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Bringing Up Detroit is a new series from Michigan Radio and independent producer Zak Rosen. The year-long series examines the inner-lives of three Detroit families as they navigate the city’s often unpredictable school systems, economy, transportation networks, and neighborhoods.Support for this series comes from:0000017b-35e5-df5e-a97b-35edaf6d0000

Family's struggles inspire WMU nursing student to make mom proud

57-year-old Christina Lumpkin heads to work at DTE Energy.
Zak Rosen
Michigan Radio


Back in March, I introduced you to 57-year-old Christina Lumpkin and her family. At the time, they were navigating a crisis. Lumpkins’s daughter, Maya, had lost her job at McDonalds, and the family didn’t have any money coming in.

They were on the verge of eviction.

“Like this week I had a meltdown,” Lumpkin explained back then. “I was crying all over the place. 'Cause I got so much on me. And the thing that basically bothers me is my rent right now. And by me not having an income it’s bearing down on me.”


Since that story aired, Lumpkin found a job, working as a janitor at the DTE headquarters in downtown Detroit. She’s relieved, and likes the new gig, despite the aches and pains. But the family still has a lot on its plate.

Christina Lumpkin’s daughter, Maya, has six children. The three oldest sons, ages 20, 17, and 15, have all dropped out of high school.

“They say school is boring," Lumpkin says. "But when they understand they can’t get a job and they need to fill out an app for a job and they education only go so high, they’ll go back. So I’m gonna sit and wait cause I know they going back.”

Meanwhile, Maya’s fourth-oldest son, Christopher Gaston, whom I’ve been following since last year, is dealing with his father being imprisoned.

“Some days he gets mad and just sits to himself sometimes," says Lumpkin. "But he talks to his daddy. And his dad stays on him about his education too when he talks to him."

Credit Andrea Claire Maio
Christopher Gaston and his younger siblings, Ahzanae and Jahari, play in the stairwell of their home.

It’s not all sorrow for Christopher, though. “He’s a good big brother. He takes time with his sister and his baby brother. He’s not a troublemaker,” explains Lumpkin.  

At school, he’s an exceptional science student, says his teacher, Janelle Schaeffer. She says he’s able to make connections and observations and excited to learn new concepts. And despite performing below grade level in math, he’s been asking for homework over the summer in order to catch up.

“I actually like doing work," Christopher says. "When I sit home and not go to school, I feel so bored. I don’t know. I just want to be like my Uncle Roger. And go to college and stuff. I can picture myself there. Every Saturday night I’m going to go to the parties. And on Sunday I’m going to go to church. And I’m going to do my schoolwork and stuff like that.” 

"I just want to be like my Uncle Roger. And go to college and stuff. I can picture myself there."

Christopher’s uncle and Christina’s son, Roger Brown, is the first member of the family to go to college. He just finished up his freshman year at Western Michigan University. He’s studying to be a registered nurse.

“I am so proud of him," Christina Lumpkin says. "He’s seen me struggle. He’s seen what I’ve had to go through and endure, so we could have a place to live. So we could have what we needed to make our house a home."

One of the main motivators for Roger, he tells me over the phone, is making his mother proud.

“You know I was telling her, 'I’m tired of seeing you struggle and seeing you go through what you’ve been going through since I was little. I’m tired of it. I even made a note in my phone, and it’s a little paragraph stating as to why I’m going to school. The note says, ‘Remember, Roger, why you are doing this: your mom. Make her happy. Tired of seeing her struggle. Want to see her not have to worry about nothing. That’s the goal. Don’t forget that.’”


When I tell her about his note, Chistina Lumpkin gushes. “It makes my heart so full that he don’t forget his mama.”

A year-long series from Zak Rosen and Michigan Radio

Bringing up Detroit is brought to you with support from the Skillman Foundation. Kids matter here.

Zak Rosen is a multimedia producer. His radio features have been heard on NPR, APM, PRI, the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Radio Helsinki. He was a staff producer on NPR/PRX's State of the Re:Union. Prior to that, he was a founding producer of WDET's Detroit Today. He has written for Yes!, The Huffington Post, Model D, and The Red Thread.
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