Exclusive Interview: Detroit author ROCHELLE RILEY discusses her life, her new book, and a path forward

Exclusive Interview: Detroit author ROCHELLE RILEY discusses her life, her new book, and a path forward

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

Dedicated and driven, Rochelle Riley is a talented author and advocate for creatives. She works on behalf of the arts and culture community in Detroit.

Author, journalist, Director of the City of Detroit’s ACE Office (Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship), Ms. Riley functions in several different roles simultaneously.

She also did an amazing job creating the Covid Memorial on Belle Isle, Detroit’s urban island park, to honor those lost during the pandemic. Fifteen funeral processions circled the island past more than 900 large portrait billboards of Detroiters.

Ms. Riley has a B.A. in Journalism from the UNC School of Media & Journalism, and she was a Knight Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan.

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

Locally here in Detroit, she is known for being a columnist at the Detroit Free Press from 2000-2019. Her first day in Detroit was 9-11-2000.

Prior to that she worked for a variety of newspapers, including The Washington Post, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal, The Dallas Morning News and the Greensboro Daily News. Due to her achievements, she has been inducted into the Michigan and North Carolina journalism Halls of Fame.

Her new book “That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed the World,” is an inspiring and uplifting collection of twenty-one African Americans who changed the course of history.

Published by Wayne State University Press in February 2021, this book is the result of Ms. Riley criss-crossing the country in a multi-year journey to put the project together.

Genesis of the Idea for ‘That They Lived’

That They Lived by Rochelle Riley (WSU Press)

Ms. Riley wrote the biographical essays based on photos that Cristi Smith-Jones, a mom and amateur photographer in Kent, Washington, posted on social in 2017. Mrs. Smith-Jones wanted to teach her daughter, Lola, about African-American history, so she posted the photos of then 5-year-old Lola dressed as iconic African-American women. Ms. Riley saw the photos and asked to write the stories of the women as well as others featuring Ms. Riley’s grandson, Caleb, dressed as iconic African American men. Mrs. Smith Jones said yes.

“In February 2017, I was working on my previous book, ‘The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery,” and scrolling through Twitter, when I saw an amazing series of photos during Black History Month,” Ms. Riley said. “Then the same thing happened again in February 2018. I’m scrolling through and these lovely photos pop up featuring a little African-American girl named Lola dressed in meticulously researched attire. She was highlighting the accomplishments of historical African American women, and I thought I need to find the person doing this. And it led me to Lola’s mom, Cristi.”

“Cristi said she was teaching Lola about Black History. So, I explained to Cristi that I was a writer and that pictures are worth a thousand words and I had a thousand words for each of their photos. She was very shy and stunned. I flew to Seattle to meet with her personally, and she agreed to do the project. I wanted to represent the men too, so I flew to Dallas, got my 8-year-old grandson Caleb, and we flew back to Seattle.”

“Yes, some bribery was involved. We would do a 30 -minutes photo shoot, then fifteen minutes of Fortnite and cupcakes. Afterwards , when the project was done, would take him to the movies. He wanted to stay dressed as Frederick Douglass. I convinced him to go as Thurgood Marshall.”

The Burden by Rochelle Riley (WSU Press)

Although geared towards young readers, ‘That They Lived’ is a book that can be enjoyed by anyone of every age.

The project was funded, in part, by a grant from the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan and the WSU Press endowment from the Arthur L. Johnson Fund for African American Studies.

“This is a book for young readers, for all readers,” Ms. Riley said. “I want them to understand that every great person was once a child. The book highlights 21 African Americans, but there are hundreds of African Americans who have invented and achieved, so it was definitely hard to choose. I tried selecting those who helped changed the views of other people about all African Americans, people who paved the way for others.”

“Previously, I had joined forces with WSU Press on The Burden. So I did it again.

Rochelle Riley on Her Love of Books & Writing

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

I became a writer when I was 8 years old. I had no math skills, and I had learned a love of words from my mother, an English teacher. I was hooked.”

“When I was a columnist, I wrote constantly. Currently, I’m working on a novel and a sequel to The Burden. When I’m writing a book, I’m finally happy with it by about the 11th or 20th draft.”

