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Weekend America Voices

Desiree Cooper

  • Desiree Cooper

    Desiree Cooper admits that she's never changed jobs without also changing careers, a habit that has led to varied life experiences.

    Based in St. Paul, Minn., she comes to "Weekend America" via Detroit, where she's been an award-winning columnist for the Detroit Free Press for nearly a decade. Her poignant stories about the lives of ordinary Detroiters have made her a readers' favorite and garnered her two Pulitzer nominations.

    Before becoming a columnist, Desiree had been a frequent commentator for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," an attorney, a community organizer, an instructor on multicultural leadership at Wayne State University, and an editor of alternative newsweekly, the Metro Times. Her short stories and memoirs have been collected in "Children of the Dream: Our Stories of Growing up Black in America," (Atria 2000) "Detroit Noir," (Akashic Books 2007) and "Other People's Skin" (Atria 2007). She also serves on the national board of Cave Canem, an organization that supports emerging black poets.

    Desiree credits her eclectic interests to her childhood as an Air Force brat. Born in Japan, she's lived all over the United States, from Colorado to Virginia.

    "I learned early that we all speak the same language," she said. "Except Japanese. I'm not good at that. Or French. But I read body language pretty well."

    Desiree studied journalism and economics at the University of Maryland, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1981. She graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 1984, and married her law school sweetheart three months later. The couple raised their two children in Detroit.

    "I believe in the transformative power of stories. Poet Gwendolyn Brooks once said, 'One wants a teller in a time like this.' I'm so glad that Weekend America is here to tell them."

Recent Stories


  • Foreclosure Double Punch

    Romey and the family cat

    Foreclosures are ravaging the historic Detroit neighborhood of Palmer Woods, where reporter Desiree Cooper has lived for the past two decades. Many of the historic homes are now in advanced stages of foreclosure as home prices fall hundreds of thousands of dollars. Instead of weathering the storm, two of Cooper's neighbors are walking away.

  • Race and Forgiveness

    Gwen Gipson

    Members of Macomb County's Renaissance Unity church faced the legacy of racism eight years ago. Out of the blue, their white, female minister asked whites to apologize to blacks in a forgiveness ceremony. The church has had several ministers since then. But church members say they'll never forget the impact of that moment.

  • Nine Step Weekend Recovery Program

    Kathryn Kern

    In November 2002, Kathryn Kern was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her treatment was successful, but in the process, she had to give up her travel business and take a corporate job. The combination of facing a life-threatening illness and changing careers made her value her weekends more than ever. Now she has a Nine Step Program for keeping her weekends free, pleasant and worry-free.

  • Returning to God

    Antonia Bunton

    This weekend thousands of people will crowd into Detroit's Most Holy Redeemer Church. The 128-year-old building was once home to the largest Catholic parish in North America. Today, more than 5,000 people attend the six weekend masses. But for 35-year-old Antonia Bunton, going to church there every Saturday is a special privilege.

  • Christmas in Hamtramck

    Charnita Monday

    Sisters Charnita Monday and Helen Hatcher have been inseparable their whole lives. But in the 1970s, they were kicked out of their homes in Hamtramck, Michigan. This spring, after a discrimination suit, Charnita and Helen moved back to Hamtramck into side-by-side houses. Weekend America's Desiree Cooper checked in on them this holiday season to see how they were doing.

  • Inside Blackness: Black Santa

    Jay Hollowell with Santa

    This weekend, you might be headed to the mall to see Santa. Some kids can't wait to get on Santa's knee. Others go to Santa kicking and screaming. For some people of color, the local mall's Santa can bring on a crisis of a different sort. As part of the series Inside Blackness, we hear about the complicated relationship some black families have with the traditional Santa Claus.

  • Inside Blackness: Two Coopers, Two Continents

    Helene Cooper

    Helene Cooper, author of "The House at Sugar Beach," was raised in Liberia and is now the diplomatic correspondent to The New York Times. As part of our series Inside Blackness, she sat down with Weekend America's Desiree Cooper to discuss the psychological difference between being raised as a black person in Africa versus the United States.

  • Survivors of Suicide

    Doug Merrill

    Today is the 10th Annual National Survivors of Suicide Day. For survivors, getting over the grief, anger and the lingering questions left after a suicide can be difficult. Doug Merrill has lived through the suicide of eight people - most of them teens - in the bedroom community of Bowling Green, Ohio, just south of Toledo. Weekend America's Desiree Cooper went to hear his story of survival.

  • The Obama Effect

    Catherine Squires

    As we head into the last week of the presidential campaign, pollsters say Sen. Barack Obama is pulling ahead of Sen. John McCain in key battleground states. Though the outcome of the race is still far from clear, Obama's historic run for the presidency has had an effect on everything from fund-raising to art. This week at the University of Minnesota, a conference called "The Obama Effect" explored Obama's impact on America.

  • My Guantanamo Diary

    Mahvish Khan

    This weekend, Mahvish Khan is packing to go to Cuba. Not for a sunny vacation, but to visit the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. An American born of Afghan parents, Khan has worked as an interpreter for lawyers representing Afghan detainees. Since then, she's gone back several times and has befriended some of the prisoners. She wrote about her experiences in her book "My Guantanamo Diary."

  • Coming Out

    Pape Mbaye

    This weekend is National Coming Out Day. But coming out can still be dangerous and risky. Pape Mbaye is a well-known, openly gay Senegalese entertainer. In February, a magazine published photos of him attending an underground gay marriage that started an onslaught of threats and attacks. With the help of human rights organizations, Pape has attained refugee status in the United States. He's been living in New York for a month.

  • Weekend Court

    Officer Terrance Harris

    Main Street and Wall Street are probably the two most cliched street names in the news right now when it comes to talking about the economy. But what about Madison Avenue? Not the one in New York City, the one in Detroit. It's the location of the city's 36th District Court. We sent Desiree Cooper there to talk with court personnel about crime. But when she got there, she found that folks in weekend court have a different priority: The economy.

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