5/17/23: The Big Fight

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

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A two-year-old boxing gym is growing out of its digs in Kalamazoo’s Edison neighborhood. Word is spreading quickly that this safe haven for kids is building champions. Also: G-A schools has voted to ban a book from its high school library. And county leaders have allocated money from this year’s housing millage.

NowKalamazoo Feature Story

‘It keeps kids off the streets’

Yaimari Gonzales-Santos spars with a teenage girl in a gym. They are wearing head gear and boxing gloves.

The three young boys on bikes peering through the windows of the Edison neighborhood boxing studio have potential – to be champions, or anything else.

“Yo! What’s up?” hollers Alejandro Rodriguez, who was translating an interview with gym co-founder Yaimari “Cuba” Gonzales-Santos and jumped at the opportunity to interrupt another potential outcome for kids in a neighborhood with disproportionately high rates of violent crime and gun violence. “You guys wanna come train with us? We own that gym.”

The United Boxing Club on Portage Street was started two years ago by professional fighters Gonzales-Santos and Ben Williams Jr. but has grown so fast that they are preparing to move into the Crossroads Mall in Portage this summer. Word is spreading quickly about this home for future prize fighters and a home away from home for kids in need of a literal fighting chance. The coaches say they will sometimes pack 40 to 50 people sparring and shuffling in the 750 square foot gym. Yet, no one is turned away, every child is worth their time.

Gonzales-Santos understands firsthand the hope that opportunity breeds, and what happens in the wake of its loss. He’s been lured by the same vices that taunt young folks and exploit troubled minds. Now, he’s committed to training them to win in the ring and ultimately in life. He only requires them to pay in discipline and self-control. “It keeps kids off the streets, and it keeps their mind off of doing drugs or committing crimes or getting in trouble,” he says.

Boxing draws the kids in but here’s how the coaches lead them to the real prize—a tangible future.

County divvies up housing funds

The Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday determined how money from the county’s housing millage will be handed out this year. The funds will go to a variety of different projects geared toward developing affordable housing throughout the county. A 228-unit facility to be built along the Kalamazoo River will receive $2 million. Another $2.2 million will be spent to build single family homes in the cities of Kalamazoo and Portage. A half million dollars will fund transitional housing for the victims of human trafficking and abuse.

Besides helping people and addressing the affordable housing shortage in the county, Housing Director Mary Balkema said the money also brings even more funding into the community. “I was doing kind of the quick math, and it leverages up about $100 million of investment into our community. It’s a really, really big deal,” she said. Not all this year’s millage money has been allocated yet. Balkema opened up a second round of funding earlier this year. Applications for that are still being reviewed.

More News You Need To Know

G-A schools removes book after complaints

Galesburg-Augusta High School has permanently removed the book “Gender Queer: A Memoir” from its library following a complaint from a member of the community. The book has faced criticism for its depictions of sexual activity, and has become the most challenged book in the U.S. The school district initially pulled the book in March, though Superintendent Wendy Maynard-Somers insisted they’d just checked it out to review it.

The board of education voted to remove the book Monday night after a closed door meeting, but the vote was not unanimous. Two board members, Christy Corsi and Krista Simmons, voted against getting rid of the book. “If you’ve read the book, it’s actually amazing,” said Corsi. But some parents spoke up against the book. “There are books that are appropriate that can replace it on the shelf,” said parent Karen Owens. [WMUK]

Two dead after shootings

Two men are dead after separate shootings over the past several days. Omarre Williams, 19, was shot last Thursday, though he didn’t pass away until sometime later in the hospital. On Sunday, three separate shootings resulted in one death and two injuries. Marcus Pierce, 33, was killed around 4:24pm near North Westnedge Avenue and Ada Street. Witnesses said the shooting was a drive-by.

The two deaths mark the fourth and fifth fatal shootings in Kalamazoo County so far this year. That puts us ahead of the number of shootings at the same time last year and on par with the number of fatal shootings in 2021. Gun violence declined a bit after it surged during the pandemic, but appears to be rising again. [WWMT, MLive]

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Things To Do In Kalamazoo

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Kalamazoo Bike Week – Various

Rules & Tools Supporting Struggling Readers – SLD Read
9:00AM 5/17

Portage Planting Days – Portage District Library
9AM 5/17-19

Advancing Housing Equity in Michigan During and Beyond COVID-19 – Fair Housing Center of Southwest Michigan
9:30AM 5/17

DIY Glassware Painting with Airstream Club International – Kalamazoo County Expo Center
2:00PM 5/17

The Personal Librarian – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
2:00PM 5/17

Bike Rodeo – Kzoo Parks
5:00PM 5/17

Family Literacy Days – Kalamazoo Literacy Council
5:00PM 5/17

Washington Square Branch Library Spring Celebration – Kalamazoo Public Library, Washington Square
5:30PM 5/17

Trivia Night at the Bookstore – this is a bookstore | Bookbug
6:00PM 5/17

Board Game Night – Main Street Pub, West Main
6:00PM 5/17

3 of a Kind – Hilton Garden Inn
7:00PM 5/17

Karaoke – Shakespeare’s Pub
8:30PM 5/17

Wednesday Comedy Night – Final Gravity Brewing Co.
8:30PM 5/17

Growing Your Business Beyond 6 Figures – Kalamazoo Nonprofit Advocacy Coalition
9:00AM 5/18

Guardians of Michigan with Lynn Houghton and Jeff Morrison – Kalamazoo Public Library, Central
4:00PM 5/18

Rock-N-Roll into Summer! Family Resource Night – Kalamazoo Farmers Market
5:30PM 5/18

KalaSalon: YOU Can Build It! Coming Out of the Woodwork with The Dapper Hammer – Green Door Distilling Co.
6:30PM 5/18

Stulberg Spring Soiree – Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
6:30PM 5/18

An Evening of Sound – KP (Fit)ness
6:30PM 5/18

Canuck Club – Final Gravity Brewing Co.
7:00PM 5/18

The Kettle Belles – O’Duffy’s Pub
7:00PM 5/18

Next To Normal – Kalamazoo College, Balch Playhouse
7:30PM 5/18-20, 2PM 5/21

Punk Rock Vinyl Night – Apoptosis Brewing Co.
7:30PM 5/18

Larry McCray wsg Out of Favor Boys – Rugger’s Up and Under
8:00PM 5/18

Hip Hop with Speak It Forward – Kalamazoo Public Library, Alma Powell
3:30PM 5/19

Bronson Park Outdoor Art Show Opening Celebration – Kalamazoo Public Schools
4:00PM 5/19

N. Burdick Street Block Party – 300 Block of Burdick St.
4:00PM 5/19

5:01 Ditch Friday – JungleBird
5:00PM 5/19

Music with Steve Kamerling – Brick + Brine
6:00PM 5/19

Larry Fleet Live with special guest Drew Parker – Kalamazoo State Theatre
7:00PM 5/19

The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Kalamazoo Civic Theatre
7:30pm 5/19-20; 2pm 5/21

Hot and Delicious Improv Show – Dormouse Theatre
7:30PM 5/19

Bach Prize Award Night – Stulberg International
7:30PM 5/19

Desmond Jones & Jordan Hamilton w/ Pajaro Negro – Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
8:00PM 5/19

Out of Favor Boys – Old Dog Tavern
8:00PM 5/19

Little Worlds: Spring Concert of Dance – Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers
8:00PM 5/19-20, 2PM 5/21

Foreigner wsg. Cage Willis – Wings Event Center
8:00PM 5/19

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