I write everywhere! Sitting on the couch, lying in bed, or sitting at my sturdy copper dining room table. I also work at my writing table, a glass desk where I’ve been writing for 20 years. But I can write anywhere. One time I was in the emergency room and had a column due. I snuck out to the waiting room and finished the column in my hospital gown.”

“Some of my favorite personal favorites books are: ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ (1943) Betty Smith and ‘The Color Purple’ (1982) Alice Walker. I like thrillers and mysteries. And I celebrate the brilliance of James Baldwin and Toni Morrison every year.”

Biography

Rochelle Riley grew up in Tarboro, North Carolina.

“My parents lived with their three kids in New York. My mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 27 years old, and my parents split up. We went to live with my mother’s parents in Tarboro, and I’ve forever grateful to them for making us into a new family.”

Even as her MS progressed and she was confined to a wheelchair, my mother was an incredible inspiration to me. She taught English to my friends and me in the living room.”

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

“The town, like most towns back then, was segregated based on race. The Mason-Dixon line that split the nation also existed in our town. And I crossed that line every day to go work at the public library.”

“In Tarboro, the norm was what is was. Beyond the expected segregated norm I didn’t experience much racism there. When I got to high school, everybody got along. But I was always aware of it.”

“My great, great, great grandfather Bailum Pitt was enslaved in North Carolina. I was able to find and confirm this in the tax records and will of a white attorney whose papers I found at the North Carolina State Archives.”

Personal interests

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

“As for hobbies, I live to write. But I do occasionally make time for movies, television, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, reading and traveling. They aren’t hobbies like some people would consider hobbies. My only constant task is reading. It is a duty and a joy.”

“I don’t have any specific favorite local eateries, but I love pasta and Asian food. And I love Belle Isle on a sunny day and Comerica Park in a close ninth inning.”

Detroit’s ACE Office

City of Detroit’s ACE Office (Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship)

In May 2019, Mayor Mike Duggan appointed Ms. Riley to head the City of Detroit’s newly created Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship.

“I had decided to leave the newspaper (Detroit Free Press) to help keep others from being laid off, and the mayor needed an arts and culture director, so I was hired for the new role.”

“One thing we are going to be doing is a city-wide creative workforce census (which was launched in June). This project will measure the depth and breadth of Detroit’s creative workforce.”

Some parting thoughts for now

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of WDIV)

Slavery didn’t end. It just moved from plantations to the board rooms, court rooms, newsrooms and classrooms of America. This country has spent centuries trying to hide a crime committed in plain sight. That is no longer possible.”

“The greatest honor any African American can achieve is the acknowledgement that he or she has been blocked from achieving great life, liberty and happiness, that America is sorry and that the achievements, inventions and genius of African Americans will be added to all textbooks forthwith.”

Keep your eye on Rochelle Riley and stay tuned for her upcoming books, articles, and ACE projects!

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

Homepage

https://rochelleriley.com/

 

Email contact

Rochelle.riley@detroitmi.gov on city business and rochelleriley1619@gmail.com for everything else.

 

Twitter

https://twitter.com/rochelleriley

 

WSU Press

https://www.wsupress.wayne.edu/books/detail/burden

https://www.wsupress.wayne.edu/books/detail/they-lived

 

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B003DOI9YY

 

Detroit ACE

https://detroitmi.gov/departments/planning-and-development-department/arts-culture-entrepreneurship

 

Letters to Black Girls project

https://www.tamarawinfreyharris.com/letters-to-black-girls/

 

Endowment

https://www.wsupress.wayne.edu/support/endowments

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

Rochelle Riley (photo courtesy of Rochelle Riley)

 

 

Detroit Bookfest Bash @ Bea’s Detroit (July 18, 2021)

Detroit Bookfest Bash @ Bea’s Detroit (July 18, 2021)

Bea’s Detroit (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Detroit Bookfest Bash @ Bea’s Detroit

Sunday, July 18, 2021

10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

No cover charge!

https://www.facebook.com/events/2492508121065383

 

In celebration of the annual Detroit Festival of Books (aka Detroit Bookfest), Bea’s Detroit will be hosting a Detroit Bookfest Bash inside their warehouse!

