Mayor Amanda Edmonds, Sheriff Jerry Clayton, Superintendent Ben Edmondson, community activist Jeannette Hadden, and local teen Justin Thomas discuss plans to empower kids and curb youth violence in Ypsilanti, and the lovely, fuzzy, power pop of Minihorse …on this weekend’s Saturday Six Pack

This weekend on the Saturday Six Pack we’ll be discussing Ypsilanti’s recent wave of teen violence with Mayor Amanda Edmonds, Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton, Superintendent of Ypsilanti Community Schools Dr. Benjamin Edmondson, community activist Jeannette Hadden, and local high school student Justin Thomas, who will be representing the teen organization Dedicated to Make a Change. While we will be talking about law enforcement activities within the city, and what’s being done to ensure that our neighborhoods don’t see any more gunfire, a majority of our time, I suspect, will be spent discussing what positive steps can be taken within our community to support and empower the young people of Ypsilanti… young people who are growing up in a world of limited opportunity, where, at least statistically speaking, young men probably have a better chance of being arrested than of reaching the ranks of the middle class.

This isn’t, of course, to say that those guilty of gang-related felonies are not responsible for their actions. They are. The reality of the situation, however, is that many of these kids who we’re now trying to round-up and incarcerate never stood much of a chance. With the wealth disparity in the country climbing to historically unprecedented levels, and austerity measures being forced upon communities such as ours in order to finance tax breaks for the super wealthy, it was only a matter of time before we started seeing things like this happen. When American jobs get sent oversees, driving adults into minimum wage jobs that had traditionally been held by teens, while, at the same time, budgets for programs serving our at-risk youth are being slashed, is it any wonder that an increasing percentage of our kids will gravitate toward crime? Speaking of which, two 14 year olds and a 15 year old were arrested this afternoon in connection with an armed robbery on Ferris Street… Our young people, I think it’s safe to say, have too much free time on their hands, too few role models, and too little in the way of opportunity. It’s a deadly combination, and we’re beginning to see the ramifications in Ypsilanti. And that’s what we’ll be discussing come Saturday evening.

By way of context, this has been an unusually violent summer in Ypsilanti, with over a half a dozen incidents of gun violence in July alone, leaving one young man dead and another wounded. According to the police, the murdered young man, Keandre Duff, was likely shot in the head and killed just after midnight on the morning of July 12 at an Ypsilanti block party due to his alleged involvement in the murder last summer of 17-year-old Keon Washington. [Duff was a suspect in the murder of Washington, but was ultimately released from police custody due to lack of evidence after having served 297 days for drug charges unrelated to the murder. He was murdered shortly after his release from jail.] Since the murder of Duff earlier this month, there have been over half a dozen shootings across town, as friends of the dead young men have gone after one another. Whether or not you think the term “gang” is appropriate in this instance, it seems clear that this is essentially a war between two groups of young men; one called Rakk Life, and the other called Finesse Gang. [Duff, it would seem, had an affiliation with Rakk Life, while Washington was involved with Finesse Gang.]

As for this Saturday’s show, I should add that I know there are people who should be in the room with us who will not be. The panel I’ve assembled does not include, for instance, anyone from the local religious community, or anyone working in the social services. Given space constraints in the room, however, I had to made some difficult choices. If this works, though, you can be sure that other such discussions will follow, and, if so, we’ll be sure to invite representatives from other agencies, other elected officials, etc. The important thing from my perspective, as I’ve said before on this site, is that we don’t just forget about this issue once the bullets stop flying, and things return to normal for us adults. We cannot, as Sheriff Clayton said at last week’s press conference, just rely on law enforcement to lock up the people we perceive as being bad. That’s not how one goes about creating a decent, livable city. No, we need to look at the underlying causes and address them in a substantive way. And, to the credit of many on this panel, some of that is already happening.

So, if you care about the future of this community, please tune in at 6:00 PM on Saturday. Or, better yet, give us a call at 734.217.8624 and share your thoughts as to what we as community can do better when it comes to our children. [You can also leave your ideas for questions here.]


And, at 7:30, once we’ve collectively solved all of Ypsi’s problems, we’ll be joined by the band Minihorse, who will be playing live in the studio… hopefully making us all feel better with their special brand of fuzzy power pop.


