Detroit public schools celebrating alumni during hall of fame gala weekend

Posted at 6:05 PM, May 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 13:53:18-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Detroit is home to some of the biggest names in entertainment, sports, politics and beyond.

That's why for one weekend in May, the Detroit Public Schools Community District is calling on all alumni to come home for the very first star-studded hall of fame gala and celebration. It's kicking off May 19 at the Fox Theatre.

7 Action News’ Carolyn Clifford sat down with Tyrone Winfrey, who is leading the effort to put this grand weekend together.

From rapper Big Sean to the late queen of soul Aretha Franklin to Hollywood actress Chante Adams, Detroit schools can boast of graduates from all over the world with jaw dropping accomplishments.

Roz Brewer, the CEO of Walgreens, is a Cass Technical High School alum and one of only two Black females leading Fortune 500 companies. But the success stories are endless.

Grammy winner Allee Willis died in 2019, but her accomplishments live on.

“Allee Willis is a graduate of Mumford. She's Jewish, used to hang out around Motown,” said Winfrey, the executive director Come Home.

Willis wrote Earth Wind & Fire's “Boogie Wonderland” and "September,” as well as the soundtracks for “Beverly Hills Cop” and “The Color Purple.”

Her legacy will be one of the many honored during the very first Come Home Alumni Hall of Fame Gala and weekend celebration.

“On May 28 last year, I'm meeting with the rock star superintendent, my boss Dr. Nikolai Vitti,” Winfrey said. “He says, ‘I want you to put together a signature black tie gala for our alumni.’”

It's been a year in the making with advisory and planning groups with too many names to list. But Bishop Charles Ellis of Greater Grace Temple, a graduate of Mumford High School and Rev. Wendell Anthony, a graduate of Central High School, are co-chairs.

“We're so excited because it has grown from an idea to now planning and now production,” Winfrey said.

The weekend will kick off Thursday at the Fox Theatre with an evening of fine arts.

“That's where our students, orchestra, band, dance, singing, vocal, they get a chance to perform,” Winfrey said.

On Friday alums will visit their schools followed by an evening of meet and greet at the Detroit Athletic Club.

“We're excited about that,” Winfrey said.

On Saturday, there will be a bike stroll.

“They're going to see some historic sites in Detroit, some historic African American sites in Detroit, so they're going to lead people around the city of Detroit on a bike,” Winfrey said.

That afternoon, they’ll participate in the alumni “Taste of Livernois,” a 1 mile stretch for a block party.

“It has been said between 7 and 8 Mile, it's the largest compilation of African American businesses in the entire nation,” Winfrey said.

On Sunday, you can worship with alumni pastors including Rev. Solomon Kinloch of Triumph Church and graduate of Northwestern High School. Then there will be a big red carpet event Sunday evening with Detroit's own.

Clifford and retired Fox 2 anchor Huel Perkins will co-host the event at Huntington Place, formerly the TFC Center and Cobo Hall.

“When you walk in, you will see all these different performances before you get into the ballroom,” Winfrey said. “We've invited (gospel singer) Fred Hammond, we've invited Bishop (Marvin) Winans.”

But in the end, Come Home is not about big names but more about 50,000 DPSCD kids seeing what's possible from their own backyard.

“We want our alums to not only come home, we want them to give back,” Winfrey said.

The whole weekend is being paid for by ticket sales, sales of tables and sponsorships. If you want more information, visit detroitk12.org/comehome or call 313-873-6890.