Detroit Homecoming joined the “Zoom” age this month with a new series of webcasts with themes tied to COVID-19 and Detroit’s future.
More than 550 people, including 100 Detroit Homecoming alumni, registered for the inaugural webcast on May 14, featuring Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, “Detroit vs. Everybody” founder Tommey Walker, actor Jeff Daniels, and five other guests.
A second webcast on May 20 focused on health-care disparities laid bare in the crisis in Detroit. To view either of those webcasts, click here.
The Detroit Homecoming series will continue through August. On June 3, the focus will be the pandemic’s effects on K-12 education in the city, and an initiative to provide tablets and Internet access to 51,000 public schools students in Detroit over the summer.
The May 14 hour-long virtual event focused on Detroit’s response to the COVID-19 crisis as well as Daniels’ newly penned song that’s a tribute to the late Detroit Tigers great Al Kaline, a longtime guest host at Detroit Homecoming.
Homecoming Co-founder Mary Kramer asked Duggan how his stint as CEO of the Detroit Medical Center informed his response to the crisis. “You’ve got to be the only big-city mayor who also was CEO of an eight-hospital health care system,” she said.
“When this started to hit, we knew what we had to do,” he said, outlining early steps by his office to secure testing supplies and labs to process the tests. Detroit had probably the steepest climb in cases and the fastest decline, he added, crediting Detroiters’ cooperative social distancing measures for the rapid reduction in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
Although he is concerned about the economic recovery of the city’s sports and entertainment sector following the pandemic, Duggan sees hope in the persistence and cooperation of Detroiters. “Long-term,” said Duggan, “our success is about businesses wanting to be here and expand here.”
Daniels was joined by WDIV-TV anchor Devin Scillian who first aired the Kaline tribute song on his Sunday “Flash Point” show in April. Daniels said he was contacted by and is donating an early version of the hand-written lyrics to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
In a segment about the effect of COVID-19 in Detroit’s small businesses, Charity Dean, director of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity for the City of Detroit, agreed with Duggan that shrinking the digital divide is crucial moving forward. Her new project, Digital Detroit, offers comprehensive website, e-commerce, and digital training for small businesses.
Entrepreneur Tommey Walker, founder of the Detroit vs. Everybody fashion brand, spoke of the origins of his company. Recently, he created a new brand: “Everybody vs. COVID-19.” Twenty percent of T-shirt sales with that slogan are contributed to the Small Business Stabilization Fund at TechTown.
Crain’s Detroit Business Senior Editor Chad Livengood discussed what it’s been like to cover “an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime upheaval of public health, of the economy.” Reporting on the crisis, Livengood noted, has been a learning experience as he navigates the short- and long-term repercussions of the shutdown of businesses. Answering viewer questions, Livengood said that the city’s blight removal program has been temporarily suspended but that neighborhood revitalization remains a priority.