news & recent appearances

Tuskegee Airman Celebrates 100th Birthday, Gifted Key to Detroit

Nov 15, 2021

Lt. Col. Jefferson will forever be etched in the city’s history for his noble service to the country and local community. “You were a boy who grew into a young man who have become a decorated pilot, and again, I say this with all seriousness, who helped save the world,” said Rochelle Riley, Detroit ACE Director.

Kresge Foundation among first annual City of Detroit arts and culture honorees

Oct 27, 2021

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan commemorated International Artist Day this week with an announcement of the inaugural Detroit ACE Honors, which salute  achievement by artists and arts patrons who have contributed more than 25 years of service to the Detroit arts and culture scene.

A ceremony, to be held in January, will present each honoree with a Detroit ACE medal of excellence. The event will also unveil the members of the Detroit Council of the Arts, who will choose recipients in subsequent years.

New Arts Complex Aims to Build Community in Detroit

Oct 26, 2021

“If we knew how the gallery world worked, I don’t know that we would have jumped into it,” said JJ Curis, who, with her husband, Anthony Curis, founded an art gallery, the Library Street Collective, in 2012, in a once-derelict alleyway. But she feels their naïveté going into that first venture may have allowed them to conduct future business with an unconventional mind-set.

Mayor Press Conference Detroit ACE Honors

Oct 25, 2021

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggin on local ACE honors for International Artist Day.

Duggan appoints Detroit’s first historian to highlight African Americans’ contributions to the city

Oct 25, 2021

Mayor Mike Duggan on Monday announced the appointment of Jamon Jordan, an educator and history tour guide, to serve as the city’s first historian, an honorary position intended to highlight Detroit’s unique and compelling story.

In Conversation with Rochelle Riley at Browseabout Books

Oct 20, 2021 @ 5pm EDT

Rochelle Riley in conversation at Browseabout Books of Rehoboth Beach, DE for this virtual event.

Critical Conversations: World Afro Day

Sep 15, 2021
The City of Detroit spoke with professional hair stylists and Detroiters on their personal experiences and tips for rocking their hair naturally.

Examining art and creativity’s role in healing the community during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

Sep 1, 2021
“My office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship was thrilled to partner with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and Cranbrook Art Museum and the TCF Center to do The Healing Memorial one year after we did the memorial on Belle Isle to give people the chance to mourn.”

New Healing Memorial at TCF Center creates space to reflect, remember

Sep 1, 2021

A blank wall in Detroit’s TCF Center is a now a large scale art installation dedicated to loss and healing amid COVID-19 — one pouch at a time.

The installation, called the Healing Memorial, was unveiled Tuesday on the third floor of  TCF’s north end near the intersection of Congress and Washington.

Healing Memorial at TCF Center memorializes COVID victims

Aug 31, 2021

Starting September 4, you are welcome to visit The Healing Memorial installation located at TCF Center. Please enter the TCF Center at the corner of Washington and Congress and take the first elevators or escalators you see up one floor to level 3.

Young readers see Black icons as children like them in ‘That They Lived’

Aug 30, 2021

Heroes spur all children toward greatness. A new book introduces youngsters to inspiring lives in Black history. “That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed the World,” by Rochelle Riley and Cristi Smith-Jones (Wayne State University Press, Feb. 2021, 160 pp. $16.99), highlights achievements rooted in perseverance and love of humanity.

New Headstone for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Jamerson

Aug 27, 2021

Rochelle joined family and friends to unveil a new headstone at the grave of James Jamerson, named by Rolling Stone magazine as the greatest bass player of all time. One of Motown’s Funk Brothers, Jamerson played on almost all of Motown’s hits in the 1960s and early 70s. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

City of Detroit Pays Tribute to Aaliyah

Aug 25, 2021
Rochelle and Detroit ACE hosted a City of Detroit tribute to Aaliyah on the 20th anniversary of her death. The celebration featured videos of the 22-year-old superstar projected into Detroit’s City Hall above the Spirit of Detroit statue.

Historical marker commemorates Detroit’s late, great Black Bottom neighborhood

August 9, 2021
On Monday community leaders, historians, and those who called Detroit’s famous Black Bottom home, gathered to celebrate the dedication of a historical marker to honor the once-famous neighborhood and to recall the truth about its past.

Detroit’s Former Black Bottom Neighborhood Gets Historical Marker

July 26, 2021
Rochelle and the Detroit ACE Office helped dedicate a new state historical marker for Black Bottom, the vibrant neighborhood that, along with neighboring Paradise Valley and Hastings Street, once made up the main commercial corridor for Detroit’s African American communities. The area was destroyed decades ago because of urban renewal programs and highway construction.

NWS Presents: An Evening with Rochelle Riley

May 13, 2021
Every famous person was once a child who, in some cases, overcame great obstacles to achieve success. That’s the enduring lesson of Rochelle Riley’s “That They Lived,” which features the biographies and photographs of famous African Americans.

