The story, ambition, and wit of people like Todd Russell Perkins inspire me to continue to develop Detroit is Different. Perkins is an Ivy League graduate of Dartmouth College, Leader of Perkin’s Law Group, and an attorney for the World’s best boxer, Floyd Mayweather. But if you speak with attorney Perkins, he will gladly share with you, he’s most proud of being a second generation Detroit entrepreneur.
Attorney Perkins has a different style and approach towards life that carries over into his practice. Gathering an understanding of who he represents, and what they’re looking for in representation is his goal. Many attorneys, doctors, politicians, engineers, and other professionals (with advanced understandings) disassociate themselves from the people who they seek to assist. Attorney Perkins is entrenched in Detroit life, and understanding Detroiters.
His poignant style of humor, compassion, and cool, provide a personable balance for his unmatched intellect. Leading Perkins Law Group he anchors a team of eight attorneys all specializing in different disciplines of law. “The experience I’ve had in law has taught me about the human condition,” Perkins. “It has made me more circumspective, more rounded, more of a whole individual.” Espousing his philosophy about his practice, he says, he tries to determine exactly what the client wants, be it to fight in court or resolve a situation out of court. What the client wants, tempered with reasonable and possible expectations, is critical in the ultimate service of the client.
“My purpose is to increase my understanding of the client. My dad, who was not a lawyer, gave me a piece of advice that was better than any lawyer could have given me. He said the practice of law is always about the management of the expectations of your clients.” He said, for example, if a client wants a million dollars for a slip-and-fall, “my job is to get their information and educate them on the reality of the situation.”
“They have to trust their lawyer,’ he said. “But it is equally important for the lawyer to earn trust of the client.” Perkins is married and has 2 children. When talking about inspirations in his life, Perkins says, “First God, is the center of my life.” He also points to his parents. “My parents showed so much love for my family, I seek to walk that path with mine,” Perkins.
I define art as an expressive interpretation of thoughts and emotions through creativity. Visual art is one of the most vivid forms of artistry. Detroit is a birthplace and home to an array of talented, eccentric, and experimental visual artists. This collective of Detroit artists have changed the world. Personally the drive and independence of Tyree Guyton’s commitment to the Heidelberg Project is my inspiration for Detroit is Different (my media), Creative Differences Marketing (my business), and If Detroit were Heaven (my music). Today I am glad to introduce you to the April 2015 features for Detroit is Different, the Visual Artists: Jocelyn Rainey and Mike Willingham.
Jocelyn Rainey is an arts professor at Wayne County Community College District. Currently (week of April 4 – 11, 2015) she’s in China with a group of Detroit high school students for a living arts project, “Finding Mona Lisa.” Finding Mona Lisa 313 is a documentary about Jocelyn Rainey’s commitment to her belief that through visual arts she will peak Black male students interests in arts, family, business, and most importantly themselves. Using visual art as a vehicle to expose and encourage her students is her goal.
Jocelyn has been an artist her whole life. Her works range in form, idea, and concept. I met Jocelyn years ago as a partner of the 1440 Studio Collective. Jocelyn was one of our neighbors and biggest 1440 supporters. During the summer of 2009 she was creating an abstract piece that was a 20 foot structure of a woman in jeans. Jocelyn stitched together a series of jeans, of varying material, texture, and fabric to create a piece that I witnessed come together before my eyes. Jocelyn is also has a charming sense of humor that challenges the idea of the introverted artist. Knowing her personality and passion for arts has expanded into classrooms reaching Detroiters is great. Knowing Jocelyn now is taking her students across the world for the appreciation of art is excellent!
Mike Willingham is one of my closest friends. I ‘m blessed to have a network of so many people from all walks of life. More than anyone else I believe Mike is most understanding of where I’ve gone, where I am, and where I plan to go. Mike’s expression has taken on many dynamics of visual art. The beauty of Mike’s works are his forms match his experience and growth. Willingham works as an artist daily drafting blueprints for automotive design. His aptitude and ease of glassworks and design is applied to a collection of artistry he makes as products and expression. Mike’s work has ranged from sketches, tattoos, air brushing, water color painting, digital sketching, and now his own form of sneaker artistry. Mike’s never limited in form, style or canvas. I find Mike’s artistry as a grounds for which to write my hip-hop lyrics. The genius of his impactful and lasting clothing line ‘Grind Ave’ helped inspire the ‘Detroit is Different’ brand.
Mike is a member of a collective of my closest friends (B, B Hen, BJ, Carl, Casey, Chico, Dawon, Derrick, Desean, Geno, Jerrin, LP, Mike G – R.I.P., Phil, Tristin, Zae). Since the 90’s we’ve all been together. As long as I’ve known Mike artistry has been a focus of his professional and personal life. Today he is one of the featured artists connecting with the Hip-hop & Art shows at Bob’s Classic Kicks. There you can see his new sneaker works like the ‘Black Lives Matter’ sneakers he made in honor of Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin. He also owns and operates the ‘Grind Ave’ clothing line.
I’m very excited to continue to share content about the people and places creating cultural for and from Detroit here at Detroit is Different. April 2015 I feature the Visual Artist: Jocelyn Rainey and Mike Willingham.
