101.9 WDET strives to uplift the voices of the do'ers, thinkers, activists and extraordinary people that make up our community. Here are some of them we've met over the course of 2019.

The reporters and producers at 101.9 WDET meet a lot of people in the course of our work. 

Some of them are well-known politicians, artists and other change-makers. Some are Detroiters fighting to make their community better. Others are simply going about their lives. 

Here are the most interesting people we’ve met in 2019, as decided by our audience through our most read and listened to stories, podcast episodes and other interviews. See that list below.


Related: WDET’s Top Story, News and Issue of 2019


The People We Met in 2019

Grandma Techno

“Everybody started yelling, ‘Grandma Techno! Grandma Techno!’ And then it went viral. I’m known all over the world that way.” – Patricia Lay-Dorsey

Stephen Bondio
Stephen Bondio

Patricia Lay-Dorsey, a 76-year-old photographer, has become a folk hero at the Movement Music Festival, where she’s known simply as “Grandma Techno” — one of the oldest music fans there who gets around via mobilized scooter due to her diagnosis of progressive multiple sclerosis at the age of 45.

CultureShift’s Ryan Patrick Hooper spoke to Dorsey about her newfound fame, her long artistic career and what artists make her want to dance.

“This story was important to me because I wanted to know who she was before the Grandma Techno moniker and I didn’t see anyone telling that story,” says Hooper, who chose this as his favorite story of the year. “With older artists, it feels like it’s hard to see the full totality of their impact on a scene or a culture. This is an example of discovering who someone was before they became Grandma Techno.” Meet Patricia

‘One Crazy Lady’ at Flat Rock Speedway

Girls say, “when I get bigger, I want to race too. And I hope they do. That would be great, to see more women out here.” – Stephanie Bradley, racer

SHIRAZ AHMED
SHIRAZ AHMED

This past summer, CultureShift’s Amanda LeClaire took you to places around Michigan that you may not known existed. 

At one of those, Flat Rock Speedway, she met Stephanie Bradley, one of the track’s only female racers, who the Speedway’s announcer dubbed “One Crazy Lady.” She’s an inspiration to young girls who attend the races.

“I’ve been the only woman in a long time to run with these guys consecutively for awhile,” says Bradley, explaining the name. “It must be crazy to be with them.” Meet Stephanie

Benjamin Crump, Lawyer and Activist

“Environmental racism is far worse than police brutality or any of these other individualized killings because [it] is generational.” – Benjamin Crump

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

Benjamin Crump is a civil rights attorney known for representing the families of both Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. After George Zimmerman, the man who was acquitted for the killing of Martin, sued Crump and the Martin family, the lawyer spoke to WDET’s Jake Neher before an environmental justice rally in Flint, Mich. that he was attending. 

“As bad as all of these killings, in many ways, environmental racism is far worse than police brutality or any of these other individualized killings because environmental racism is generational. It not only affects you, it affects your children, and it can affect your children’s children,” says Crump. Meet Benjamin

Otis Williams, The Last Temptation

“Show business is cyclical, and you make of it whatever you want to make of yourself.” – Otis Williams, Temptation

Chyna Photography
Chyna Photography

Detroit is known for the Motown Sound. But among all the music stars launched by Berry Gordy’s label, there are still some sounds that stand out. Cue the tunes of the Temptations.

The Temptation’s founder, the only surviving original member, is Otis Williams. He tells WDET’s Quinn Klinefelter even the group is surprised by its longevity.

“Show business is cyclical, and you make of it whatever you want to make of yourself,” says Williams. Meet Otis

Detroiters Impacted by FCA’s Plant Expansion

“When it looked like they were going to come over here and take this area, I said, ‘I will fight them’ tooth and nail.’” – Trenesa Rhodes, resident

Laura Herberg/WDET
Laura Herberg/WDET

This year, WDET’s Laura Herberg reported on the environmental and economic impact of Fiat Chrysler’s proposed update of it’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant. 

Herberg attended info sessions on how to land one of FCA’s 5,000 promised jobs and spoke to residents inside the impact zone. 

“I remember when it was nothing but a dust bowl,” says Trenesa Rhodes, a resident near the plant. Three decades later, that same plant is being converted back to an assembly plant.

“When it looked like they were going to come over here and take this area, I said, ‘I will fight them’ tooth and nail because I refuse to lose anything else.”

Meet Trenesa and other residents

The Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences Choir

This Detroit-centric reimagining of “One Nation Under A Groove” would make George Clinton proud. It’s performed by the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences Choir (who show off some pretty sick moves) with King Bethel and Anaiya Hall and help from some of Detroit’s most legendary instrumentalists.

Meet the choir

Stretch Adam, Local Musician

“He was a true adventurer.” – Brian Shellabarger, brother

Mark McClelland
Mark McClelland

Local Detroit musician, artist and comedian Adam Shellabarger, better known to friends as “Stretch Adam,” passed away at the age of 35 this year. 

As a resident of the storied Crow Manor on the city’s west side, Stretch was an integral part of Detroit’s underground arts and culture scene that celebrated activism through independent art, performances, festivals and concerts.

CultureShift’s Ryan Patrick Hooper spoke to his close friends and family. 

“He was the most generous person I ever met,” says Brian Shellabarger, Adams’ brother. “He didn’t have much but what he had he shared. If he had two bucks, he’d give you three.” Meet Stretch

Dave Coulter, Oakland County’s New Executive

“Despite the politics, I am confident that we all have the same interests at heart.” – Dave Coulter, Oakland County executive

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

For the first time ever, a Democrat is Oakland County executive.

After former executive L. Brooks Patterson died, Coulter was sworn in — although it took two weeks of political wrangling to get him there. 

“Despite the politics, I am confident that we all have the same interests at heart,” he tells Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today. Meet Dave

 

Striking UAW Workers

“It’s time for [General Motors executives] to step up.” – James Poore, striking millwright

Laura Herberg/WDET
Laura Herberg/WDET

The historic UAW strike against General Motors was one of our top news events of the year. It drew attention nationwide, and caught the glance of various Presidential candidates.

WDET’s Laura Herberg wanted to show the human side of what a labor action looks like. She reported on what strikers do in their spare time and stopped by GM’s Warren Transmission Operations facility, where she met James Poore, a millwright who used to work at the Warren facility before GM shut it down two months ago.

“It’s time for [General Motors executives] to step up,” Poore says. “The CEO of General Motors makes 400 times what I do. The people that really have gained are the people in the executive board suites. They are the ones that made the gains, not anybody else.” Meet James

Editor’s note: WDET reporters are members of the Professional and Administrative Union, Local 1979, UAW.

 

Ali Al Arithy, Child Immigrant

My teacher told “me that I can’t read because I can’t speak her language. I remember I had this drive. I felt like I needed to prove her wrong.” – Ali Al Arithy

Courtesy of Satori Shakoor
Courtesy of Satori Shakoor

In the 1990s, when he was a child, Ali Al Arithy and his family escaped political turmoil in Iraq and came to the Detroit region.

In the first episode of WDET’s “Twisted Storytellers” podcast, Al Arithy tells the story of his journey from being being discouraged as an elementary-aged student to eventually becoming an English teacher himself. Meet Ali

Author

  • Shiraz Ahmed served as Digital and Audience Engagement Editor for 101.9 WDET from 2019-2020. His favorite salsa is Marco’s Mexican salsa, a now-defunct chain that produced the salsa of his childhood.