The air is cool, the leaves are changing color, and the buzz is back in Ann Arbor. It’s that time again – time for the Fall 2022 edition of the Urban Entrepreneurship Practicum course at University of Michigan Ann Arbor. I’ve been teaching in the U-M College of Engineering/Center for Entrepreneurship since 2012, and I must say I’ve never been more excited about teaching than I am right now.
I’ve participated in more Demo Day events than I can remember. These events have been sponsored by community organizations, education institutions, companies, investment groups, not-for-profit organizations, government agencies, and even churches. In 2015, President Barack Obama presided over the first-ever White House Demo Day. This occurrence cemented the status of Demo Day as a bonafide cultural phenomenon.
The Lab Drawer® founders Alecia Gabriel and Deirdre Roberson started their company because, as black STEM professionals and artists, they envision a world in which black and brown excellence in STEAM fields is commonplace. I first met Alecia and Deirdre when I served as their coach for Detroit Demo Day 2021. I was immediately drawn to their expertise, energy, and dedication.
Today’s atmosphere of division and cultural conflict occurs at a very bad time. We live in a time of unprecedented, accelerating technological change, environmental disruption, and wealth disparity. In this time of heightened fear and uncertainty, things could turn catastrophic very quickly. On the other hand, the unprecedented knowledge and resources we possess could set the stage for humanity’s greatest era. We are poised at the threshold of our brightest times, or our darkest times. That is why now, more than ever, we need to heed MLK’s call to treat each other as brothers and sisters.
“Can we all just get along?” That question is part of what fueled the creation of my U-M Urban Entrepreneurship course.
Though I lived and worked just a few miles from where this hidden giant of science lived and worked; though his nephew was my professor and thesis advisor at University of Michigan; though we frequented the same barbershop, for Christ’s sake; I never met Walter S. McAfee. I didn’t even know who he was until after he died. I now know that he could have, as much as anyone, claimed to be a founder of The Space Age.
My favorite uncle, William Wise Hayden, died in 2004. Uncle Bill was a factory worker at Ford Motor Company and a proud United Auto Workers member, and in his off hours he was a man about town and an avid photographer. I visited Uncle Bill at his Detroit home a few months before he died, and during that visit he gave me one of his most prized photo albums. I felt as if he was bequeathing the album to me, and that feeling was reinforced when I read the words on the cover. The words, typed on a blue plastic label affixed to the green vinyl album cover, were: ”BETWEEN THESE COVERS ARE THE GOOD PEOPLE.”
My friend Brenda Perryman succumbed to Covid-19 on April 5, 2020. Shortly after she passed, I vowed to publish the video interviews she produced for the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative (recorded and edited by our friend Michelle Wyche Watson). These interviews are a testament to Brenda’s community involvement, her commitment, and her talent. Take some time to watch and enjoy, and if you knew Brenda, to remember.
August 3, 2005 was a very special night in Red Bank, New Jersey, and it was honestly one of the best evenings of my life. That was the night when Karen Smith of Montego Bay, Jamaica brought her enormous talent, transcendent spirit, and warm personality to the stage of the sparkling new Two River Theater.
I try to publish an e-mail newsletter regularly as a means of sharing and discussing current events with friends and colleagues. I haven’t published one lately because I haven’t known where to begin. As soon as I decide to write about one travesty occurring in our world, an even greater one seems to rear its ugly head. Viral pandemic. Economic collapse. Police brutality. Climate destruction. Racial subjugation. Military misapplication. Voter suppression. Tribal politics. Failing alliances. Following the rate of real and potential disasters is like drinking from a fire hose – it’s just too much.