FLINT, Michigan — Beginning in mid-August, Flintside’s 'On The Ground
' series has been in the Ballenger Highway
neighborhood, telling stories of the local businesses and residents that call the area home. Ballenger Highway is the fifth neighborhood in the 'On The Ground' series, following Brownell-Holmes, Civic Park, Eastside Franklin Park, and Sarvis Park.
In mid-September, a call went out to residents in the area to participate in the Journalism Fellowship
workshop. Jerimiah Whitehead, Billie Dantzler, and Michell Thompson were the three members from the Ballenger Highway neighborhood who participated in Flintside’s Community Correspondent Journalism Course.
The course is an intensive month-long workshop that allows participants to learn about journalism, study techniques and skills for writing articles and taking photos, and information about the Greater Flint media landscape.
A culmination project includes writing an article to be published on Flintside beginning early next year. The course was facilitated by Flintside’s emeritus editor, Patrick Hayes, with assistance from Flintside’s managing editor, Tia Scott.
Below is a brief introduction to Flintside’s Community Correspondent’s newest cohort.
Michell Thompson expresses her desire to "get out in the community and find out some things that's going on" in downtown Flint on Nov. 18, 2023. (Anthony Summers | Flintside.com)
Resilient is one of many words to describe Flint resident Michell Thompson
. The amateur photographer and storyteller has spent much of her life raising three children and two grandchildren. When she’s not busy working at Kettering University, she’s traveling, seeing “beauty in my [eyes] and [wanting] to capture what I see in my camera.” With some initial reservations about joining the Journalism Fellowship group, she understands that “it’s all about being part of something bigger than” herself.
That something bigger includes telling her story and speaking up about the struggles with having Multiple Sclerosis although it hasn’t stopped her. Instead, it’s fueled her desire to step outside her comfort zone and enjoy life.
Her motivations for being a Community Correspondent reside in her wanting to “get out in the community and find out some things that’s going on. Get out, tell some stories, and share what’s going on with people who may not be aware of what’s [happening.] Even if it doesn’t last, I had an article published.”
Billie Dantzler believes that "if nobody tells the story, nobody will know" inside Totem Books on November 20, 2023. (Anthony Summers | Flintside.com)Billie Dantzler
brings decades of wisdom to this year’s Community Correspondents. Always embedding jokes within life lessons, Dantzler operates with a unique purpose. She hopes everyone crossing paths with her will “stop and say, ‘Do I have a library card?’
As a Children’s Learning Specialist at the Gloria Coles Flint Public Library, the Early Childhood educator spent much of her early years making sure Flint’s children “develop according to their age,” and now, running the Little Explorers and soon-to-be Time Travelers Club at the library.
But when she’s not doing that, she’s added Community Correspondent to her resume. With colleagues and friends who are published authors, Dantzler intends to “share some of those hidden stories” that Flint holds — notably what’s happening within the Ballenger Highway Coalition. She believes that with a pen and notepad, “if nobody tells the story, nobody will know the leg work that went into making that park what it is now,” or anything for that matter.
Pictured inside Totem Books on Nov. 17, 2023, author and poet Jerimiah Whitehead brings an empathic writing to leave readers with the question, "If not you, then who? If not now, then when?" (Jenifer Veloso | Flintside.com)
Author, poet, actor, and cancer survivor Jerimiah Whitehead
has long dreamed of being a poet. The inspiration came from an after-school teacher who gifted him with a book of poems by Maya Angelou. With a sly smile, he immediately said, “Let me see if I can be better.”
That sense of confidence and bravado has served Whitehead well over the last several years of his life — particularly when it comes to his battle with cancer. The diagnosis shifted everything but pushed him to throw caution to the wind, pursue his dream, and say, “A poetry book it is!”
But cancer didn’t and hasn’t slowed Whitehead down one bit. He released his first poetry book, I Shall Be Released
, and has decided to bring his emphatic storytelling abilities to the Community Correspondent group.
In dealing with challenges surrounding his sexuality, family, and relationships, he asserts that “I’m nobody’s victim,” and it is something he intends to pass on to those he interviews. Though more than anything, he lives with the saying, “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?”
Be on the lookout for the Community Correspondent’s articles to be published in early 2024.