What are you most excited for in Washtenaw County in 2022?

With 2022 upon us, we've asked each of our staffers to weigh in on what they're most excited for in Washtenaw County in the new year.
Here at Concentrate we're all about keeping on top of what's next for Washtenaw County, so we've made a bit of a tradition of ending each year by looking to the year ahead. With 2022 upon us, we've asked each of our staffers to weigh in on what they're most excited for in Washtenaw County in the new year – just as we did in 2019, 2018, and 2017. And we were surprised by the diversity of results, ranging from new parks and trails to advances in criminal justice policy. Take a gander at our staff's picks and then tell us your own in the comments. Happy New Year!

The following views are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily represent Concentrate as a whole.

Sabine Bickford Brown, news writer: I’m looking forward to seeing what Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit is going to do with his second year in office. Since he took office in January 2021, his groundbreaking policies, like the elimination of cash bail, have been making headlines. He has several new efforts set to begin in 2022, most notable of which might be the new Conviction Integrity and Expungement Unit. The unit will focus on both investigating wrongful convictions and clearing old criminal records, which are often used to discriminate against disenfranchised individuals. Savit’s office also recently introduced a new Economic Justice Unit, which will focus on protecting workers and consumers by holding those who commit economic harms, like wage theft, accountable. I’m excited to see the positive effects that these policies and units will hopefully have on our communities.
Washtenaw County prosecutor Eli Savit.
Doug Coombe, managing photographer: I’m most excited for the Amplify Fellowship class of 2022. The goal of the fellowship, sponsored by Ypsilanti's Grove Studios and Ann Arbor's Leon Speakers, is to nurture and give a leg up to African-American musicians in Washtenaw County. When the fellowship's 2021 class was announced I was excited to see one artist I loved (Dani Darling) and two fantastic artists completely new to me (London Beck and Kenyatta Rashon). Similarly, the class of 2022 consists of one of my favorite local artists (Ki5) and a new artist I look forward to hearing more from (Lorian Janine).

It was exciting to see the success of the 2021 Amplify Fellowship. All the artists put out great records and enjoyed high-profile gigs with the help of mentorship from Grove Studios and Leon Speakers. Southeast Michigan has always been a hotbed of musical talent. It’s exciting to see all the generational and institutional knowledge getting passed on to new talent. And in a day and age when a lot of great albums are recorded (or at least demoed) at home, it’s nice to see some technical knowledge being passed along to the artists too.

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder, chief news writer and feature writer: This past year I wrote an article that was especially powerful for me. I had the privilege to interview 10 of Washtenaw County's women leaders of Asian heritage. Their willingness to honestly share their experiences, challenges, hopes, and dreams – for themselves, their families, and every resident in Washtenaw County – was astounding. Within our community these women work tirelessly in their respective sectors to make our county better, not just for today, but for the future. Confined by a word limit, I was unable to share everything I wanted to about the deep thinking, insight, and initiatives these women are championing. After the article was published, I heard from many of these women about their commitment to continue to dismantle barriers and address issues head-on in tangible and impactful ways. I don't know what that will look like, but I'm excited to find out.
Trista Van Tine, Nhu Do, Linette Lao, Linh Song, Praveena Ramaswami, and Yen Azzaro meet at Gallup Park.
Patrick Dunn, managing editor: While researching a feature story on Michigan's growing acceptance of psychedelic medicine earlier this year, I was impressed to see how much of that movement is centered in Washtenaw County. Ann Arbor is notably only the third city in the U.S. to decriminalize entheogens – an umbrella term for psychoactive plants like psilocybin, peyote, and ayahuasca. And the advocates who led the Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor campaign have now launched a statewide movement called Decriminalize Nature Michigan. This past November, their efforts helped lead to a successful ballot proposal to decriminalize entheogens in Detroit. They've also seeded efforts in Grand Rapids, East Lansing, and Hazel Park, and they're also working with state Sen. Jeff Irwin as a sponsor of a statewide decriminalization bill.

Given the strong therapeutic effects these substances can have, and the sacred cultural traditions tied to them, I'm looking forward to seeing what else local advocates can accomplish to make them more accessible and safe to use.

Monica Hickson, feature and news writer: In the past six years that I have lived in Washtenaw County, I have been thankful to work in both technology and diversity fields. I have had the pleasure to interview several people in both of these fields and I have appreciated their candidness. I’m looking forward to seeing all of the hard work that people are doing in both fields. The intersection of technology and diversity is where true creativity and collaboration begins.

Organizations such as Cahoots and the nonprofit Tech[Inclusive], among others, are shaking up the tech industry in Washtenaw County. I am thrilled to see what is happening in these traditionally white male-dominated areas, and eager to see the new faces in these tech spaces. When I heard the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners had approved three new diversity positions to support diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives I was elated. I like the direction the pendulum is swinging. I am excited to see the next generation – from all backgrounds – reach new heights in all aspects of technology, including artificial intelligence and programming. 
Brandon Martin at Cahoots.
Jenn McKee, feature writer: You may not realize it, but a seismic shift in the local theater community is now underway, and I’m on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what happens in 2022. Chelsea’s Purple Rose Theatre, founded by Jeff Daniels in 1991, has been fielding accusations of abuse and discrimination from a number of artists and former apprentices, as reported in an extensive, seven-part OnStage Blog series. Artistic Director Guy Sanville – the person at the center of the controversy, and the public face of the Rose for more than 25 years – is stepping down from his post, according to a letter sent to Rose donors. His departure marks the start of a new era at the professional theater.
 
Will the company continue its mission to produce new plays, with an eye toward highlighting Midwestern voices? Or will it chart an entirely new course under the guiding hand of a different artistic director? And in either case, will Rose theatergoers come back? There’s no telling – which is the upside of shake-ups, I suppose. The Rose, previously a known quantity, is suddenly all potential and possibilities again. Pass the popcorn.
Rob Najarian and Aphrodite Nikolovski in Talley's Folly at The Purple Rose Theatre Company.
Sarah Rigg, On the Ground Ypsilanti project manager: I have always enjoyed using Washtenaw County's parks and trails, so seeing some of the projects I've reported on come to fruition has been fun. In 2022, I'm looking forward to seeing the completion of projects that help pedestrians and cyclists connect safely between the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, improvements to the Border-to-Border trail, and more. Access to safe outdoor spaces for recreation has been such a blessing during the pandemic, and I'm so grateful Washtenaw County's people and government invest in our parks and trails. On a selfish note, I recently adopted a puppy, so I'm hoping for some progress on Ypsi Township's plans for an off-leash dog park in 2022!