Unless you live really close by, I’d recommend streaming the show online, which you can do either on the AM1700 website or by way of

And for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with the show, and need to get caught up, you can listen to the entire archive on iTunes.

One last thing… If you’d like to tell your friends and neighbors about the program, feel free to share the Facebook event listing. Or, if you’re not on Facebook, you could always rent a plane to pull a banner across the sky.

And do call us if you have a chance. We love phone calls. So please scratch this number into the cinder block wall of the recreation room of whichever facility you’ve been assigned to… 734.217.8624… and call us between 6:00 and 8:00 this Saturday evening. The show is nothing without you. And I mean that.

update: I just got word from the owner of AM 1700 that, due to a family emergency, we won’t be broadcasting tomorrow evening. Our thoughts are with him and his family, and we’re sorry to all of you who were looking forward to the show. Our hope is that we can get back on the air shortly, and pick up where we left off.


Posted in The Saturday Six Pack, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Now we know the names of the men whose graves we just walked on in Jamestown

Earlier this month, the family and I loaded up the car and drove south to Savannah, Georgia, making stops along the way at a number of significant historical sites. Among other places of interest, we visited Colonial Williamsburg, the site of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, and the “lost colony” of Roanoke. My favorite stop on the We’ll Make Our Kids Appreciate History If It Kills Us tour, however, was Jamestown… the site of the first permanent the English settlement in the Americas. [Jamestown, which was first settled in 1607, remained the capital of the Virginia colony for 83 years.] As we just had one day to spend exploring the area, we chose to forgo the “living history” of the Jamestown Settlement, which is a recreation of the town as it’s thought to have looked in the early 1600s, and spend our time instead with the archeologists of Jamestown Rediscovery, the non-profit that has been digging on the site of the original settlement since 1996.

Prior to the work of these archeologists, led by Dr. William Kelso, it was thought that the original settlement had been washed away, beneath a rising James River. Kelso and his team, however, proved conventional wisdom wrong. They found evidence of Fort James, and they’ve been working at the site ever since, slowly uncovering details about what happened on the site after May 1607, when 104 English men and boys arrived there from England with he intention of starting a settlement and extracting resources from the “new world” to send back home… Two-thirds of these men and boys, by the way, would be dead by the time supplies arrived in 1608, along with German, Polish and Slovak craftsmen to add to their numbers. [They apparently figured out pretty quickly that they needed settlers who actually knew how to do useful things.]

While walking around the site, the archeologists told us a little about their most recent discovery – the graves of four people who had been buried at the east end of what would have been the earliest known Protestant church in North America. The graves had been discovered in 2010, shortly after the discovery of the Anglican church’s foundation, but not excavated until 2013. As the graves would have been in a part of the church known as the chancel, where a community’s most important people were traditionally buried, the archeological team knew that these were the remains important early settlers, but that’s all they would say. They wouldn’t tell us who they thought it was that they’d exhumed. To learn that, they told us, as they led us around the crosses that marked their graves, we’d have to wait a few weeks, until they issued the report they’d coauthored with Dr. Douglas Owsley, the head of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Apparently all of the remains had been shipped off to DC for analysis, and the results would be announced on July 28… which is today.

Here are 3-D renderings of the four skeletons found buried near the altar of the Jamestown church, where, by the way, is were Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married. [Pocahontas died shortly thereafter, after being taken to England to advertise for the colony.]

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 5.26.52 PM


By looking at the physical evidence (what the men were buried with, and how they were buried), along with historical documents in both the United States and England, and the findings of forensic scientists (who looked at things like lead content in the bones in order to determine social standing (the wealthier you were, the more lead in your system, as you tended to eat from plates and utensils with high lead content)), they’ve arrived at the following… The men buried near the alter of the church which stood inside the walls of Fort James, they believe, are…

The Rev. Robert Hunt: The first pastor to the colony, an Anglican priest, he arrived in 1607. Hunt soon lost all his possessions in a fire. The next year he died at about age 39.

Capt. William West: He was a gentleman, and a relative of the colony’s first governor. West died in 1610 at about age 24, fighting Indians. A silver sash was in his coffin.

Sir Ferdinando Wainman: A soldier, horseman (thus the strong thighs) and an English knight, Wainman was in charge of ordnance and horses. He died in 1610, and was about 34.

