I grew up in the musical world of Detroit, and I’ve been writing about it most of my life. On these pages are stories that I’ve written, true chronicles of music, life and labor – and the lack thereof- in the formerly Motor City.
Here, you’ll find mature, thoughtful observations of life in Detroit – from a Grown Black Woman – and was awarded a 2012 Kresge Fellowship in the Literary Arts for my efforts.
I have had a unique view of America’s economic and musical explosion of the last half of the 20th century. I wasn’t literally born in a record shop, but I might as well have been, growing up as I did, the daughter of a legendary pre-Motown record producer, Joe Von Battle, and working and playing in his records shops all of my life.
I grew up in Highland park, a “city within the city” of Detroit, during its lush green halcyon days - studying classical music and literature. However, I spent a good part of my life around my father’s Hastings Street and 12th Street record shops, witness to the intense “street life”, and the excitement of music and life in the tumultuous 1960’s.
I developed a hyper-awareness of music and became a lover of many genres. My maternal family was steeped in old-time, sanctified church music where the Holy Ghost reigned – and still does. I was immersed in the blues, soul and gospel of my father’s record shops, laboratories of meter and song; places where bluesmen had a “taste”, smoked cigarettes and cut a record or two before long. I came of age during the British Invasion and the integrated airways of Detroit’s AM radio. The musicality of it all is deep in my bones.
As the music of my surroundings morphed into my own tastes, I spent my young years loving the Beatles and the new sounds, my teens knee-deep in Motown, Soul and R&B, my twenties in the Album-Rock/FM radio world, and later, I lived the Detroit’s jazz life. Through it all, I’ve had a love and a critical ear for the ”Old School” (and sometimes, even, a hankering for Opera). Today - Signed, Sealed, Saved and Delivered - my ear is turned towards Gospel.
I’m a witness to the economic contraction, and its profound effects on urban life. I’m a witness to the destruction of my father’s store in the early 60′s, with the end of the community of Black Bottom and later, his business’ final demise in the 67′ Riots – two conflagrations from which Detroit has never recovered.
I have seen, in recent years, the revival of sections of Detroit and the return of suburban sons and daughters to the city and urban life. In addition to my writing on culture and music, I’ve been an activist, labor leader, and speaker - from Birmingham to Bryn Mawr, radio to HBO. Today, I work, pursue Bibical studies and enjoy the ample offerings of the arts, here in Detroit.
Welcome, and please come back to this place where I’ll tell more of my true stories; writing from Detroit in transition, one of the most amazing cities in the world.
Live from Detroit!