February 29 2024

Celebrate Black History Month!

The City of Ferndale is proud to recognize and celebrate Black History Month. This month recognizes the historic triumphs and achievements of the Black community. We're also extra thrilled, proud, and moved to honor Ferndale's first black Mayor, Raylon Leaks-May. Please take a look at the stories below from some of our incredible staff, community leaders, and business owners! ❤️💛💚

Mayor Raylon Leaks-May has lived in the City of Ferndale for thirty years and raised her children here.

She dedicated many years to the Ferndale School Board before beginning her first term on City Council in 2016—notably the first African American person elected, before she was elected the City’s first African American Mayor. Raylon felt her decision to run for Mayor wasn’t only to be the first in her role, but to continue to serve the City government, Ferndale Schools, and the community in a further capacity. "My children get to see this,” said Leaks-May on her recent election. “What I believe is that me being elected shows that Ferndale is open to change. It’s something that has never happened before, and I’m really proud.”

The Pan-African Flag that waves in February is something Raylon brought to Ferndale. The Pan-African flag was created in 1920 to represent the people of the African Diaspora and the black liberation of the United States. The tri-color flag consists of three bands of red, black, and green—red, symbolizing the blood that unites all people of Black African ancestry and was shed for liberation; black, symbolizing black people whose existence as a nation (though not a nation-state) is affirmed by the existence of the flag; and green, symbolizing the abundant natural wealth of Africa.

Mayor Leaks-May also comes from a line of historic public servants. Her mother, Sgt. Carole Kimbrough was the first African American Female Sergeant for the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department in 1974.

We're so proud of our Mayor and can't wait to see her amazing legacy live on! We look forward to all that she'll bring to the City in the next few years. 

Parks and Recreation Director LaReina Wheeler has been with the City of Ferndale for the last seven years after bringing an extensive career and educational history.

Going back to childhood, LaReina credits the strong women in her life for instilling her with the depth of Black history through support, wisdom, confidence, resilience, and empowerment. LaReina's transformative journey began at the Landmark Education Forum for the position of Youth Black Summit subgroup. This experience taught her valuable skills of effective leadership, removal of roadblocks, development of public speaking, and challenge for further growth. This position also granted her the opportunity to travel the world to places like New York, Nairobi, and Kenya to facilitate youth summits, and she refers to this experience as "life-altering and shattered misconceptions about Africa and its people."

She also credits her inspiration for her experience and scholarships in Human Biology and the Charles Drew Science Program from her father—one of the youngest Black doctors in Michigan. After completing the MCAT, she shifted her career focus to the role of Environmental Specialist with another municipality which positioned her as a minority within the City. She credits the guidance of great leaders for the development of confidence in her role, growth in the position, and earned respect. In this role, she brought several grants to the community in the environmental field. In the midst of all of this, she also completed her Master's Degree, opened her own company, and coached a youth sports team in Detroit. 

"I am proud to be the Director of Ferndale Parks & Recreation, a City where I can bring my whole self to work," said LaReina. "My life journey has been filled with challenges and triumphs, and I am grateful for the opportunities that have shaped me into the woman I am today. I hope my experiences have helped pave the way for others."

On behalf of the City, we'd like to thank LaReina for her many dedicated years of service. Her passion for our Parks and Recreation Department is evident in all that she brings forward.

Sarah Brown is the owner of CrossFitHCS, a local business in Ferndale, as well as the Chair of the Downtown Development Authority.

She has serviced the Ferndale community since her business opened in 2017, which is also the same year she became a Ferndale resident. She originally resided in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, and was raised by two engineers who were first-generation college graduates. She attended Howard University with a full-ride scholarship, played on the women's competitive flag football team, and studied abroad in Shanghai for two summers. After receiving a Bachelor of Business in Supply Management, she accepted her position at Chrysler and moved to Southfield in 2015. She recalled her move to Ferndale as a "reminder of her many favorite things about Washington DC." 