Capt. Gabriel Archer: His family, in fact, was Roman Catholic and, according to records found in England, had been persecuted for failing to attend Anglican church services. It was his grave where the reliquary and the staff were found. Archer was about 34 years old when he died in 1609.

Others who died in the colony, it should be noted, didn’t fare as well. Earlier research by Kelso and his team showed, for instance, that a 14-year-old servant girl, who the people of Jamestown Rediscovery call Jane, was butchered and consumed after dying during what’s known as “the starving time,” shortly after arriving at the settlement in August of 1609 on one of six ships from England bringing new settlers, but little food.

Kelso, according to National Geographic, didn’t believe historical accounts regarding cannibalism at Jamestown until finding Jane’s mutilated bones among those of butchered animals. Prior to this discovery, he thought that claims of cannibalism documented in England were politically motivated, and intended to discredit the Virginia Company of London, which financed the settlement. “Now,” Keslo told National Geographic, “I know the accounts are true.” Among other evidence conveyed by her remains, “numerous cuts, saw marks, and gouges along her lower jaw made by the tip of a knife to get to the meat, and to remove throat tissue and the tongue,” were found.

It’s gruesome stuff, but it was infinitely interesting to Clementine, who turned 11 on the trip… the idea that this young servant girl, who was about her age, had died and been eaten over 400 years ago, just feet from where we were standing. [If you’ve got a young person who you’d like to get interested in either archeology or this period of early American history, there’s a video called Jane: Starvation, Cannibalism, and Endurance at Jamestown that you can rent through Amazon.]

If you’d like to know more about this most recent Jamestown discovery, I’d suggest reading the article just posted to the website of the Smithsonian Magazine, which has a great deal of detail about not only these new findings, but about the history of the Jamestown settlement. Here, by way of that article, is a bit of that background.

…Jamestown was England’s attempt to play catch-up with the Spaniards, who had enriched themselves spectacularly with their colonies in South America and were spreading Catholicism through the world. After years of war with the Spanish, financed in part by pirating their ships, England turned to the Virginia Company to launch new colonial adventures. The first 104 settlers—all men and boys, women didn’t arrive until the next year—sailed with a charter from their king and a mission to find silver and gold and a passage to the Far East. They landed in Jamestown, prepared to scout and mine the land and trade with the native people for food. And they did trade, exchanging copper for corn between eruptions of hostility. But as Jamestown’s third winter approached, the Powhatan had limited supplies of corn; a drought was smothering their crops and diverting the once plentiful giant sturgeons that fed them. When English resupply ships were delayed, and the settlers’ attempts to seize corn turned violent, the Powhatan surrounded the fort and killed anyone who ventured out. Brackish drinking water, brutal cold and the lack of food did their damage from within. Jamestown’s early history is so dire it’s easy to forget that it endured to become a success and the home of the first democratic assembly in the Americas—all before any pilgrims made camp in Plymouth. Abandoned in 1699 when Virginia’s capital moved to Williamsburg, the colony was thought to have sunk into the river and been lost…

FortJamesSpeaking of the Spanish, it’s my understanding that the early colonists lived in fear of being murdered by them. While in Jamestown, we were shown caltrops deployed by settlers in order to cripple the horses of the Spanish, should they approach with the intention of doing them harm. It would seem, however, that the Spanish never attacked, perhaps thinking that, between the Native Americans and the cannibalism, they didn’t have to. [Many, by the way, think that the Spanish killed the men and women of Roanoke, who “disappeared” sometime after the establishment of their settlement in 1587.]

Here’s what Fort James looked like at the outset. For what it’s worth, historians knew the general layout of the fort prior to the archeological work done by Kelso and his team thanks to Pedro de Zúñiga, a Spaniard who was given the task of keeping tabs on the English by King Philip III of Spain.

Pedro de Zúñiga’s crude drawing of the fort, which was sent to King Philip III in a coded letter, is the only known visual representation of Jamestown from that time. [See above.] Here, for those of you interested in such things, is a quote from Zúñiga’s December 6, 1607 letter to Philip III: “As to Virginia, I hear that three or four other ships will return there. Will your Majesty give orders that measures be taken in time; because now it will be very easy, and quite difficult afterwards, when they have taken root, and if they are punished in the beginning, the result will be, that no more will go there.”


