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Under Shahida Mausi, Chene Park is a family affair

The Matriarch

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Chene Park is a crown jewel of the Detroit River. While much of our city's riverfront was long ago handed over to industry, the outdoor amphitheatre stands as one of metro Detroit's best concert venues, booking top-notch acts against a breathtaking backdrop that is unparalleled in the city.

But what many people might not know is that Chene Park is a family affair. Since 2004, the city-owned amphitheatre has been run by the Right Productions, helmed by Shahida Mausi. Her four sons — Sulaiman, Malik, Rashid, and Dorian — all work under her, handling everything from marketing to food and beverage, while Mausi's former husband, Sundiata, serves as production manager.

The venue first opened in 1985, under Mayor Coleman Young's Detroit Recreation Department, while Mausi was at the time serving as executive director of the Detroit Council of the Arts. "It was really the first effort to reclaim the riverfront for the citizens," Mausi says, who coordinated programming for the venue's first three years, "when the park was really just a cement stage and a hill."

Mausi continued to work for the city until Young left office. She served as executive director of the Metropolitan Detroit YWCA, and formed the Right Productions in 1996.

In 2004, Mausi submitted a proposal for the Right Productions to manage the venue, and has done so ever since.

When Mausi took over, she made little adjustments, like taking credit cards at the box office and getting a liquor license. Another one of Mausi's touches was the Wednesday Night Jazz Series, which hosted jazz acts like Carmen McRae, Wynton Marsalis, Ornette Coleman, and Dianne Reeves, at just $5 or $7 a ticket. The tradition continues to this day and remains relatively low-cost, with a top ticket price at just $20. Since then, the 6,000-capacity venue has hosted an array of other acts, including megastars like Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Erykah Badu, Rick Ross, and more, with genres ranging from jazz, soul, R&B, hip-hop, rock, pop, and beyond. If you haven't taken in a show yet at Chene Park this season, there's plenty of great shows lined up, including Kamasi Washington on July 25, the Roots and Common on July 27, Kem and Idia.Arie on Aug. 4, and Earth, Wind & Fire on Aug. 18.

"On a summer night to sit near the river and feel that breeze off the river is just a great feeling. On a hot summer night, it's a great place to be," Mausi says. But she thinks there's something else her venue has: a magic quality. "Rivers also have a spirit of the water, and it's calming. The artists love it, it takes them places," she says. "They do phenomenal shows at Chene Park and I think in part it's because of the venue itself."

From our 2018 People Issue.

Next: The Transplant.

Previous: The Upcycler.

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