Then, CrossFit HCS opened with "the dream to foster a place for people to feel comfortable bettering their health and fitness." However, we all know that things got weird in 2020. Sarah recalls that gyms were one of the first things to close during the pandemic, so she lost her primary role of work. However, she was grateful for her ability to contribute virtual and distanced park workouts to help others navigate the difficult times. She has also grown immensely in her involvement with the DDA Board, having served in roles of member, Treasurer, Vice Chair, and the recent-elect Chair. 

"I always prioritize my dedication to the DDA Board because I’ve seen all the good work we’ve been able to implement in this City I work, live, and play in," said Sarah. "My purpose on this Board is to ensure we continue the great progress we have made from where the Board was when I joined. "

The City extends its gratitude to community leaders like Sarah who dedicate their time to making this City a better place. Thank you so much, Sarah, for your service! Be sure to check out CrossFitHCS.


Locs of Love (Owned by Bianca Williams): Locs of Love is a premier hair salon that is dedicated to providing exceptional hair care services to its clients. The salon specializes in natural hair care, extensions, and protective styles for all hair types and textures. Services include braids, twists, locs, and more. Locs of Love also provides comprehensive natural hair courses that cover the essential techniques for braiding, twisting, and loc maintenance as required by the Michigan State Board of Cosmetology licensing which provides a solid foundation for students to build upon in their pursuit for a career in haircare/styling. The salon is located at 914 W. Nine Mile and you can learn more at locsoflove.com.

Jabs Gym Ferndale (Owned by Willie Fortune): Jabs Gym Ferndale features a state-of-the-art fitness facility, with boxing classes and strength/cross-training. Inside: a full complement of equipment, including heavy bags, dumbbells, kettlebells, ropes, and more. Owner and founder Willie Fortune, known as Fortune 500 in the boxing world, began his boxing career over 15 years ago as a youth in Detroit. Growing up around the sport, Fortune learned the skill and science of boxing early and wanted to use what he knew to help inspire the city and make a name for himself in the sport. While fighting and winning titles as a middleweight, Fortune began work as a personal trainer. Through his love of fitness and the art of the sport, the boxer established JABS Gym Birmingham in 2015 and went on to open Jabs Gym Ferndale in 2022. View more information at jabsgymferndale.com.

The Living Room Hair Lounge (Owned by Stephanie Anderson): The Living Room Hair Lounge is a full-service urban boutique salon located in downtown Ferndale at 22741 Woodward. The salon specializes in vibrant rich hair color, precision haircuts, quality extensions, radiant natural hair styling, customized makeup, barbering, nails, and skincare. The Living Room Hair Lounge looks to offer the ultimate professional salon experience of comfort, convenience, and luxury with a customer service focus in mind. Check out their services at vagaro.com/thelivingroomhairlounge. 

FluidSpaces (Owned by India Soloman): FluidSpaces is a yoga studio and art showroom founded by abstract artist India Solomon. “Focused on ever-lasting designs for ever-shifting lifestyles, we curate local artwork, home goods, apparel, and creative experiences rooted in community and mutual thriving.” Fluid Spaces sells art and home goods, and curates community events from the space, as well as managing sales of local artwork for coffee shops, restaurants, and other small businesses. Fluid Spaces is located at 399 W. Marshal. Learn more at livefluidspaces.com.

Bath Savvy Naturals (Owned by Shannon Reaves): Bath Savvy Naturals’ mission is to provide the finest blends of natural handmade products while creating awareness of the benefits of using nature as a source of healing, nourishing and replenishing the skin and body. Owner Shannon Reaves’ story began with a family recipe and has since taken off to new heights. After landing a spot on shelves at the Woodward Corner Market, Bath Savvy Naturals opened a storefront in Ferndale at 483 W. Marshall. Learn more at bathsavvy.com. 

Lush Yummies Pie Co. (Owned by Jennifer Lyle): Lush Yummies story begins with owner Jennifer Lyle’s grandfather who taught her how to make pie. “His favorite recipe was his mom’s Lemon “Butta”, which they’d make together during hot Alabama summers in the 1940s.” Lush Yummies is located at 23225 Woodward and boasts a menu of homemade pies for any sweet tooth. You can check out their menu and Jennifer’s story at lushyummiespie.com.