Artistry in Detroit has always been anchored by music. As the industrial age brought families of descendants of enslaved Black people, immigrants from embattled European nations, and hundreds of thousands of American White migrants from across America to Detroit throughout the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s; the culture of Detroit enriched. Vocalists and musicians from Detroit have ranged from Jackie Wilson, to Bob Seger, to Aretha Franklin, to Madonna leaving lasting impacts on music. The storied history of legends in Blues, Rock and Roll, Soul, and Dance music have changed the world. More importantly, the culture of Detroit music shaped Detroit. For the month of March 2015 I feature an active, inspiring, and talented legend in music; the Singer: Thornetta Davis.
I was introduced to Thornetta Davis by our mutual friend Paul Miles. In 2008 we both were performers at Palmer Park’s ‘Art in the Park Fair.’ Mile’s booked us as both as performing artists separately. Thornetta and I arrived at the same time. I was glad and humbled to meet her and surprisingly she was aware of my music. I didn’t have the time to tell her then that I had been a fan of hers for years.
I was introduced to her music in Los Angeles CA (Detroit music has an audience across the world!). One of my favorite places to visit is Amoeba Music in Los Angeles. It’s one of the largest record stores in the world. Stocking over 250K records (I think my music maybe shelved there). Amoeba Music has a ‘Detroit Soul’ music catalog. Amongst the complete catalog for Aretha Franklin, and Ortheia Barnes sat the music of Thornetta Davis. I was looking for Aretha Franklin’s ‘Spirit in the Dark’ album. I walked away buying Aretha’s ‘Spirit in the Dark’, Ortheia’s ‘Person to Person,’ and Davis’ ‘Sunday Moring Music.’ Ever since then I’ve been a fan.
Below is a link to listen to the song ‘Sunday Morning’ from the ‘Sunday Morning Music’ album.
Thornetta is the ‘Blues Diva.’ Her music and range of creativity is rooted in Blues and blossoms to Gospel, Soul, Rock, and Jazz. Davis (as many of my favorite music artists) creates music that goes beyond musical genres. ‘Sunday Morning’ is a song featured on her 1996 debut album ‘Sunday Morning Music’ that uses her vocals, and acoustic guitar to fulfill the track beautifully. The accolades she’s received throughout her career only further support her talents. Thornetta has been inducted into Canada’s Southern Blues Museum, won over 25 Detroit Music Awards (including Best Blues/ R&B Vocalist in 2014), and the Living Lifetime Achievement Award from the Detroit Blues Society, all honoring her great talent.
The coolest honor I feel she’s had is the chance to share a marquee, stage, and performance with Blues royalty BB King at the Fox Theater. Thornetta’s performance only supports her talent tremendously. Recently attending her Valentine’s Day show with my mentor and friend Helen Love we witnessed Thornetta at her best. Her charisma, demeanor, and charm on stage build a bond with the audience in the style of performers like Nancy Wilson, Diahann Carroll, and Ortheia Barnes & Miley Scott. As a hip-hop performer, I find each of these women to have a talent in establishing a rapport, context, and relationships with audiences throughout a performance. This is style of performance neglects the 4th wall many performers use on stage. Thonetta’s on stage persona captures her humor, wit, and charm creating an experience that is amazing.
This month it’s my pleasure to feature the Singer: Thornetta Davis for Detroit is Different.
Tuesday March 3rd INTRODUCTION the Singer: Thornetta Davis
Tuesday March 10th MY DETROIT STORY: Marrying at African World Festival
Tuesday March 17th WHAT IF: What if Paradise Valley were still in Detroit?
Tuesday March 24th AROUND DETROIT: with Thornetta Davis
Tuesday March 31st DETROIT is DIFFERENT PODCAST with Thornetta Davis
I first met Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur in the Fall of 2008. It was a pivotal year in both our lives as creatives. Yusef released his first book ‘Window 2 My Soul,’ and I released my first album ‘Preaching to the Choir.’ Yusef’s book was marketed as a political memoir, and complimented my album ’Preaching to the Choir.’ I created ‘Preaching to the Choir’ as a modern take on Public Enemy.
I met Yusef at a tapping of then Detroit City Councilmember JoAnn Watson’s weekly television program ‘Wake Up Detroit’ (on Watkins Broadcasting WHPR TV33). Yusef was a featured guest along with his comrade (comrade is the term Yusef uses for supporters of calls to action in uplifting African American people) Al Martin. Martin and Shakur were waiting to be interviewed regarding an upcoming speaking engagement. I was waiting to be interviewed regarding a Kwanzaa celebration I was hosting and co-producing. As we waited together Yusef showed me his book, and insisted upon me taking it. I didn’t have any money, and offered to trade him a copy of my ‘Preaching to the Choir’ album in exchange. We agreed to the terms of the barter.
The very next day Yusef called me, and shared how much he appreciated the album. I didn’t expect him to listen, and after ending the call I felt the responsibility to read his book.
