Keith Taylor

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All this year, Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition host Christina Shockley has been speaking with people from all walks of life about what 3 things they think we can all do to help improve the state. Our series is called “Three Things” and today, Christina speaks with author and poet Keith Taylor. (photo by Robert Turney)

Keith Taylor begins by urging Michigan residents to buy locally, but with a cultural twist. Taylor wants Michiganders to engage with the culture here in Michigan. He says, “Go to the play at the local high school or the local community college… If you’re going to buy a novel, don’t buy the James Patterson novel that they advertise on TV. Buy Elmore Leonard. He’s better anyway.”

As to how this might affect Michigan, Taylor believes that the redefinition of Michigan must take place culturally as well as economically. In order to redefine Michigan’s culture, Taylor says, “We have to have an audience, and there has to be an audience involved. This is not just a one-way street that comes from artists or cultural arbiters down to an audience. Almost always it’s the other way around. It comes from the audience up.”

School funding is the focus of Mr. Taylor’s second idea for the state of Michigan. Using the success of the Kalamazoo Promise as an example, Taylor says, “An investment in education has an incredible and very rapid effect on our quality of life and the quality of goods and services that are available to us.”

As to how school funding could be affected by an individual, Mr. Taylor points to simple things such as voting for a school millage. Taylor believes that even if you don’t have children, refusing to vote for a school millage may result in negative consequences for your community. He says, “That may affect the kinds of restaurants you have to go out to eat in. That may affect how often they pave your street. That may have effects you can’t even imagine.”

Mr. Taylor’s third idea is all about Detroit. While many may wish to discard the city now that the auto industry has crashed, Taylor warns against such thinking. “The state will not recover, the state will not be lifted up until the economy of Detroit is integrated with the rest of the state,” he says. Taylor continues, “There’re a lot of people who live there, still. It’s a big area. It is an economic hub. It is certainly a cultural hub… We have to have Detroit be part of our thinking.”

Regarding ways to get people to see what Detroit has to offer, Taylor urges people to change their attitude about Detroit. “I have never felt threatened in Detroit,” says Taylor, adding, “I feel very comfortable in Detroit, but I know lots of people all around the state who are afraid of the city, for whatever reason.”

While familiarity with the city may be the only way for Michiganders to grow comfortable with Detroit, Taylor says, “It is our major city. It is our experience of an urban environment. And the urban environment is part of the world culture right now, and if we want to experience it we have to experience it in Detroit.”

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About “Three Things”

Throughout 2010, Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley asked artists, politicians, business owners, teachers, and people from all walks of life to give us their three ideas for things each of us can do to revive our state.
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