Amid chants of “We love you, Stevie!” and a few calls for him to run for mayor, Stevie Wonder had a street named after him in Detroit on Wednesday (Dec. 21).
Then he contemplated where that street, and other roads, might lead in the impending Trump presidency.
“We are on a journey,” the Motown legend told the crowd assembled for the street sign unveiling in Detroit’s New Center area, after singing a bit of “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” “When I think about this street now being Stevie Wonder Avenue, I want all of us to walk down the street that leads us to a place of humanity, equality, of fairness and respect for each other.” Noting that Michigan “has now become, at this point, a red state” that voted for President-elect Donald Trump, Wonder admonished, “Don’t let the color of the state define who you are. Don’t let negativity say this is what you are. Don’t let hatred and ignorance determine who you are. … Be a part of fulfilling the promise … to really make this city, this station, this nation a truly united people of the United States, of the world.”
Wonder expanded on that while meeting with the media afterward, telling Billboard how he hopes Trump and his administration will lead the nation.
“I think the president-elect has a decision that he has to make. … You have to not talk about it but be about it and do about it,” Wonder explained. “It’s a great thing to say we’re going to make America great again, but really America has always been great; we just are gonna make it greater, and so that takes a coming together of all people. There is a lesson that has been shown by President Barack Obama: It says we have to come together and work together and be together as a united people of this nation. It’s not about the various colors of the states … but it is about the color of your heart, the color of your spirit.
“So I think it’s about a leader who must lead in a way that will inspire other people, all the people to follow, and we can either be led to a place of heavenly bliss on this planet or to hell. That’s a responsibility that once you say you want to be the leader, then handle your business — all of your leaders — and do that.”
The new Stevie Wonder Avenue is a one-block stretch of Detroit’s Milwaukee Street, where Wonder (who was born Steveland Judkins in Saginaw, Michigan) lived for a stretch during his youth. He was feted by a high school choir and marching band and presented a key to the city by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan before the sign itself was unveiled.
“It’s an amazing feeling, unbelievable to say the least. I never imagined that in my lifetime this would happen,” said Wonder, who was accompanied on the dais by his older brother Calvin. “This is just an amazing moment. I know that things can’t last forever, but y’know what? I’m going to freeze this moment in my mind and remember it forever. You didn’t have to do it, but you did.”
Afterwards Wonder — who in the past has mused about running for public office in Detroit — did put those calls for a mayoral run aside. “I’m too young in the spirit to sit down and be in one place,” he said. “I’d stay in whatever the place is the mayor would be, but I would have to bring my instruments, so I don’t think it’s gonna work.” He did, however, promise to stage one of his House Full of Toys holiday benefit concerts, which he’s done during the past 21 years in Los Angeles, in Detroit next year.