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just another moment in time

Writing

The Gift I Didn’t Know I Needed

The Gift I Didn’t Know I Needed

My best friend has HIV. That sentence is not meant to be a plea for pity or a space for judgment from anyone. What that sentence means to me is freedom. The fact that I’m able to tell anyone that fact gives me a freedom […]

That Time I Talked to Renegade Detroit Investors…

That Time I Talked to Renegade Detroit Investors…

That time I talked to Renegade Detroit Investors for 2 hours about Detroit, culture, entrepreneurship, community, The Awesome Mitten, and Detroit SOUP.

A Little Background

A Little Background

I was supposed to present about myself today at a “lunch and learn” at my workplace. For those of you that don’t have as much of an active social schedule at the office, a lunch and learn is traditionally a time to eat lunch and learn something. I probably didn’t need to spell that out for you. Regardless, this month’s event was being put on by the Diversity Council and highlighting what makes each presenter unique, or whatever. I was the one organizing the speakers for this event, so I positioned myself last. We never got to my presentation in the time allotted (which is totally fine), so I thought I’d write about what I might have been said during the presentation. That’s a lot of preface for something that will probably be only mildly entertaining, my apologies.

Joanna Dueweke as a child
Photo courtesy of Luana or Dale Dueweke (my awesome parents).

I was born in Traverse City. For those of you that are geographically challenged or unacquainted, Traverse City is located in the pinky-region of the mitten shape that Michigan makes when Michiganders use our hand as a prop to show from where we hail. All other states are jealous of us; we have it so easy. I digress, I’m the cutest of the four girls holding the yellow cup. I’m only the cutest because I’m the youngest. My sister is the one with the permed brown hair making a silly face, it was the eighties. She and I have never looked alike, but we’ve always been our own people and really weird. In the background is West Bay, which is literally where I spent the majority of my childhood. My mother jokes that I was pretty much born on a sailboat. That being said, water has always played a significant role in my life.

Now that I’m older, I no longer live in Traverse City. This has been by way of going to college at Michigan State University, then moving home for a bit while my sister was creating another life, then I moved back to Lansing, then to Wixom (why, oh why), then to Grosse Pointe Park, and now finally in Detroit. I try to go “home” as much as possible with my busy schedule because my nephews are the coolest dudes around and I really like my family. I don’t think I’ll ever move back to Traverse City, and yes, I know it’s really beautiful, I don’t need more convincing.

Joanna Dueweke's nephews
Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke

My oldest nephew was born my senior year of high school and is the reason I chose to go to Michigan State rather than the University of Vermont. I’m sure my whole family (especially my father’s financial mind) are pleased with this decision. Conveniently, my sister waited until after I graduated to make another little munchkin, so I can happily say that I’ve been at the births of both of my handsome nephews. They have taught me a lot about who I am, and I love spoiling them. I do this weird thing where I imagine what kind of dudes they will be when they get older, I really can’t wait to see how they develop. I often feel like they look at me like this person that exists and that they love, but they really don’t understand my life or who I am really. That will hopefully change once they get older and Detroit becomes more than just the place the Tigers play baseball.

I am going to skip to a time much more recent since I did the things most people do in college like go to class and get drunk. Although I now work in marketing/communications/social media, I did go to undergrad to become a high school English teacher. I wanted to work in alternative schools, but through a series of budget-y things in Michigan, that definitely wasn’t going to be a viable option. I moved on from there with no direction, or no idea what I was going to do to make money.

Mackinac Bridge
Photo courtesy of Shalee Blackmer, a writer that I recruited from Twitter.

I was really good at being a waitress, but that wasn’t in the long-term plan, so I contacted a “frenemy” (now one of my best friends) from high school to start working on the blog she created called, The Awesome Mitten. I haven’t stopped working on that ever since (it’s been nearly 4 years), and it’s been the best thing to ever happen to me, or my career. I talk about that at length in the post I wrote for last year’s anniversary. Today, I am a social media manager (all those @awesomemitten tweets are me), occasional writer, future website creator, strategist, and associate editor. It’s been pretty crazy, but I attribute almost all of the cool things that have happened in my career to the start I got with The Awesome Mitten.

Detroit River
Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke on the Detroit River.

As I’ve mentioned previously, water is exceptionally important to my well-being. Some of you might wonder how I make all of that work in Detroit, but it’s really pretty easy. I go sailing as much as possible (I was a member of the Grosse Pointe Sail Club for a while), and I find other water activities throughout the summer.