Located three blocks southeast of Shed 5, Bea’s Detroit is a lovely combination eatery and co-working space. This beautiful addition to the market is the brainchild of Beatrice Wolnerman and they now have a walk-up window.

Bea’s was recently voted the # 1 special occasion venue in Metro Detroit.

Be sure to try Bea’s signature lemonade (bottled lemonade or lemonade slushies) and some tasty scones.

 

Bea’s Detroit

1533 Winder Street

Detroit, MI 48207

 

Bookfest Bash

https://www.facebook.com/events/2492508121065383

 

Homepage

https://www.beasdetroit.com/

 

You can even buy this awesome duffel bag from Bea’s

https://beassqueeze.com/products/duffel-bag

 

Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/beasdetroit/

 

Special thanks to Beatrice Wolnerman (owner) and Connar McLeod (events director)

Bea’s Detroit (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Bea’s Detroit warehouse (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Bea’s duffel bag (photo courtesy of Bea’s)

Top 10 Tips for Detroit Bookfest Attendees

Top 10 Tips for Detroit Bookfest Attendees

Top 10 Tips for Detroit Bookfest Attendees!

 

The annual Detroit Festival of Books (aka: Detroit Bookfest) will be held on Sunday, July 18, 2021 from 10am-4pm at Eastern Market’s Shed 5.

FREE ENTRY for attendees!

Detroit Bookfest is a glorious day of BOOKS, records, comics, creative arts, food, drinks, funk music and exploring Detroit’s incredible Eastern Market District.

The district is anchored by the actual Eastern Market itself, which is a series of large consumer sheds.

Be sure to check out our Official Detroit Bookfest Afterparty from 10am-8pm, which is located a few blocks Southeast at Eastern Market Brewing Company

https://detroitbookfest.com/bookfest-afterparty-embc/

 

We encourage everyone to check out the Official Detroit Bookfest Festival Guide

https://detroitbookfest.com/detroit-bookfest-festival-guide/

Top 10 Tips for Detroit Bookfest Attendees!

 

Top 10 Tips for Detroit Bookfest Attendees

1.) Every vendor is on their own in terms of cash flow and providing change. There is no centralized market bank. Please help the vendors out by bringing small bills, if you can. $1’s, $5’s, $10’s will be needed. Yes, there are two nearby ATM’s (ie: Shed 5 northern exterior wall and also the Chase Bank across the street). Several vendors should have the ability to accept credit card payments on their smartphones, however, we are not sure that all of them will have this ability.

 

2.) There will be hundreds of thousands of items for sale at Detroit Bookfest. You may want to bring a good, sturdy, fairly large bag. Most vendors will have paper and plastic bags to help you carry your items in. But again, there are no guarantees that all vendors will have everything.

 

3.) Wear a pair of good, comfortable walking shoes. We encourage you to make a day of it and check out the fabulous Eastern Market District, which is packed with a ton of great eateries, bars and stores of all sorts. If you haven’t already, please read our Official Detroit Bookfest Festival Guide.

https://detroitbookfest.com/detroit-bookfest-festival-guide/

 

4.) This event is all-weather, so dress accordingly. Dress comfortably and casually. Watch the weather forecast and if you think you may need an umbrella, please bring one.

 

5.) Make sure you check out our food vendors in the DTE Plaza on the western side of Shed 5 along Russell Street.

Bookfest Food Vendors 

https://detroitbookfest.com/food/

 

Top 10 Tips for Detroit Bookfest Attendees!

 

6.) Parking is plentiful, however, it is scattered around the Eastern Market district. Make sure you plan accordingly. You can drop people off, park, then get the car and pick them up, if you need to. Eastern Market oftentimes handles even larger events which get 150,000+ people at them, so there are places to park, just be prepared to walk a little bit.

 

7.) Public bathrooms are located inside Shed 5 and spread throughout Eastern Market. If there are long lines at one, walk over to another bathroom.

 

8.) This event is all-ages. The love of books can start at any age, so parents, bring your family and always remember to keep an eye on your children.

