Emerging Voices

Meet the inaugural class of the Detour Detroit Emerging Voices fellowship

Here at Detour, we’re so, so thrilled to announce the six inaugural fellows for our Emerging Voices program. Emerging Voices is designed to tell the story of Detroit’s present and future in the voice of its residents.

These six fellows, hailing from across the city of Detroit, will undergo a six-month immersive training in citizen journalism and engagement best practices. Fellows will produce stories for the Detour newsletter and partner news outlets and hold public events in their neighborhoods. 

The 2019 Detour Detroit Emerging Voices fellows are:

Sara Aldridge, East English Village
Jess Jackson, Bagley
Damon Mitchell, Lafayette Park/Northwest Detroit
Kevin Moore, Fort Street and Schaefer community in Southwest 
Gabriela Santiago-Romero, Chadsey-Condon 
Rhonda J. Smith, Russell Woods-Sullivan

We are intensely, incredibly proud of this fellowship class and excited to work with them — and learn from them, too! Though the local geographies and backgrounds of our fellows might be diverse, they have a few things in common — demonstrated commitment to the craft of storytelling, a sense of curiosity, and a passion for the people and places that make up the communities they call home.

sara aldridge

SARA ALDRIDGE has lived in Detroit for almost four decades and has been a continual ambassador for the city and the arts and culture scene. She graduated in 2005 from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. In addition to freelance writing and journalism, she previously worked as the Event Coordinator for Murals in the Market, owner of Our/Detroit and has over a decade of nonprofit work under her belt. Currently, Aldridge works for the College for Creative Studies and DJs as one half of the duo Nothing Elegant. Sara resides in East English Village with her husband and their four fur babies. 

jess jackson

JESS JACKSON is an educator, an advocate and a community curator. She is a native Detroiter raised on the Southwest side. After living outside of Michigan for the better part of a decade, she returned home for her family and purchased a home with her wife in Northwest Detroit. Jess is board Secretary for the Bagley Community Council, her neighborhood association, and wants to ensure that Detroit is a safe, welcoming and inclusive city for LGBT residents. 

damon mitchell

A native of Detroit’s west side, DAMON MITCHELL is a writer focused on neighborhoods and social justice. His work has appeared in Narratively, JSTOR Daily, Next City, and Detour.

kevin moore

KEVIN MOORE graduated from Wayne State University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. He is a former college athlete and played baseball for three years. He has a passion for writing and reporting and is excited to be a part of the Detour’s Emerging Voices Fellowship.


GABRIELA SANTIAGO-ROMERO is the Policy and Research Manager with We The People Michigan, based in Detroit. She’s an immigrant from Mexico and a Southwest Detroit native. She earned her Master of Social Work studying Social Policy and Evaluation with a focus on Community and Social Systems from the University of Michigan. She received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Detroit Mercy. Gabriela is a community activist and organizer who has extensive experience working for Detroit nonprofits and local government. Love and food fuel her work.

rhonda j smith

RHONDA J. SMITH is a lifelong Detroiter who resides in the Russell Woods-Sullivan area, where she has served on the neighborhood association board, written for its newsletter, organized activities in its parks and provided residents with tax foreclosure prevention information. With a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in communication, she has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years. Her work has appeared in outlets including The Detroit News, Newsday, Chicago Tribune and Wayne County Community College District publications.

MORE ABOUT THE FELLOWSHIP: Leading our Emerging Voices program is Detour program coordinator Ken Coleman. Ken is currently the education correspondent at Michigan Advance and an author of four books on black life in Detroit. He’s a former senior editor at the Michigan Chronicle and has served as a press secretary and spokesman for numerous Michigan politicians. 

After hosting three community meetings to publicize the program, we received dozens of quality applications for six fellowship slots — demonstrating the clear need for more local programming centered around helping Detroiters tell their own stories.

Emerging Voices was funded in January 2019 by the Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund, a partnership between the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, the Ford Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to increase the quality, outcomes and reach of journalism in the region, with an emphasis on engagement, innovation and the equitable recovery of Detroit.

Interested in supporting the Emerging Voices program as a sponsor? Email Ashley@detourdetroiter.com