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creative:impact - Living Her Legacy, Morgan Foreman-McGovern Is No 'Ball Of Confusion'

Morgan Foreman
Morgan Foreman

Growing up in a household infused with art, creativity, and as the granddaughter of Motown Temptation Melvin Franklin, Morgan Foreman-McGovern gained confidence and direction.  She is a Renaissance woman: a dancer, singer, advocate for the environment and the BIPOC community, and the constituent services director for Michigan Representative Felicia Brabec.  She tells Creative Washtenaw's Deb Polich and WEMU's David Fair her story on this edition of "creative:impact."


Deb Polich
Deb Polich, President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.


Morgan Foreman is a Detroit born child of Motown.  Her father, the late David Melvin English, Jr., is the son of Melvin English, the bass singer of the Temptations.  Her mother a former Model.

Morgan has lived a life fueled by her creative nature since she was a child.  Growing up with her grandparents in Ypsilanti, Morgan took dance classes, played clarinet through middle school, and high school and sang in various community gospel choirs.  Her stepfather, Kenny Olson, formerly of Kid Rock bought her a guitar when she was 11 but that never really took off.

Morgan Foreman
Credit Model D / modeldmedia.com
Morgan Foreman-McGovern, member, Champions for Change

In college, Morgan studied under the tutelage of Noonie Anderson, Gail Martin and John E. Lawrence expanding her love for dance and singing. 

Through her professional career she’s used her creative nature in her roles, whether it be teaching dance to children, writing short stories, and using art as a mechanism of radical self-love and liberation.  Morgan has served as the emcee of various programs and volunteered as a liturgical dance director in various churches around Washtenaw County.

She currently works as Constituent Services Director for State Rep. Felicia Brabec in the Michigan House of Representatives.

She is also co-chair of the YPAC (Young Professionals Advisory Committee) a trustee on the board of The Ypsilanti Rotary Club, a zoning board commissioner in Ypsilanti Township, and a member of the Brownfield Redevelopment Committee for Washtenaw County. 

An alum of the NEW champions for change for program, Morgan was able to expand on her love for political activism and her niche interest in land and resource use in the marginalization of communities of color.  Morgan puts her equity glasses on every day to strive to make her part of the world a better place through art, politics and radical love.

Morgan resides in Ypsilanti Township with her husband Devin, Schnauzer Starr and Grandmother.  She enjoys listening to music, particularly Jazz dancing around her house and reading.


David Melvin English (Oct. 12, 1942 – Feb. 23, 1995) better known by the stage name Melvin Franklin, or his nickname "Blue," was an American bass singer.  Franklin was best known for his role as a founding member of Motown singing group The Temptations from 1960 to 1994.

David English was born in Montgomery, Alabama to Rose English, a teenage mother from nearby Mobile.  His biological father was the preacher of the English family's church in Mobile; he impregnated her through rape.  Following David's birth, Rose English married Willard Franklin and moved to Detroit, her grandmother insisting young David be left behind in her care.  David English finally moved to Detroit with his mother and stepfather in 1952 at age 10.

Taking on his stepfather's surname for his stage name as a teenager, David English—now Melvin Franklin—was a member of a number of local singing groups in Detroit, including The Voice Masters with Lamont Dozier and David Ruffin, and frequently performed with Richard Street.  Franklin often referred to Street and Ruffin as his "cousins."

In 1958, a classmate of Franklin's at Detroit's Northwestern High SchoolOtis Williams, invited Franklin to join his singing group, Otis Williams and the Siberians.  Franklin joined the group as its bass singer, and remained with Williams and Elbridge Bryant when they, Paul Williams, and Eddie Kendricks formed The Elgins in late 1960.  In March 1961, the Elgins signed with Motown Records under a new name; The Temptations.  He had a fondness for the color blue, and so he was nicknamed "Blue" by fellow singers.  According to Otis Williams, Franklin romantically pursued Supremes singer Mary Wilson at one point.

Otis and Melvin were the only founding Temptations who never left the group.  One of the most famous bass singers in music over his long career, Franklin's deep vocals became one of the group's signature trademarks.  Franklin sang a handful of featured leads with the group as well, including the songs "I Truly, Truly Believe" (The Temptations Wish It Would Rain, 1968), "Silent Night" (Give Love At Christmas, 1980), "The Prophet" (A Song for You, 1975), and his signature live performance number, "Ol' Man River."  Franklin was usually called upon to deliver ad-libsharmony vocals, and, during the psychedelic soul era, notable sections of the main verses.  His line from The Temptations' 1970 #3 hit "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)," "and the band played on," became Franklin's trademark.

