The Detroit Music Scene is Looking A Little More Inclusive

downloadThe Detroit music scene has quite a few hidden gems, Seraphine Collective is one of them. The members of Seraphine Collective aim to be accessible to those who may feel excluded from the male-dominated music scene, something we are still seeing here in Detroit.

Through multiple music workshops, events and discussions, these women are powering through a patriarchal area of society so their music can be heard, respected and danced to by all.

In 2013, former member Lauren Rossi began Seraphine Collective as a blog project. The blog featured interviews and individual profiles of women musicians in Detroit. She said her hope was to “highlight, inspire, and encourage current and aspiring musicians in the area.” The conversations that came from those interviews generated a rich exchange of ideas, including, but not limited to, the need for a woman-owned and operated venue, record label, recording studio, workshops and space where women could share their skills.

They started to create zines (most commonly known as magazines, or “fanzines”) and mix tapes. Then, their monthly meetings were being made open to the public. Once they received a grant from Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Knight Foundation, the collective was able to put on BFF Fests and their DJ Workshop: Beat Match Brunch with Mother Cyborg.

“What started out as a predominantly rock music collective has grown drastically and now includes more hip-hop and electronic performances,” as said by a Seraphine Collective member. Because the Seraphine Collective is heavily rooted in inclusivity and the concept of being a collective, they chose to keep members anonymous.

BFF Fest (Best Fest Forever), one of the first events that really showed the community what the Seraphine Collective was, is an all-ages and inclusive summer music festival in Detroit. It was created to highlight, celebrate and promote the talents of Michigan’s diverse community of musicians and artists. BFF Fest prioritizes the participation of women, gender non-conforming, queer, transgender and people of color performers “to create visibility in a music scene dominated by patriarchal and institutionally racist cultural norms,” a seraphine collective member said.

Seraphine Collective is also putting on more events to create visibility in the Detroit music scene, such as their Open Tables monthly, where DJ’s from the Beat Match Brunch workshop get to practice beat matching vinyl records in a public space.

“Beat Match Brunch 102 is coming up this April focusing on the digital side of DJ-ing, taught by Mother Cyborg and Stacey Hottwaxx Hale (Godmother of House music!),” a Seraphine Collective member said.

The collective hopes to host another dialogue series in the spring, along with booking more shows they are passionate about, but their main focus, as of right now, is getting their own space.

Intersectional feminism plays a huge role in their movement. In their words, “Our feminism has to be intersectional or it is complete bullshit.” Seraphine collective said that they encourage open and honest expression of both feminist unity and differences. They believe that when people gather to create, perform and appreciate music, it has an unparalleled way of creating the authentic human relationships needed to collaboratively tackle all of the more “heavy” issues at hand in Detroit.

They also have hosted a series of community dialogues on rape culture in the Detroit music scene last spring.

As far as the future looks for Seraphine Collective, they aim to “keep exploring how music intersects with identity, community consciousness and various activism efforts in Detroit.” They want to continue supporting, building with, and learning from the people in Detroit who have been making music and art for generations.

Seraphine Collective hopes to keep growing and learning, especially from feminist organizations that have come before them. They are in the early planning stages of opening their own venue in partnership with Girls Rock Detroit and We Found Hip Hop.


FIERCE Empowerment: Hospitality Training Photo Story

My photo story is on the hospitality training session put on by FIERCE Staffing through the organization FIERCE Empowerment. Arielle Johnson, the founder of FIERCE, leads a group of women in a training session on hospitality to help them get a boost in the career field of hospitality.

What I learned from this project was that plans fall through and they fall through fast. I learned to always keep your options open and to plan for the unexpected. Putting together various pictures to build a story is truly a beautiful experience. Bringing this organization – and what they do – to life was my main goal. I plan to keep on finding more experiences to document through photography so I can create something just as special as this, again.

Make Your Empowerment FIERCE

After becoming pregnant in her sophomore year of college, Arielle Johnson decided that the support she received from family and friends should be available to all women.

In 2012, her senior year, Johnson created FIERCE Empowerment, an organization based in Detroit. The acronym for FIERCE explains the mission: Female Icons Encouraging Real Concepts of Empowerment. This is what Johnson intends to do with every program she offers through her organization.

Image result for fierce empowerment detroit

Photos courtesy of

FIERCE Empowerment is comprised of four pillars: FIERCE Mentors, FIERCE Professionals, FIERCE Communities and FIERCE Families.

FIERCE Mentors partners a young woman with a mentor. Activities and workshops are involved so the mentor and mentee have a guaranteed time and place to spend time together.

“Our mentors must be trained and make a commitment to having this consistent relationship for at least a year,” Johnson said.

FIERCE Professionals partners with Johnson’s for-profit sister company FIERCE Staffing or other organizations, to provide professional development opportunities to the women and girls they serve, without a charge.

FIERCE Staffing, a recently launched company, gives training and working opportunities in hospitality, for charge, to women who haven’t been to college.

“We have a group of ladies right now going through 12 weeks of hospitality training,” Johnson says, explaining that her background in hospitality inspired FIERCE Staffing.

FIERCE Communities sponsors diaper drives, community baby showers, Christmas events, food giveaways and clothing collections for women.

“It’s FIERCE giving back to the community,” Johnson said.

FIERCE Families provides parenting classes and themed playgroups where moms from different backgrounds come together and learn from each other. One recent playgroup focused on science and math.

“We made a prosthetic hand with straws and paper and talked about engineering,” Johnson said.

