Governor makes a surprise visit to Juneteenth celebration

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made a surprise visit to Wednesday’s Juneteenth event at the Historic Hamtramck Baseball Stadium where she signed a bill into law making May 2 “Negro Leagues Day.” Photo by Konrad Maziarz


By Charles Sercombe
It’s been a whirlwind week of recent activities at Veterans Park, which included a surprise visit by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the historic signing of a bill.
And this being Hamtramck, Whitmer’s unannounced visit turned into political intrigue. More on this later.
The festive week began this past Saturday, when the new playscape in the front of the park was dedicated as “The Elaine and Roger Zatkoff Playground.”
The Zatkoff Family Legacy Fund donated money to purchase and install the play equipment.
Ashley Plamp, the granddaughter of Elaine and Roger, was on hand to talk about her vision for the playscape – which is very toddler friendly.
“As a mom of three, I worked so hard on the design to give it things moms know kids love (and moms love). It has a dedicated tot structure for (ages) 2-5, as well as a 5-12 structure so you can watch your kids on one spot, as well as swings. It has specific structures to make it accessible for all kids,” Plamp said in a press release.
Next up was a Juneteenth celebration on Wednesday at Hamtramck’s historic baseball stadium, with Gary Gillette, Founder and Chairman of the friends of Historic Hamtramck Baseball Stadium, acting as master of ceremonies.
The stadium is a historic site where the famed Negro League played ball back in the 1930s, a time when Black baseball players were not yet allowed to participate in all-white Major League Baseball.
Some of the most gifted and famous players played ball here, including, we are told, Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays (who just died the day before this event at the age of 93). Detroit’s own legendary player Norman Thomas “Turkey” Stearnes made baseball history here with his mighty bat.
The event included a surprise visit and bill signing by none other than both Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lieutenant Gov. Garlin Gilchrist.
What Whitmer signed was a bill crafted by State Rep. Helena Scott (D), to designate May 2 “Negro Leagues Day” here in Michigan.
Scott, whose uncle Ron Teasley was also a Negro League star player, said, of her bill:
“We cannot forget the history of our nation.”
She added that the new May 2 holiday is “a tribute to trailblazers.”
Noting the historical significance of the stadium, Gov. Whitmer said “legends played here.”
She also gave a nod to the massive renovation done to the stadium, courtesy of various recent grants.
“I am so proud this stadium was restored,” she said.
After she spoke, she sat at a small table, set up next to the lectern on the baseball field, surrounded by young Black baseball players, and signed the bill into law.
In a press release, Whitmer said, of the May 2 holiday:
“This league was not only a crucial part of baseball history but also a testament to the strength, resilience and talents of Black athletes who overcame significant barriers to play the game that they loved. By commemorating this day, we pay tribute to their legacy, and ensure that their stories of perseverance continue to inspire future generations.”
Hamtramck’s own State Rep. Abraham Aiyash also attended, and added a personal touch by recounting that, as a middle school student, he played baseball on this field, ”right there on first base. … I was known as a clean-up hitter.”
After the speech-making — amid a sweltering 90-plus degree day — a home run derby followed, with a baseball game scheduled after.
But right before that, the daughters of “Turkey” Stearnes, Joyce and Rosilyn, gave a rousing rendition of the national anthem, as well as “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is referred to as the “National Black Anthem.”
Noticeably absent were the mayor and city councilmembers.
Later in the day, Mayor Amer Ghalib posted on his Facebook page that he was not made aware of the governor’s visit, and that he was not pleased about it.
“The mayor, city officials and administration didn’t know about this surprise visit,” Ghalib said, referring to himself in the third person.
Ghalib continued:
“We will conduct an investigation to find out where the disconnect and miscommunication were?
“If it was from the governor’s team, I understand that she doesn’t like me for some reason, and I’ll take that as an expected unprofessional and disrespectful behavior to neglect the city leadership when coming to an event in our city.
“President Biden’s team sent me an official invitation days before he came to Factory Zero in Hamtramck/Detroit, and I went and received him there!!
“But if city staff or officials were responsible for this miscommunication and disrespectful behavior, then we know how to fix that kind of behavior.”
Ghalib did not explain why he thinks Gov, Whitmer doesn’t “like him.”
The mayor and city council were invited to the event by Konrad Maziarz, a member of the Hamtramck Parks Conservancy, prior to Wednesday at the last city council meeting.
The governor’s office said her visit was decided on at the last minute, and had nothing to do with politics.
On former Mayor Karen Majewski’s Facebook page, State Rep. Abraham Aiyash said he found out about the governor coming to town just before her arrival.
“It was a very last minute decision. For what it’s worth, I was notified less than an hour before the event,” he said. “Definitely wasn’t anything nefarious.”
Posted June 21, 2024

2 Responses to Governor makes a surprise visit to Juneteenth celebration

  1. love will tear us apart, AGAIN

    June 22, 2024 at 9:30 pm

    is it necessary that Ghalib does everything karen thinks he should do? Is it odd if he doesn’t attend the same function as governor whitmore? what was necessary is he acknowledged juneteenth in his own way and karen’s measuring stick is not the judge niether is whitmore’s and neither is the metro times.

  2. Maryann Whitty

    June 23, 2024 at 2:22 pm

    I was interested in the way that Ghalib chose to recognize Juneteenth…which was nothing. That speaks for itself, I think.

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