And here’s video about the research leading up today’s announcement. I know it’s doubtful that many in the audience will find this as interesting as I do, but, as someone who gave up a career in historic archeology to settle down and get a “real” job, I find this amazingly wonderful. And it makes me wonder about our first settlers to leave the planet and what fate awaits them. [I’ve wanted my kids to be astronauts since they were born, but now I’m having second thoughts. If history is any guide, I don’t expect that many in the first wave to Mars will make it long enough to see the first supply ship land.]

Posted in History, Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Everything you think you know about my grilled ham and cheese sandwich is wrong!


I know there should be an article to accompany this image, but I only have so much time per week to devote to meme parody… But I don’t guess that it matters. The important thing is that you followed the link from Facebook, not that you liked what you found when you got here.

h, and be sure to come back tomorrow, when we’ll blow the lid off of that stew your just made.


And be on the lookout next week for our expose on how you’re not using your thumbs the way they were meant to be used.


Posted in Marketing, Special Projects | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Wagering beers with Ypsi’s new superintendent, fighting with my daughter, and talking about Blackbeard with a young radical …on episode 22 of The Saturday Six Pack


We tried something new this past episode of the Saturday Six Pack. We cranked the heat in the studio to 120-degrees, nailed the door shut, and watched as our guests slowly melted into their chairs… If you listen closely, you can hear it happening. What starts with tiny droplets of sweat falling gently onto our microphones during the first segment, ends with frantic sloshing, as my guests and I struggle to keep from passing out, and drowning in our own perspiration… It was station owner Brian Robb’s idea. He thought that we’d get better interviews out of people if they were exhausted and near death. And it almost worked. Dr. Benjamin Edmondson, Ypsilanti’s new superintendent of public schools, almost spilled the beans on a super secret initiative he’s got in the works to lure families back to the district. [It did work on my daughter Clementine, though, who, despite my coaching earlier in the day, blurted out that we’d eaten at Chick-fil-A several times over the past few weeks, as we drove through the American south.]

[Brian’s inspiration, I’m told, was the Angels in Springtime episode of Charlie’s Angeles, in which an evil spa owner attempts to kill Cheryl Ladd by wrapping her in hot towels until her body stops functioning and she starts babbling incoherently.]

Here are my brief notes on what transpired. I hope you find them useful.

Edmondson, who has been Ypsi’s superintendent since July 1, was our first guest. We began by talking about youth violence in Ypsilanti. Just prior to coming on the show, Edmondson told us, he’d been speaking at a “Stop the Violence” rally. And, before that, he’d stopped by the funeral of former YCS student Keandre Duff, the most recent victim of a turf war between rival groups. [More on the war between Rakk Life and Finesse Gang, and the community response, can be found here.] When asked what he, as Superintendent, intended to do in order to move things in a more positive direction, he mentioned, among other things, an ambitious new mentorship initiative called Man Up or Kid Down, through which he’s hoping to have every Ypsilanti student in middle school and high school placed with a person in the community who might serve as a positive role model. He also talked at length about establishing a culture of accountability and respect throughout the district.

We talked of his desire to bring families back to the district, and the positive pieces he already has in place to build around. He said that he would hold his principals responsible for the culture of their schools, as, in his opinion, it’s the principal who sets the tone. And he said that, if necessary, changes would be made. He said that he wants three years to turn around the district and bring people back, and that he will be aggressively trying new things in order to see that happen… from doing more to incentivize his staff, to taking a harder line on disruptive students.

Getting rid of disruptive students, he said, would not only create a more positive learning atmosphere for students currently in our schools, but signal to parents that our district would no longer just take anyone in order to keep enrollment numbers up. Calling it “addition by subtraction,” he talked of how happy, satisfied parents would suggest to friends that they bring their children back into the district if they saw that violent and disruptive students were being encouraged to go elsewhere. [His first objective, he said, is to ensure that we have safe and orderly schools. And, toward that end, he said he’d be working from the high school on both Mondays and Fridays.]

As for incentivizing staff, he said that, among other things, he wanted to look into the possibility of establishing a bonus system across the entire district, so that all employees would benefit when enrollment targets are met.

We talked about the EAA, charter schools, and other attempts on the part of Michigan legislators to defund public schools and weaken the Teachers Union… He teased some big announcements that will be coming soon… And we discussed his dissertation, which was about the importance of parental involvement and small class sizes… And, as some point, we apparently bet a six pack on his ability to get Governor Synder to tour Ypsi Community Schools within the next year.

