17 people making major moves in Michigan

It’s that time of year again. The Metro Times editorial staff gathered around our conference room table, shut the door, and came up with a fresh list of movers and shakers for our annual People Issue. Our only real requirement: The subjects had to be doing something cool in Michigan.

We searched high and low. Some are lifelong metro Detroiters, while some just moved here. Some you may have already read about in the national media, while others might be enjoying their first bit of ink. The list includes ambitious musicians, humble farmers, firebrand activists, refugees in search of a better life, art aficionados, and more. Some are larger than life, while others are content to toil behind the scenes. All are worthy of your attention.

 

All photos by Noah Elliott Morrison.

Scroll down to view images
The Upcycler
Ali Rose VanOverbeke, designer, Genusee Eyeware
"We were delivering semitrucks full of water to people every day; there would just be stacks and stacks of bottled water in front of people's houses," she says. "So now — not only is a water crisis happening, but there's this influx of plastic that's going to create environmental issues for the community."

The Upcycler


Ali Rose VanOverbeke, designer, Genusee Eyeware
"We were delivering semitrucks full of water to people every day; there would just be stacks and stacks of bottled water in front of people's houses," she says. "So now — not only is a water crisis happening, but there's this influx of plastic that's going to create environmental issues for the community."

The Heart
Mike Flores, president of the Board of Directors, Affirmations
"When something does happen, everyone comes to Affirmations, because we really are a safe space," he says. "This truly is a community center, and it's the heart of the LGBT community in the metro region."

The Heart


Mike Flores, president of the Board of Directors, Affirmations
"When something does happen, everyone comes to Affirmations, because we really are a safe space," he says. "This truly is a community center, and it's the heart of the LGBT community in the metro region."

The Wildcat 
Jillian Graham, musician, Tiny Jag 
"With a Jaguar, everything is very innate," Graham says. "She's not at all clouded by the things we're clouded by as a species. I can only aspire to be just as raw and have as much grit and grace as a jaguar. In a lot of ways, I am a tiny version of what I could be."

The Wildcat


Jillian Graham, musician, Tiny Jag
"With a Jaguar, everything is very innate," Graham says. "She's not at all clouded by the things we're clouded by as a species. I can only aspire to be just as raw and have as much grit and grace as a jaguar. In a lot of ways, I am a tiny version of what I could be."

The Refugees
Nadia Nijimbere and Mamba Hamissi, proprietors, Baobab Fare
"At Freedom House, we want to show other residents, 'Hey, you are home now. You can do this, you're not just immigrants but residents," Hamissi says. "The right place to do that is Detroit because you have the support of everyone here."

The Refugees


Nadia Nijimbere and Mamba Hamissi, proprietors, Baobab Fare
"At Freedom House, we want to show other residents, 'Hey, you are home now. You can do this, you're not just immigrants but residents," Hamissi says. "The right place to do that is Detroit because you have the support of everyone here."

The Homesteader
Greg Willerer, founder, Brother Nature Produce
"Farming in general is hard," Willerer says, "but farming on an acre when you're trying to supply people at Eastern Market, at the Wayne State Market, and a lot of restaurants... We want to get bigger and bigger every year. This is the first year we've kind of shrunk down our numbers as far as how many pounds of salad we're producing. It's been a rough year too, because it's been so frozen."

The Homesteader


Greg Willerer, founder, Brother Nature Produce
"Farming in general is hard," Willerer says, "but farming on an acre when you're trying to supply people at Eastern Market, at the Wayne State Market, and a lot of restaurants... We want to get bigger and bigger every year. This is the first year we've kind of shrunk down our numbers as far as how many pounds of salad we're producing. It's been a rough year too, because it's been so frozen."

The Healer
Kalimah Johnson, founder and executive director, SASHA Center
"We're not going to tell you how to feel about your rape," Johnson says. "You can feel how you want to feel. We're here for you. Some people are more cerebral, more internal. Others are very external. You get to decide how to heal. We just want to create a safe space for all of that. You need a Bible? We got that. You need a chicken foot? We got that, too."

The Healer


Kalimah Johnson, founder and executive director, SASHA Center
"We're not going to tell you how to feel about your rape," Johnson says. "You can feel how you want to feel. We're here for you. Some people are more cerebral, more internal. Others are very external. You get to decide how to heal. We just want to create a safe space for all of that. You need a Bible? We got that. You need a chicken foot? We got that, too."

The Curators
Paulina Petkoski and Samantha Bankle Shefman, Playground Detroit
"The impact is not just dollars, it's also very community-driven by creating those connections between people," Petkoski says. "You just see growth in people, you see them achieve their own success, and that then is in turn to Playground's success, and the city's success. That's all we can ask for."

The Curators


Paulina Petkoski and Samantha Bankle Shefman, Playground Detroit
"The impact is not just dollars, it's also very community-driven by creating those connections between people," Petkoski says. "You just see growth in people, you see them achieve their own success, and that then is in turn to Playground's success, and the city's success. That's all we can ask for."

The Mediator
Julia Putnam,, principal, the James & Grace Lee Boggs School
"Now you see Avalon Bakery, and Back Alley Bikes, and you see the Boggs School, and it's clear that it's not just the projects — it's how you inspire people to do things. Even if we were to stop now, something really amazing is going to come out of these last five years. And if we keep going, who knows how that multiplies and ripples out? I mean, I can look around, I can see the next president. I can see the next mayor. I can see the next Oscar-winner and Pulitzer Prize-winner. They're all here. They're right in this building."

The Mediator


Julia Putnam,, principal, the James & Grace Lee Boggs School
"Now you see Avalon Bakery, and Back Alley Bikes, and you see the Boggs School, and it's clear that it's not just the projects — it's how you inspire people to do things. Even if we were to stop now, something really amazing is going to come out of these last five years. And if we keep going, who knows how that multiplies and ripples out? I mean, I can look around, I can see the next president. I can see the next mayor. I can see the next Oscar-winner and Pulitzer Prize-winner. They're all here. They're right in this building."

The Advocate
Michele Oberholtzer, activist, running for state representative
"That realization just completely shed any convenient notion in my mind that someone else was handling this — like, the safety net is under attack," she says. "I just had this thing in my head at the time that just said 'radicalize'" — she whispers the word — "and it echoed several times and I really feel like a button got pushed, or a lever got pulled ... and it stayed."

The Advocate


Michele Oberholtzer, activist, running for state representative
"That realization just completely shed any convenient notion in my mind that someone else was handling this — like, the safety net is under attack," she says. "I just had this thing in my head at the time that just said 'radicalize'" — she whispers the word — "and it echoed several times and I really feel like a button got pushed, or a lever got pulled ... and it stayed."

The Showstopper
Harry Richmond, dressmaker, Harry Rich Clothier
"Some days are good, some days are bad," he says. "This morning I woke up like 'No,' but I had to remember I had a prom [send-off] today and this is really a great feeling. Proms and making dresses is so stressful, but seeing how happy they are at the end has to be one of the greatest feelings ever."

The Showstopper


Harry Richmond, dressmaker, Harry Rich Clothier
"Some days are good, some days are bad," he says. "This morning I woke up like 'No,' but I had to remember I had a prom [send-off] today and this is really a great feeling. Proms and making dresses is so stressful, but seeing how happy they are at the end has to be one of the greatest feelings ever."