Whoever said you can never go home again must not know Stevie Wonder.
The Michigan-born and bred entertainment legend has long lived in California, but he recently returned to Detroit, the city that introduced his talent to the world. And not only did he visit the place that’s still home to many of his close family and friends, he returned to the very street where he and his family once lived: Milwaukee Avenue, which contained residential addresses decades ago, is known these days mainly for landmarks like fast food restaurants and a post office.
But since the singer’s Dec. 21 visit it also became known for two signs at diagonal corners of Woodward, both bearing the name “Stevie Wonder Avenue.” In a news conference following the sign dedications, attended by fans, city and state officials, Wonder shared that he never imagined such an honor as having a street where he lived as a child renamed for him. But thanks to the dedicated efforts of Detroit youth advocate Sharon DuMas, along what she calls a “faithful few” that assembled as the Stevie Wonder Tribute Committee, City Council saw fit to memorialize the singer/songwriter. Stevie Wonder Avenue will serve as a reminder to the community, particularly young people like the many occupying Detroit’s nearby North End, that one of their own used faith and talent to achieve his dreams. The honor comes at a time when newcomers would serve themselves well by learning who helped shape the city, and the type of culture that precedes them.
Wonder acknowledges the gesture is bigger than him, that his old, new street is symbolic of a greater collective Detroit legacy. He could have simply issued a public statement of thanks, but instead he personally appeared, posing for photos, even singing along to his own music when he was introduced to an eager crowd that braved the cold. Wonder’s presence and humble recognition of a local salute, following decades of Grammy Awards and millions of records sold, represents a reverence for Detroit that’s too seldom seen. The city is worth coming home to again. In fact, it’s worth staying around.