Evita of Nomadness Travel Tribe interviews Rochelle Riley; celebrating been-ups and start-ups

May 1, 2021
Evita stops by EastEats, to chat with Director of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (ACE) for the City of Detroit, Rochelle Riley. Hear how the evolution of Detroit and it’s magnetism is powered by its native and residents that stayed, helped and continue to help the city grow.

NWS Presents: An Evening with Imbolo Mbue

March 22, 2021
From a sub-Saharan African village to Flint Michigan, the National Writers Series discusses the inspirations for and the creation of Imbole Mbue’s newest book, “How Beautiful We Were.” With guest host Rochelle Riley, the director of Arts and Culture for the city of Detroit, and an award-winning former columnist for the Detroit Free Press.

Rochelle appears at the Northwest African-American Museum

February 28, 2021
Join author Rochelle Riley and Brenda Leaks, Head of Seattle Girls’ School, for a riveting conversation about Riley’s newest book “That They Lived.”

Detroit ACE: Source Booksellers

February 27, 2021
Join author Rochelle Riley, Alice Randall, and Detroit mayor Mike Duggan. 

Witness to History: Les Payne and the search for Malcolm X

February 25, 2021
Les Payne, The late Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for Newsday made it his life’s work to uncover the man behind the legendary Black Muslim minister and activist. Payne’s thirty-year journey led him to pen “The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X.” Recently published following his death in 2018, Les Payne’s daughter Tamara joins his friends and colleagues to discuss the National Book Award winning biography, the author and the responsibility of Black journalists like Payne to chronicle history as it is.

Detroit Arts Culture and Entrepreneurship Official Discusses Art Healing Society and Her New Book

February 17, 2021
Rochelle Riley, Director of Arts and Culture at the Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship for the City of Detroit and Author of “That They Lived” talks about her new book, as well as the importance of arts and culture to the City of Detroit and as an ambassador for the motor city.

A Zoom Talk with Rochelle Riley

February 11, 2021
Author Rochelle Riley discusses her newest book “THAT THEY LIVED –
African Americans that Changed the World”

Pages Bookshop Virtually Presents Rochelle Riley

February 11, 2021
We are thrilled to have author Rochelle Riley back at Pages virtually for her latest book “That They Lived” a book that fills in gaps in the history that American children have been taught for generations. For African American children, it will prove that they are more than descendants of the enslaved. For all children, it is a book that shows that every child can achieve great things and work together to make the world a better place for all.

Ferndale Library Podcast Interview with Rochelle Riley

February 4, 2021
Rochelle Riley recently ended a 20-year career as a nationally-syndicated, award-winning Detroit columnist in 2019 to become the City of Detroit’s Director of Arts and Culture. In 2018, she published ‘The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery,’ and she’s just followed that up with a new book, ‘That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed the World.’

New Kids Book By Former Free Press Columnist Highlights Accomplishments Of Black Americans

February 3, 2021 | Published on
As part of Black History Month, WKAR’s Scott Pohl talks with Riley about “That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed The World”.

That They Lived: African Americans That Changed The World

February 2, 2021
MLK, Jr Birthday Committee and the Teaneck Public Library Present “That They Lived: African Americans That Changed The World” –An Interview with Author Rochelle Riley.

Rochelle Riley interviews Elizabeth Atkins, Stephanie Williams on telling black stories

February 2, 2021 | Published on
Rochelle Riley interviews Stephanie Williams of Wayne State University Press and Elizabeth Atkins, CEO of Two Sisters Writing and Publishing about helping more African American authors tell their stories. It’s a part of the Undefeated campaign to celebrate Detroit’s contributions to American excellence in arts and culture.

Detroit Kicks off a Yearlong Celebration of Arts and Culture With Black History Month Programs

February 2, 2021 | Published on
The city’s Undefeated initiative will showcase local artists and performers with digital events.

City of Detroit showcases artists as kickoff to Black History Month

January 31, 2021 | Published on ClickOnDetroit
Yearlong celebration of arts and culture will showcase Detroit’s creativity and contributions.

Stand for Something: Martin Luther King Jr. Day Panel Discussion

January 18, 2021 | Streamed live on YDetroit
The YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit presented this panel with Rochelle Riley on Monday, January 18th 2021 from 10:30 to 12:pm on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X Author Talk

October 30, 2020 | Streamed live on YouTube
Source Booksellers hosted this interview full of insights on the life of Malcolm X.

How Do I Do That? with Rochelle Riley and Lisa Sauve

September 29, 2020 | CultureSource
Public arts projects, whether large or small scale, can feel incredibly daunting. So how do they get done? Tune into a series of 30-minute conversations with innovators and leaders in local and national public arts where we’ll race the clock to hear about their work and how do it.

Women in #Activism

September 12, 2020
Video from the Women in #Activism: Steps to Take Everyday to Make Change #DetroitTogetherDigital Panel.

Rochelle Riley, Director of Arts & Culture for the City of Detroit

June 3, 2020
Rochelle Riley, the Director of Arts & Culture for the City of Detroit and the former columnist at the Detroit Free Press, joins Seth and Becky to talk about the protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

Columnist Rochelle Riley: On Race, Journalism, and Healing

June 2020 | Hannah Davis on Facebook Live
Rochelle Riley is an award winning columnist with a career spanning nearly 40 years. Her book, The Burden, explores the enduring legacy of slavery in American society. Link to her book here!