 

9.) Warning: grooveilicious FUNK MUSIC might make you feel the unexpected urge to boogie. If you feel like dancing, then dance!

 

10.) We are tremendously excited about this event and feel it is an important and positive event for Detroit and Michigan and the world of books and many other things. Please help us spread the word on your favorite social media websites by posting photos and telling people about your experience.

 

THANK YOU! We love you all and hope everyone has a great time!

 

And pull out your calendars…

The 5th Annual Detroit Festival of Books will be on Sunday, July 17th, 2022.

 

Top 10 Tips for Detroit Bookfest Attendees!

Official Detroit Bookfest Afterparty at Eastern Mkt Brewing Co. (July 18, 2021)

Official Detroit Bookfest Afterparty at Eastern Mkt Brewing Co. (July 18, 2021)

 

BEER!

Official Detroit Bookfest Afterparty at Eastern Mkt Brewing Co.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

No cover charge!

https://www.facebook.com/events/511032789841366

 

 

In celebration of the annual Detroit Festival of Books (aka Detroit Bookfest), EMBC will be opening early on Sunday, July 18th for the Official Detroit Bookfest Afterparty!

Located three blocks southeast of Shed 5, Eastern Market Brewing Company (EMBC) is one of the most popular destinations in Eastern Market.

Currently, the street they’re on, Riopelle, is closed to vehicle traffic. It is pedestrian-only and they have tables in the street, food tent, live DJ, and of course beer, glorious beer.

 

Eastern Market Brewing Company

2515 Riopelle Street

Detroit, MI 48207

 

 

 

Some of their most popular beers are:

Elephant Juice, Market Day IPA, Mae Blanc, Wonderboy, and White Coffee Stout

 

 

Beer list

https://easternmarket.beer/beers/

 

Facebook event page

https://www.facebook.com/events/511032789841366

 

Detroit Bookfest Festival Guide

https://detroitbookfest.com/detroit-bookfest-festival-guide/

 

Thank You for the marvelous write-up Rare Book Hub

Thank You for the marvelous write-up Rare Book Hub

Rare Book Hub Bruce McKinney

 

Rare Book Hub is one of the top websites globally for all things rare books. Featuring news, auction listings, and more, it is a tremendous resource for dealers and collectors.

RBH was founded in 2002 by internationally well-known rare books expert Bruce McKinney to help gather and highlight information on rare books, antiquarian, collectible, OOP, ephemera, etc.

 

Rare Book Hub founder Bruce McKinney (photo by Lauren Thomas, New Paltz Times)

 

Born in 1946, Bruce grew up in New Paltz, New York near Poughkeepsie and currently lives in Pacific Heights, San Francisco.

This article was beautifully and kindly written by Dr. Maureen Mulvihill. Dr. Mulvihill is a native Detroiter, rare book collector, member of the Florida Bibliophile Society & The Book Club of Detroit, and currently lives in Sarasota, Florida.

It is a tremendous honor being featured on RBH and we thank you Bruce and Maureen!

 

The link inside of this link contains her 7-page PDF article:

https://www.rarebookhub.com/articles/3017

 

 

Rare Book Hub homepage

https://www.rarebookhub.com/

 

RBH Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/RareBookHub

 

 

RBH Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/rarebookhub/

 

Rare Book Hub (San Francisco, CA)

Thank you MIGeekScene for listing us on your Events Calendar

Thank you MIGeekScene for listing us on your Events Calendar

MI Geek Scene

MI Geek Scene is run by Joe Hubbard and based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Joe is “Head Geek” and started MGS in 2014 as a “positive geek culture website”. Joe also takes great photos and conducts engaging interviews with his guests.

They consistently feature one of the best calendars of cool pop-culture related events in the state of Michigan.

We highly recommend listing your event, if applicable, on their calendar.

MI Geek Scene

 

MIGeekScene upcoming events

https://migeekscene.com/events/list/

 

Submit your event for consideration here

https://migeekscene.com/category/submissions/

 

Contact

migeekscene@gmail.com

 

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/MIGeekScene

 

Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/migeekscene/

 

MI Geek Scene