Jefferson-Chalmers canals
Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke in the Jefferson-Chalmers canals.

One of my fondest Detroit memories was this past summer during June on Jefferson. The annual event is a month-long celebration of Detroit’s Eastside, and a group of friends and I took advantage of the opportunity to explore the canals of Jefferson-Chalmers by kayak. I will own one of those houses one day. It is my mission. The kayak trip was followed by a day full of jazz, BBQ, and playing with the kids of the neighborhood in Jefferson East, Inc.‘s parking lot. Those are the kinds of days that remind me so thoroughly that Detroit is full of love.

East Jefferson SOUP
Photo courtesy of James Reaves

Since Detroit and the Eastside had shown me so much love, I decided that I needed to do what I could to make an impact where and how I could. I approached Amy Kaherl of Detroit SOUP, and I told her that I wanted to start an event in Jefferson-Chalmers. After much deliberation, iterations, and recruiting, the East Jefferson SOUP now encompasses The Villages, Jefferson-Chalmers, East English Village, Morningside, and several other of the surrounding area’s smaller neighborhoods. It’s become more of a community SOUP for the Eastside rather than just a singular neighborhood. It is in these community SOUPs that folks from that specific area propose ideas of projects, businesses, or events that will benefit that area. Attendees then vote on their favorite idea, and the winner takes home the accumulated entrance fees that everyone paid to get into the event (it’s a suggested donation of $5). These events go on all over the city with 9 communities participating, and a monthly event that showcases a citywide perspective.

Detroit SOUP 5 Year Anniversary Party
Photo courtesy of Detroit SOUP

The people that I’ve worked with on East Jefferson SOUP and Detroit SOUP have become some of my greatest friends in Detroit, and I’m eternally grateful for what they have taught me about democracy, generosity, passion, civic responsibility, and love. Recently, Detroit SOUP celebrated its fifth year with a giant party at Ford Field. I spent most of the night crying and laughing and hugging all of the amazing people that work tirelessly to make Detroit a better place for all of us.

Wayne State School of Library and Information Science
Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke with my best friend, Jonathon Arntson, in the distance.

This is starting to get a little long-winded, but I will work to finish it up in a way that makes sense. I have made a lot of friends since moving to Detroit, but my closest friends have come from my grad school program at Wayne State University. I am studying for my Master’s in Library and Information Science. I do not intend to be a public librarian shushing you or an archivist protecting all of the world’s important history. Instead, I am concentrating on Information Management with a specialization in User Experience. Simply put, I want to make digital experiences better for everyone. I’m not sure how I will incorporate my education with my relentless need to work with others building a better Detroit, but it will all fall together someday. I’m sure of it. My best friend thinks I’ll own my own business someday, I haven’t put a ton of thought into the next ten years, but I don’t think I’ll be leaving Detroit anytime soon.

Detroit skyline from Woodbridge
Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke

Speaking of leaving Detroit, I finally made my maddening love for this city official in October. It was a great day when I got to register to vote and change my address on my license to Detroit. My best friend, Jonathon Arntson, and I moved to Woodbridge to be closer to Wayne State. It was a big change from the Eastside, and I’m still not sure it’s where I’ll settle in the city, but golly is it convenient! We have a beautiful view of the city’s skyline that is only interrupted by the very flashy light displays of MotorCity Casino and our closest neighbor, the liquor store. Needless to say, I love being in Detroit and contributing to it daily. I am one of those annoying people that can’t possibly understand why anyone would spend time in the suburbs. I might grow out of it eventually, but just let me have my thing for right now.

Jonathon Arntson
Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke, this was at the Michigan Humane Society when we were first meeting the later named, Fern Gully.

Finally, I would be remiss to not go into a little more detail about Jonathon. We met because of The Awesome Mitten (number one reason I love that publication), and we’ve been a dynamic duo ever since he moved to Detroit. Now we live together in a tiny apartment that feels more like home than any place I’ve lived since my parent’s house in Traverse City. We have adventures on the regular in the city, he’s going to school for Urban Studies, so we learn about Detroit (re: he teaches me) together. He’s the best encourager and really good at calling me on my bullshit. I could go on for days about why he’s the greatest, but I’ll just let you all know that I’m a picky person about who gets to take up the few extra hours I have in my life for fun, and he gets a lot of them.

Also of significant importance, we just got a cat. We adopted her from the Michigan Humane Society where she came in as a stray and she’s already a perfect addition to our little home. Her name is Fern Gully, I know, we done did good.

That was a lot of words about me. Phew!