“I’m willing to try and fail for this district,” says Dr. Edmondson, who our kids will be encouraged to call “Dr. E.”


[If you’d like to listen to the show in its entirety, you can either scroll to the bottom of the page, where you’ll find it embedded, or you can click here.]

After Edmondson left the studio, we played a new song by our friend in Kenya, Dr. Peter Larson, and welcomed a high school student at WIHI by the name of Andres, who, like me, hosts a show on AM 1700. We talked about his program, WICKidz Radio, and an interview they’d done earlier in the afternoon with immigrant transgender activist Jennicet Gutiérrez, who recently made headlines for disrupting a speech by President Obama at the White House, calling attention to the detention and deportation of transgender immigrants. We also talked about soccer, how his mom made it to the United States from El Salvador with her family, and the pirate Blackbeard, who an ancestor of mine may or may not have taken credit for killing. Here’s Andres talking about either his childhood obsession with pirates, or his current obsession with social justice.


And, once Andres left, Saturday Six Pack band director Jim Cherewick introduced our next segment… a father-daughter discussion of vacation memories… with a cover of the The Go-Go’s hit “Vacation.”

My daughter Clementine and I then talked about our recent road trip down south, taking the occasional call from one of her friends who happened to be listening. We talked about Savannah, Georgia, the “lost colony” of Roanoke, the Andy Warhol Museum, the archeological site at Jamestown, an awesome taco shop in Asheville, and the shark-infested waters off Cape Hatteras. She also tells everyone that she and her brother fought the entire 2,500 miles, and that I made them ignore the politics and eat at Chick-fil-A. Here she is telling her friend Amelia Marks, who had called in from California, all about the young woman whose butchered remains were found at Jamestown. [The archeologists we talked with believe she’d died before being butchered and consumed by her starving fellow colonists.]


Next, local historian Matt Siegfried came in to share a new installment of the “People’s History of Ypsilanti.” This time, we talked about Ypsilanti in the 1860s, which at some point morphed in a discussion about the Confederate flag which, until a few days earlier, had flown over the capital of South Carolina. Here’s Matt explaining why it’s so important that the Confederate flag came down. “450 Washtenaw County people died (in the Civil War) to take down that flag,” he said, and we need to recognize their sacrifice.


And, just as the beer was running out, Bee Roll dropped in with the better part of a six pack and a chocolate bar, to discuss her work in Ypsi on behalf of presidential candidate, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. [Bee loves Bernie so much that she’s hoping to become a US citizen in time to vote for him.]


And Jim and I ended the show by just talking with one another, and taking calls. We kicked around the idea of forming an all-cat band called Kittywampus. We discussed the possibility for shooting a sitcom here in town. [Jim says he’d like for me to write him in as an employee of the US Postal Service, as he likes their uniforms.] Given how well his cover of “Vacation” went, I ask him if, next time, he could cover the entire “Raw Power” album. [My idea is to call Iggy Pop, ask him one question, and then interrupt his as he’s answering, saying, “If you can hold on for a little while, I’d like to cut now to Jim Cherewick, who will be performing your album “Raw Power” in its entirety.] And we left with an original Jim Cherewick composition about how fucking hot it was in the AM 1700 studio. Here he is performing, “We Sweated and Sweated.”


Thanks, as always, to AM 1700 for hosting the show, Brian Robb for running the board and keeping the bills paid, and Kate de Fuccio for documenting everything that happens. [All the photos above come courtesy of Kate.]

If you like this episode, check out our archive of past shows at iTunes. And do please leave a review if you have the time, OK? It’s nice to know that people are listening, and, unless you call in, that’s pretty much the only way we know.


Oh, and at some point during the broadcast of this show, the station was picked by a number of scientists carrying signs about teeth… Just another day in Ypsi.


Posted in Education, Mark's Life, The Saturday Six Pack, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments



Oddly enough, this has absolutely nothing to do with the recent shootings in the neighborhood. I just think that maybe it’s time to pack up the family like Dr. John Robinson and head off into some quiet corner of the universe, away from people. I know William Shatner says “It’s lonely out in space,” but, given my interactions with people lately, I’m thinking that a few decades on Kepler-452b might be just what I need.

Posted in Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments


Sidetrack ad Aubree’s ad BUY LOCAL... or shop at Amazon through this link Banner Initiative Melissa Detloff