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Motor City Cribs


Detroit songbird Shahida Nurullah emerged from a personal hell and put together her own little heaven on Detroit’s west side. Eighteen years ago, after finishing a tour with fellow Cass Tech alum Geri Allen, the jazz vocalist was hit by a car while waiting for a bus in Detroit.

The recovery has been painful. With help from her brother, friends, doctors and the Detroit jazz community she has been able to get her life and body back together after years of rehab.

Shortly before the accident, Nurullah had purchased a modest two-story house on the city’s west side near Joy Road and Schaefer Highway. She hadn’t finished moving in when the accident happened. Today, her home — which was built in 1929 — is rife with beauty and objects that reflect her effervescent personality — photos, prints, art catalogs, plants, pottery, records, CDs, books (including more than 30 copies of The Rubaiyat) and an impressive collection of tramp art, a type of folk art featuring intricately carved wooden furnishings that dates from the Civil War through the 1930s. There’s a shrine to Josephine Baker in the nook off the kitchen. Every square inch of Nurullah’s organized home says something about her. Nurullah honors her passions in her living space.

Her greatest passion — her singing — is a whole other thing. As Detroit jazz pianist and mentor Kenn Cox said, Nurullah didn’t choose music, music chose her.

“I have to do this,” Nurullah says. “There was never anything else I wanted to do.”

To learn more about Shahida Nurullah’s accident recovery, read Larry Gabriel’s piece from 2000, Shahida's second set

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