I had no expectations, limited interest, and had not read a book in years. Judging the book by it’s cover, I saw a sketched image of what looked like O-Dog (Larenz Tate’s role in the Hughes Brother’s film Menace ii Society) on the left side, and a Blackman with locks wearing a Black Panther shirt to the right. I thought the book was a revolutionary journal, assuming ‘Window 2 my Soul’ would be a current version of George Jackson’s ‘Blood in my Eye.’ George Jackson’s ‘Blood in my Eye’ is a mix of opinion, autobiography, and action plans. George Jackson’s book, like many of the Panther books I’ve read, I find an exhaustive read (he actually has a chapter regarding this track of thought in ‘Blood in my Eye’). I appreciate the message and tone of the Black Panther writings, but have found many of the books, writing, and journalism to be written from a mid to late 1960’s time perspective.
So as I sat down and began reading ‘Window 2 my Soul’ I braced myself for what I thought was revolutionary writing. I was humbled immediately. I completed the book within days. Yusef’s autobiographical narrative touched on many social, psychological, and communal difficulties faced by young Black (I prefer to use the term Black, over African American for many reasons … namely James Brown!) males throughout, but not limited to, Detroit. What impacted me so much about Yusef’s book was the conversational tone he used. I found his writing style layered a context for the many destructive, depressing, and desperate actions he writes about in the book.
I connect with ‘Window 2 my Soul’ the way I connect with Alex Haley’s ‘Autobiography of Malcolm X.’ Finding a balance of purpose vs. opportunity as a young Black male I’ve found to be strenuous in America. Making a place in an American society that has historically discriminated against, and limited Black men liberally, legally, and socially is a difficult journey. Using my life, and my interpretation of family, friends, and associates for examples has further solidify this belief. Reading Yusef’s ‘Window 2 my Soul’ captured many discussions I’ve had with a mix of people regarding the purpose and opportunity for young Black males in America.
It was refreshing to read an autobiographical book without polarizing characters. The way ‘Window 2 my Soul’ is written challenged me to read beyond the classic protagonist and antagonist profiles associated with story-telling. Notably the book provides an intrinsic and extrinsic view into the lives of his parents. In the book Yusef examines his parents’ relationship, past, understanding of parenting, and memorable events that changed the course of Yusef’s life. The way Yusef shares the pain he felt when his Mother turned him over to State control, because of the pain she felt for her loss of direction and influence in his life, was a moving narrative. Also during incarceration Yusef reconnected with his Father, also an inmate at the same prison. The rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts between both men are captured epically in ‘Window 2 my Soul.’
After completing the book I eagerly called Yusef, and invited him to be a speaker at my ‘Kwanzaa at the Woodward’ celebration. I asked Yusef to speak on behalf of the Kwanzaa principle Nia, which means purpose. That snowy December day in 2008 has led to a continued friendship of support and collaboration.
Through the years Yusef and I have partnered on a number of events, we’ve welcomed much success along the way in our collaboration. Notably, we produced a ‘Kwanzaa at the Renaissance’ celebration in 2009. It was one of the last events held at Detroit’s historic Renaissance Club (the Renaissance Club was a premier business dining and meeting location founded by Mayor Coleman A Young along with Ford, Chrysler, and GM Executives). ‘Kwanzaa at the Renaissance’ featured a collection of speakers, performers, and guests. Event coordinator Donna Darden, Yusef’s comrade Kwasi Kwamu, and my mentor the Honorable Judge Claudia House Morcom (RIP 2014) helped make everything possible. Over 250 guests filled the Renaissance Club welcoming a Kwanzaa celebration in one of Detroit’s most exclusive locations. Participants included: African Percussionist Maulana Tolbert, Vocalist Ashley Nicole Garner, Rapper Lola Damone, Detroit City Councilmember JoAnn Watson, Virgil Carr Art Center Currator Bill Foster, Detroit City Councilmember Ken Cockrel Jr and Family, Coalition Against Police Brutality Chair Ron Scott, Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellerman, Pastor David A Bullock, Poet, Marsha Carter, Poet Claretha Peace Bell, Rapper Mio ‘Kaunn’ Thomas, Blue Babies Leader Saba Grebrai, Nsormoa Institute Founder Malik Yakini, Allied Media Conference Chair Jenny Lee, Better Detroit Youth Movement Leader Harlan Bivens, Detroit Nation of Islam Leader Dawud Muhhammad, and Better Man Movement Leader Lewis Colson (RIP 2014), and many, many more guests.
I am glad to share a friendship with Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur. He’s an encouraging figure of possibility, opportunity, and purpose. The month of February 2015 Detroit is Different features Yusef as ‘the Writer,’ I welcome you to continue to read more about Yusef and find out how he has helped make Detroit different!
February 2015 Detroit is Different
The Writer: Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur
Tuesday February 3, 2015 INTRODUCTION: Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur, a Native Son of Detroit
Tuesday February 10, 2015 MY DETROIT STORY: Story behind the writing and publishing of Yusef Shakur’s ‘Window 2 My Soul’
Tuesday February 17 AROUND DETROIT: Around Detroit with Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur at Goodwell’s Foods
Tuesday February 24 DETROIT IS DIFFERENT PODCAST: Audio Interview of Yusef ‘Bunchy’ Shakur by Khary WAE Frazier