Photo courtesy of George Bayard

February is a busy time for George Bayard. He’s a collector and a keeper of black history, and this is the one month he’s in high demand in Grand Rapids.

I met him this past weekend in a large, noisy hallway during an ethnic festival at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. He stood in front of a table full of his own collected pieces of black history.

Some pieces he collected during the 25 years he ran his own art gallery in Grand Rapids. Some were just left for him.

“I’d come in some days,” he says, “and there’d be something just sitting on a step.”

Shifting the focus from water to food in Flint

Feb 3, 2016

It's near closing time at the Flint Farmers' Market, and the aisles of fruits and vegetables are nearly empty.

But in a banquet room on the other side of the building, families are pouring in for Light Up the Night, a free event put on by the Early Childhood Development Center at the University of Michigan-Flint. 

flickr.com/swaity / Licenced under Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Michelle Gach grabs a couple slices of pizza before we get started. She has a story to tell, and it turns out to be a long one, covering the past 14 years of her life, with more tragic turns than most people see in an entire lifetime.

But that comes later. For now, we’re sitting in a room together: Michelle, two of her daughters, and two friendly pit bulls.

The room is mostly bare, exposed plywood on the floor, blue strips of painter’s tape along the baseboard, new doors still leaning against the wall. A project waiting to be finished.

While Michelle Gach finishes her pizza, her daughter Felicity begins to tell me the story of what happened on a Saturday in August 2014.

Detroit kids to get robots and creative writing too

Jan 20, 2016
826michigan is opening the Detroit Robot Factory - along with a tutoring and creative writing center.
826michigan

826michigan - a free tutoring and creative writing center for kids - is setting up a new shop.  

The group has already helped thousands of school-aged children in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti write poetry or just get their algebra homework done, and now it hopes to do the same in Detroit. 

"My invention is called the Crazy Boom," Mohamed Conde reads from his short story at 826michigan's writing center in Ann Arbor.

"I can go back to prehistoric times.  Like if I wanted to see George Washington or a dinosaur, I could because of my invention.  My brain is bigger than Albert Einstein's.  Ten times bigger."

Nick Azzaro / Ypsilanti Community Schools

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but it’s worth repeating: we have no idea – as a state – how much it costs to adequately educate a child in Michigan. Most states have done so-called “adequacy studies,” but Michigan hasn’t. Until now. We’ve got a new school funding study underway. But before we get to the nitty gritty details about what goes into the study, let's ask some students how much they think it costs to educate one child per year in Michigan. 

Brittany Bartkowiak / Michigan Radio

Last year a disturbing cell phone video caused national outrage over the presence of police in schools. It shows a South Carolina cop grabbing a student's desk, flipping it over, and dragging her body out of class. You can hear the officer saying "give me your hands" over and over, followed by the student's voice saying "I'm hurt." 

This video got us wondering how officers are trained to work in schools. With the new semester about to begin, I decided to find out. 

A Health Blog / Flickr Creative Commons

Here's an overview of our most popular topics and stories this year:

Race 

flickr/bradadozier

The Centers for Disease Control released new statistics Friday on drug overdose deaths in the U.S. The numbers may not be surprising to anyone who's followed our reporting, but they are still shocking. According to the CDC, 1,762 people died from drug overdoses in Michigan alone in 2014. And that's a 13.2% increase over 2013. 

The Real Estreya / Flickr Creative Commons

As the year winds down, many of us are preparing for a much-needed break from work or school to celebrate the holidays. I don't know about you, but if there's one thing I'm looking forward to other than food and family, it's time to catch up on some of my favorite blogs and podcasts.

When your schedule allows for it, here's some recommended reading and listening for State of Opportunity fans: 

1. Not Safe to Drink, a Michigan Radio documentary

user Phil Roeder / flickr

If you've been following State of Opportunity for a while, you've probably heard us say this a few times now: our state constitution legally promises all Michigan kids  a "free" education, but it says nothing about that education being "adequate" or "equitable."

Here's the exact language:

Sec. 2. The Legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.

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