm’s board of directors, Rogers directs the trading staff to sell all of the firm’s MBS assets to unwitting buyers, in return for seven-figure bonuses. Throughout the day, the buyers grow suspicious after they discover that the assets are worthless, and that the firm is bailing itself out at the expense of the rest of the Wall Street financial market.
The fictional firm in “Margin Call” stands in as the first domino to fall in a series of failed corporations, kicking off the 2008 financial crisis. Offering a unique look behind the closed doors of the financial elite, the movie allows viewers to follow the nail-biting turbulence of the corporate investment environment.
“Margin Call’s” strong cinematography and striking special effects lend an element of grandeur to the film, while the performances of Quinto, Moore and Irons are sure to enthrall drama junkies, despite being punctuated by weaker scenes that conflict with the film’s shining moments, mimicking the real-life rise and fall of the stock market.
With one year left until the 2012 presidential election, politically active Ann Arbor-area students are getting a head start in their volunteering efforts – an opportunity afforded to them by the recent openings of campaign offices representing President Barack Obama and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
Opened in mid-September, the Ron Paul 2012 office at 122 South Main St. in Ann Arbor provides a space for local residents to get involved in the Republican primary campaign.
Michigan Coordinator Adam de Angeli, 30, directs grassroots activities statewide, including organizing roughly 300 supporters to show their support outside the CNBC Republican Debate, held on Nov. 9 at Oakland University in Rochester.
Jared AngleThe Washtenaw Voice
Ron Paul supporters swarm the candidate entrance to the Nov. 9 Republican Debate at Oakland University.
Stretching in a single-file line down a service drive adjacent to Oakland University’s O’rena, enthusiastic Ron Paul supporters from cities across Michigan displayed political signs as motorists drove past before rushing toward the debate entrance as Rep. Paul arrived.
Further from downtown Ann Arbor on Eisenhower Parkway, President Obama’s campaign office has also kept busy while serving as a base of operations for young volunteers. At the office’s open house on Nov. 6, a large group of supporters of all ages arrived to talk with campaign organizers and sign up as volunteers while listening to a speech by Rep. John Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat.
Engaging students, especially minorities, is a crucial step in organizing campaign support at the grassroots level, said Garrett Arwa, 30. Serving as the state director in Michigan for the Obama re-election campaign, Arwa stressed the importance of giving back to students, including reforming the student loan system and putting more money into Pell grants.
Student engagement is an important focus for Clark Pettig, 30, Michigan press secretary for the Obama campaign. Pettig said that 300,000 Michigan youths were too young to vote in 2008, but are now registered. Securing the support of these voters is key, he said. The other priority is to get unregistered people registered to vote, he added.
While officials like Pettig and Arwa direct the campaign from a higher level, hundreds of students in Michigan are taking part in the grunt work for the Obama and Paul campaigns – calling voters, canvassing neighborhoods and holding fundraisers. University of Michigan freshman Pavitra Abraham, 18, of Farmington Hills, works from the Obama campaign office with two things in mind – getting Obama reelected and fighting for minority rights.
“Obama paved the way for young people to get involved,” Abraham said.
WCC political science student Don Crawford takes part in the campaign’s phone call efforts, cooperating with the College Democrats at the University of Michigan, reaching roughly 1,000 voters every two weeks. Crawford says that the current focus is to work with Obama’s core supporters and youth, while working to attract older voters over the next several months.