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Terry Blackhawk

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Detroit Snob Appeal

Posted: 02/22/2012 2:43 pm

A snobberie, a soire, a sassy fashion gathering, a sip, a shop and a salute -- all of this, as well as a whole lot of poetry, will be going on Thursday, Feb. 23 from 5 to 8 p.m. in Rachel Lutz's remarkable Peacock Room in Detroit's Park Shelton Hotel. Friends, writers, Detroit snobs and other cool folks will all come together in a fundraising appeal for InsideOut Literary Arts Project. As the founder -- and, as I like to say, fairy godmother of InsideOut -- I am beyond touched by the magic and the dedication of Rachel, InsideOut's Nichole Christian and Board Member Desiree Cooper in bringing this together.

Last summer Rachel was at a meeting when she got an urgent phone call: All renovation work on the space she had rented in the Park Shelton, where she was in pursuit of a long time dream to open a fashion/resale vintage boutique, had to stop. Immediately. Nothing more could be done until she came to see what was going on. Worries about black mold or something worse quickly dissipated, however, when she reached the site. Above the dreary dropped ceiling and below the even drearier carpet, the workers had discovered splendor: marble floors, pillars, mirrors and carved ceilings of the Park Shelton's 1920s dining room. Within a few months the Peacock Room was open for business as a focal point and special Midtown destination, where one could not only find great bargains but also engage in great, thoughtful conversation and "kindred love," as one their fans writes, with the owner.

Rachel's caring, entrepreneurial spirit is matched by another of Thursday's hosts: Desiree Cooper whose "Detroit Snob" line of t-shirts has, like the Peacock Room, taken off in just a few months in surprising directions. Hundreds of Detroiters now proudly bear the flash and bling of her sparkle-studded shirts. While the idea of Detroit snobbery may, to the outside world, seem like a walking contradiction, true snobs relish that irony. The line carries an ethos, a motto and a guide to behavior that is equal parts backbone and compassion. As she writes, "It's not just a slogan, it's a mentality, a community, a way of life." Through her blog and the inspiring stories about Detroiters that she discovers wherever she turns, Desiree has created a way of being in the world. With media the world over descending on Detroit, hot to define, scrutinize or otherwise shape our stories, we have answers here at hand: gems of hidden initiative that, like the elegance of the Peacock Room, stand ready to reveal their beauty and resilience.

For me, Thursday night will be about the beauty and resilience of the youth we serve, who bear witness to their lives through the words we help them to use. I am truly overwhelmed by the generosity and spirit behind this event. The Snob Soiree at the Peacock Room will bring in 10 percent of the store's total proceeds, $10 for every t-shirt, 15 percent of textile artist Carole Harris's incomparable scarves, and 100 percent of sales from my new book as folks shop, sip and enjoy poetry. And all will be matched by a generous challenge grant from Bob Shaye, InsideOut's founding benefactor, whose $25,000 the soiree will help us raise, so that we can keep Leon (below) and thousands of children like him to bring their imaginations to light.

"The Inside"

Inside this pencil
O is arguing with Q
because Q is a circle
with a line in it.

Inside this pencil
A is stabbing P
for no real reason.

Inside this pencil
M is playing tag
with W and L

is about to be
turned into Leon.
Inside this pencil

D is about to be
a donut and B
is burning up

W which was
about to be wood.

Leon Higgins
Grade 5, Mark Twain Academy