Former Dallas Morning News Writer Reflects on Race in Latest Book

June 2020 | NBCDFW
Rochelle Riley has dedicated much of her life to finding and writing about the truth, NBC 5’s Laura Harris reports.

Former Dallas Morning News Writer Reflects on Race in Latest Book

June 2020 | NBCDFW
Rochelle Riley has dedicated much of her life to finding and writing about the truth, NBC 5’s Laura Harris reports.

Views On The Pandemic From 3 Swing States

May 10, 2020 |

NPR’s Don Gonyea discusses how the pandemic has affected politics in three battleground states — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan — with Charles Franklin, Salena Zito and Rochelle Riley.

Rochelle Riley’s acceptance speech for NC Media and Journalism Hall of Fame

Apr 23, 2019 | Detroit Free Press

The North Carolina Media and Journalism Hall of Fame at the University of North Carolina inducted the Free Press’ Rochelle Riley. Watch her speech.

Rochelle Riley, ‘The Burden’

Nov 13, 2018

Columnist Rochelle Riley spoke at the 2018 Southern Festival of Books on a panel about race in America.


How Do You Mourn a Pandemic? See How Artists Around The World Are Building Monuments to Those Who Died of COVID-19

March 12, 2021 | artnet

As the world continues to battle the spread of disease, artists and architects are helping memorialize those we lost.

10 Women Innovating Local Government

March 8, 2021 | John Hopkins University

Whether it’s addressing the many crises of the global pandemic or tackling preexisting challenges, female city leaders have been key to developing, executing, and scaling up some of the most impactful innovations of the past year.

In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating 10 women who’ve made big strides for their communities.

‘Black Bottom Saints’ playing cards to celebrate Detroit’s Black culture, history

February 27, 2021 | The Detroit News

New York Times best-selling author Alice Randall announced that the images of icons with Detroit ties will be featured in a set of playing cards called “Black Bottom Saints,” named after her latest book.

Randall joined Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the city’s Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship Director Rochelle Riley for a virtual presentation Saturday afternoon.

Detroit launches Undefeated, a yearlong effort to celebrate arts and culture

February 11, 2021 | Detroit Free Press

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the city’s Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (ACE) have launched a creative initiative titled Undefeated, which is being billed as “a yearlong celebration of Detroit arts and culture.”

Children portray icons like Aretha Franklin and Frederick Douglass in new photo book

February 10, 2021 | Detroit Free Press

There is a wonderful close-up photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking from a podium, holding on to it firmly as if he is leaning in to the enormous task ahead.

In the new book “That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed the World,” that photo is paired with a portrait of Rochelle Riley’s grandson, Caleb, then 8, who is wearing a similar suit and tie and copying the civil rights icon’s pose with an intensity beyond his years.

That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed the World by Rochelle Riley and Cristi Smith-Jones

February 1, 2021 | Wayne State University Press

In February 2017, Rochelle Riley was reading Twitter posts and came across a series of black-and-white photos of four-year-old Lola dressed up as different African American women who had made history. Rochelle was immediately smitten. She was so proud to see this little girl so powerfully honor the struggle and achievement of women several decades her senior. Rochelle reached out to Lola’s mom, Cristi Smith-Jones, and asked to pair her writing with Smith-Jones’s incredible photographs for a book. The goal? To teach children on the cusp of adolescence that they could be anything they aspired to be, that every famous person was once a child who, in some cases, overcame great obstacles to achieve.

Award-winning journalist writes book about African Americans who changed the world

February 1, 2021 | The Oakland Press

Riley came up with the idea in February 2017 when, scrolling through Twitter, she saw a series of photos of then 5-year-old Lola Jones recreating historical photographs – like Rosa Parks’ mug shot. Riley reached out to Lola’s mother, Cristi Smith-Jones, and asked to feature her photos in a book she was writing. 

In an interview with CNN, Smith-Jones said, “Since it’s a heavy topic, we wanted to find a way to make learning about black history fun for (Lola). … Her ability to emulate them is uncanny.”


As Rochelle Riley leaves the Free Press, readers lament losing her fierce voice

May 19, 2019 | Detroit Free Press

For two decades, Rochelle Riley’s words have made things happen, and for about half of that time, as a Free Press columnist, she told stories, exposed truths and stimulated action.

“I am proud to be a journalist,” Riley said during her induction into the North Carolina Media and Journalism Hall of Fame at her alma mater, the University of North Carolina. “I am leaving the newsroom behind — I’m in my last month of work at the Free Press — but, I will never give up that mission, and none of us should.”

Racism, Discrimination And Calling The Police On Black People

July 19, 2018 |

Disturbing stories this summer about white people calling the police on black people for cutting the grass or using the swimming pool. Guests Rochelle Riley with Paul Butler, professor of law at Georgetown University and author of “Chokehold: Policing Black Men.” (@LawProfButler) and Steven Brown, associate at the Urban Institute, doctoral candidate in sociology at Harvard University. (@KregSteven).