In the late 1960s, Franklin was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, the symptoms of which he combated with cortisone so that he could continue performing.  The constant use of cortisone left his immune system open to other infections and health problems; as a result Franklin developed diabetes in the early 1980s and later contracted necrotizing fasciitis.  In 1978, he was shot in the hand and leg while trying to stop a man from stealing his car in Los Angeles.  The incident prevented Franklin from participating in the Temptations' upcoming tour of Poland, which at the time was still behind the Iron Curtain.

On Feb. 15, 1995, after a series of seizures, Franklin fell into a coma and remained unconscious until his death February 23, 1995.

He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles.

In addition to singing, Franklin also worked as a voice actor.  In 1984, he provided the voice for the character of "Wheels" in the animated series Pole Position.  He also appeared in the movie Sky Bandits in 1986.

In 1989, Franklin was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Temptations.  On Aug. 17, 2013, in Cleveland, Ohio, Melvin Franklin was inducted into the rhythm and blues Music Hall of Fame as a member of The Temptations.  On Feb. 9, 2013, his wife received the lifetime achievement award on his behalf.

In 1998, NBC aired The Temptations, a four-hour television miniseries based upon an autobiographical book by Otis Williams. Franklin was portrayed by actor D. B. Woodside.


The Nonprofit Journal Project


Almost three years ago, we started discussing how Nonprofit Enterprise at Work (NEW), a Washtenaw County-based nonprofit support organization that strives to improve the impact and performance of fellow nonprofits by empowering leaders and co-creating solutions, could address the racial leadership gap in Washtenaw County.

According to Guidestar, there are 2,400+ nonprofits that call Washtenaw County home.  Yet fewer than 30 are led by a person of color.  In years past, we strove to diversify nonprofit boards through matching and recruitment.  In partnership with the McGregor Fund, we spent about a decade successfully placing 200+ diverse leaders on boards.  In follow up, however, there was little evidence that those placements improved the outcomes of the organizations.  Many recruits reported feeling isolated, tokenized or expected to represent their entire community.  Identity as a checkbox for boards simply does not work.

The absence of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) across our work called us to do more.  Nonprofit staff, too, were often homogeneous and unrepresentative of communities served.  This was not an isolated issue.

Emboldened by the Building Movement Project’s original Race to Lead report, we began working on Champions for Change, a community of practice working towards an anti-racist, co-liberated future.

The report documented what we’d been seeing and saying for years: it isn’t lack of education, skill, interest, or commitment that locks BIPOC folx out of leadership roles.  It is structural racism.

As we start receiving applications for the next Champions for Change cohorts, it feels important to resurface the 'why' behind this work.  Why now?  Why NEW?

The Building Movement Project’s latest report, Race To Lead Revisited, gives us some of those answers.  It explains why Champions for Change feels important to continue.  The new report confirms findings from the original. People of color have similar leadership qualifications as white respondents.  In fact, more people of color aspire to become nonprofit leaders than their white counterparts.  Yet, the 2019 results show the gap between the two groups is widening.

However, something has changed in the past three years.  This time around, people of color were more likely to name race as a barrier to their advancement.  And white respondents were more likely to agree that their race provides a career advantage.  Today, people of all races are more likely to recognize obstacles people of color face in obtaining leadership positions. 

These findings point to greater awareness of the problem, but a lack of change in actual conditions.  While career support has generally improved, white respondents still report more types of support and fewer challenges than people of color.  And the gap between the experiences of these two groups has either remained constant or grown.

Eager to upend structural racism and barriers to equity, we're excited to begin the second year of Champions for Change.  While the program won’t solve all of our sector's challenges, it offers a community of practice for working towards an anti-racist, co-liberated future.  You can learn new ways to disrupt institutional, interpersonal, individual, and internalized racism.

You can have space for radical imagination, experimentation, and transformative work.  You can learn from others’ diverse ideas, experiences, and identities to shape your vision and action.

Yodit Mesfin Johnson is the President & CEO at Nonprofit Enterprise at Work (NEW).  Stay tuned for her next entry in our Nonprofit Journal Project, an initiative inviting nonprofit leaders across Metro Detroit to contribute their thoughts via journal entries on how COVID-19 is impacting the nonprofit sector--and how they are innovating.  This series is made possible with the generous support of our partners, the Michigan Nonprofit Association and Co.ACT.


Champions for Change

Morgan Foreman on Facebook

Morgan Foreman on Instagram

Morgan Foreman on LinkedIn

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu


Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
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