“I thought I was just going to a play date,” said Tiffany Rhymes, a woman who has been involved with FIERCE for three years, “but I also got education on how to make healthy meals and how to spread [out] money.”

Rhymes says FIERCE helped her socially and financially, while also helping her build a relationship with her daughter and to connect with other parents who have been through what she has.

“It helped my whole lifestyle,” Rhymes said.

Allyson Jones, the board chair of the organization, says the first time she saw FIERCE making a difference in someone’s life was at one of their Christmas events, where they provided gifts to many families in need.

“A mother broke down in tears, saying ‘Thank you, I’m glad that I not only can provide my sons with gifts, but with skills that can help my family,’” Jones said.

FIERCE is funded by individual donations through social media and by direct help from Arielle and her family.

“Its really great to say that we’ve been doing things for girls since 2012 and we’ve never had a large grant,” Johnson says, “just imagine what we can do when we finally have real funding.”

Detroit City FC Tryouts

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sports photography is the most difficult project I have worked on so far. From indoor arenas with horrible lighting to players moving too fast for me to capture that special shot, I prefer to maybe shoot more stationary people. But all in all, I would do it again. I found it challenging to take in the timing of it all. Players will make that special shot when you never expect it and I was always waiting for it, only to miss it and be disappointed. As the game went on I got better about sooting multiple photos at once during a climatic play. I enjoyed being out there in the middle of it all and feeling like I captured moments that others did not.

Take a look at my 10 best photos

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

During the camera controls unit in my photojournalism class I not only learned about aperture, ISO, shutter speed and white balance, but that my (boyfriend’s) camera is a monster from a nightmare that I’m finally not scared of anymore…or so I think.

Working a camera manually is one of the most rewarding challenges I could have taken on.

While working more and more with my camera I noticed that it really comes down to just four controls: white balance, shutter speed, f-stop (aperture) and ISO.

ISO is the absolute first thing you should set on your camera before shooting. It measures your camera’s sensitivity to light. The lower the number the less sensitive your camera will be to light and the higher the number the more sensitive your camera will be. For example, when I’m shooting outside on a sunny day, I usually will set my ISO to 200-400, but if I’m inside in a dim setting I’ll set it much higher.

Shutter speed is the next factor you can set. It controls how long your shutter opens and closes. So, the larger the number you set it to, then your camera can take a photo of an object in action without blur. If it’s at a lower number, like 1/60 (of a second) then you might want to use a tripod because your photo will turn out very blurry since your hands might start shaking at such a slow speed. Also, since shutter speed helps take action shots, here are the three main shots: panned, stopped and blurred. Panned action is when an object in motion is clear and the background is blurry. Stopped action is when the object in motion and the background are both clear. Lastly, blurred action is when the object in motion is blurred and the background is clear.

The next control you set is the f-stop, also known as aperture. It’s how much light is let into your camera. For example, if you set your aperture to 2.8, there is going to be a big opening so the most light can get in, which also creates a shallow depth of field, where the object closest to the lens is in focus and the rest is blurred out. But, if you set your aperture to 16, that will make the opening much smaller so less light can be let in, creating a wide depth of field, which means everything is in focus.

The last control you will set is white balance. To do this, first evaluate the light where you are planning on shooting, then set the ISO accordingly. After that, find something grey (since a camera meters the world in 18% grey) and meter that color in your white balance control tool on your camera. Then you’re all set to take that great photo!

Learning about these four controls was a lot to take in, but after practicing them, I now have a full understanding of what they do and how they can make your photo horrible, or a success!

The First Amendment and ethics

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

-the First Amendment

As an aspiring photojournalist, the laws and ethics that you have to follow have to be of extreme importance to you. Photojournalists should also want to follow these laws and ethics because they are there to help protect you, and others. The first amendment is what lets journalists get the photos and information they need for news reports. Along with the the first amendment, photojournalists also have to have good ethics.

The first amendment should means so much to me as a photojournalism student because I know I have the legal protection to pursue what I love. Freedom of the press allows me to put news and information out into the world that I believe other people have the right to know. The words I write and the photos I take belong to everybody else and the government shall not take that away.

Photojournalists have a lot of governmental freedom when it comes to getting photos for a news story, but not a lot of personal freedom. Our conscience can be our biggest enemy. Before getting that perfect shot for our story we have to face the dilemma of ethical decision making. Ethical decision-making is comprised of three different foundations: utilitarian, absolutist, and the golden rule. The frameworks of these three are described in the textbook, Photojournalism, The Professionals’ Approach, seventh edition, by Kenneth Kobré.

The utilitarian framework is described in the textbook as someone who is guided by “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” For example, if a utilitarian photojournalist comes across a deadly car crash they would choose to take the photo, since it would bring awareness to people for them to drive more safely.

The absolutist framework is much more constraining than utilitarian. Photojournalists who are absolutist decision makers will choose not to take a photo of the victims at a deadly car crash because they believe that people have a right to privacy. This photojournalist will miss a lot of opportunities.

Finally, the golden rule framework is guided by the quote, “Do unto others as you would have them do onto you.” The decisions made under this framework varies depending on what the photojournalist believes. Photos may be taken of a deadly car crash, if and only if, the photojournalist would want the same done to him or her.

As far as my ethical decision-making goes, I consider myself a utilitarian. I am a photojournalist because I want to help create change in our society through my photos and my words. I choose to take photos that will reflect reality and the only way to do that is through a utilitarian viewpoint.