Lifelong Learning + Freedom of Expression: Art + Book in a Detroit Neighborhood

Lifelong Learning + Freedom of Expression: Art + Book in a Detroit Neighborhood

University of Michigan 2015 Semester in Detroit
University of Michigan 2015 Semester in Detroit students (SID) students. Source: SID Facebook page

“Freedom of expression is an inalienable human right, necessary to self-government, vital to the resistance of oppression, and crucial to the course of justice.                      —American Library Association Policy 53.1.12 

Two of the great lifelong learning resources in the Detroit “Cass Corridor” neighborhood where my late husband Charles lived (and I still do,) are Source Booksellers, a local indie bookstore and the University of Michigan Detroit Center, a satellite of the University’s Ann Arbor campus.

Last week for the third time I had a great experience in the neighborhood with students in U of M Detroit’s “Semester in Detroit” (SID) program.  SID is a program for students that participate by living in Detroit for a semester, take classes  and complete an internship with a nonprofit organization in the city.

Janet Jones, Source Booksellers
Janet Jones, Owner, Source Booksellers with Charles Novacek’s award-winning book. Source: American Express, Detroit: Making the Most of Small Business Saturday

I was one of three speakers invited by Janet Jones, Source Booksellers owner, to speak to the students at her store about the history, people and changes in my neighborhood where I was actually born decades ago.

Since it was the opening day of Midtown Detroit’s “Art X,” a 3 week festival celebrating the arts, I talked with the students about the importance of the FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION through art, literature, etc., and how as a child Charles wanted to be an artist and go to art school but during World War II Hitler closed all the art schools in Czechoslovakia and his dream was extinguished.

"Still Life at 13" by Charles Novacek
“Still Life at 13” by Charles Novacek

I showed them an original still life painting of tulips in a vase Charles had painted at age 13. I told them how almost 50 years later after retirement at age 65 he finally realized his dream and received a MFA in painting from Eastern Michigan University. This was just a few years after he had received a BGS from the University of Michigan in Dearborn. He took many writing classes there to prepare for his goal of writing a book about his life under totalitarian oppression in Europe during World War II and the Cold War.

Charles started writing his memoir at home in the neighborhood in 2000. He died in July 2007 a few months after he completed it.  I independently published the book, Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance in 2012 and it is now on the shelves of Charles’ and my neighborhood bookstore and at some of the greatest local lifelong learning resources – the University of Michigan and Detroit Public libraries where the freedom of expression is paramount.

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