How the NFL Draft Spotlight the City’s Legacy of Black Excellence and Fashion

When the NFL Draft rolls into Detroit, it’ll do more than just herald the arrival of football’s next generation of millionaires. It is set to cast a beaming spotlight on a city that’s been a crucible of Black fashion, where the legacy of gators, buffs, and mink coats isn’t just preserved; it’s a living, breathing culture. This event transforms Detroit into a national runway for a style that’s deeply embedded in the city’s soul, echoing Biggie’s famed lines, “Pink gators, my Detroit Players.” 

As these young athletes hit the red carpet, decked out in their sharp suits and fly kicks, they’re walking straight into Detroit’s legendary fashion scene. This city’s got stories for days, a culture that pops, and a vibe that’s all about bouncing back and standing out. Detroit’s more than just a pretty face in the background; it’s where fashion, hustle, and history come together, painting a picture that’s real, raw, and absolutely riveting. 

As the NFL Draft heads to Detroit, the city is alive with a lineup of events that’ll draw in players, locals, and visitors for a memorable weekend. Among these, Event 24 stands out as a must-attend. It’s more than just an event; it’s a community gathering at the popular One Mike Detroit, where folks will come together for a charity gala supporting the Mel Farr Superstar Foundation. One Mike is an entertainment venue that has recently undergone extensive renovations and has quickly become a favorite spot in the city.  

With the city set to see a significant boost in revenue thanks to the draft, Black-owned businesses like One Mike are getting ready for the spotlight, offering a space where the excitement of the draft and the spirit of Detroit’s hospitality blend perfectly. It’s a chance to celebrate, remember a local legend, and enjoy the warmth of Detroit’s welcome. 

“Choosing One Mike was very intentional because it is a black owned club,” said Rufus Bartell owner of Simply Casual Clothing Store. “Owned by Horace Sheffield and comedian Mike Epps. We want to make sure when this NFL draft comes that it touched as many black owned companies as possible. So, we were very intentional about who we bring in, who does the graphics, who does the imaging, who produces the video, and  who’s starring in the event.” 

At the center of this story is Mel Farr, a name deeply connected to Detroit’s celebrated past. Farr wasn’t just a standout running back for the Detroit Lions known for his agility; he also had a keen sense for business. His daughter, Mońet Farr Bartell, is actively continuing his legacy, not just in spirit but through concrete actions. She’s at the helm of Event 24, set to take place on April 24, 2024. This is an event that isn’t just a celebration; it’s a meaningful tribute to her father, honoring the jersey number he wore and his significant impact on Detroit. “And it just dawned on me,” she explained. “My father being number 24 for the Detroit Lions, it just all made sense.” Mońet’s aim is to support the Mel Farr Superstar Foundation in memory of her father, focusing on the positive change he represented. For her, Event 24 is a way to keep her father’s contributions alive and impactful in the community. 

“You know, people say, oh, it’s a dream come true, but it’s beyond that for me,” shared Mońet. “I am a fashion designer, and I travel and do a couple of shows a year out of state,” she shared as she is now based out of Atlanta. “And I happen to have done a show in August at the music hall and dreaming as gals do, I said, you know what? I really would love to do a show at home to honor my father. And as God will have it, Billboard pops up. It said, NFL draft 2024. Detroit, Michigan. I said, well, dang. Well, that’s when I want to do it.” 

Orchestrating this grand affair is Rufus Bartell, not just the event’s coordinator but also the entrepreneurial mind behind Simply Casual Clothing Store, a staple in Detroit’s fashion scene.  

“I mean, she hit it the nail on the head,” said Bartell. “I think people should come away with this event as Mel Farr, one of the first black athletes that transitioned successfully from athletics to business. And as we know that a lot of the players’ salaries are now egregious. They’re making so much money, more money than prior athletes never dreamed of. And we want to send the message that you can’t wait till after football or after basketball to transition. You have to do your transition while you play, when you got your highest name value.” 

Mońet takes the helm of the event’s fashion segment, infusing it with her unique blend of style and homage to her father’s legacy. Together, these trailblazers are crafting an evening that promises not just to be a celebration but an embodiment of Detroit’s resurgence and its impact on sports, fashion, business, and entertainment. Set against the backdrop of the city’s anticipation for the NFL Draft, Event 24 emerges as a beacon, drawing in a confluence of Detroit’s elite and shining a spotlight on the legacy of Mel Farr Sr. 

When it boils down to this charity gala Bartell explained, “Our short game is to get a street named after Mel Farr. Our long game is to develop coursework in one of the local universities highlighting his vision and some of the business and entrepreneurial things that he often taught to all generations.” 

Mońet echoed this sentiment detailing the annual Motor City Showdown which is  a combine style football camp for kids who played football in high school but did not receive a scholarship and at the end, this camp allow the kids to leave with college scholarships. “My father is a huge proponent of sports, of course, but more than that, education,” she said. “Without education, the sports means nothing.” 

The evening is designed to offer a multifaceted experience that includes a variety of gourmet food options, showcasing local Detroit culinary talents. The fashion element of the evening will feature local designers, offering a glimpse into the city’s burgeoning fashion scene, while a lineup of Detroit comedians will provide entertainment, ensuring the atmosphere is both light-hearted and engaging.  

But why center one of the standout gatherings around Mel Farr? And why now, at this moment? In a weekend expected to elevate the city’s revenue significantly, why does a charity gala for the Mel Farr Superstar Foundation take such a prominent spot? What makes this the perfect time for Detroit’s renowned hospitality to intertwine with the legacy of a nationally known and respected sports and business hero? It’s an opportunity for celebration and reflection, offering a deeper look into the city’s heart and history. 

Melvin Farr’s journey from the UCLA Bruins to the Detroit Lions in 1967 marked the beginning of an illustrious career. Standing tall at 6-foot-2, his prowess on the field was matched only by his vibrant personality off it, even lending his voice to the chorus of Marvin Gaye’s pioneering and soul warming “What’s Going On,” weaving his legacy into the cultural fabric of the era. 

Farr’s transition from the gridiron to the world of business was as seamless as it was impactful. Taking the reins of his first car dealership in Oak Park, he built the Mel Farr Automotive Group into a powerhouse, at one point the largest Black-owned business in the nation, with sales reaching the $600 million mark in the 1990s. His commercials weren’t just marketing; they were a blend of charm and commitment, making vehicle ownership accessible to those who dared to dream. Despite stepping back from the automotive world in the early 2000s, Farr’s influence never wavered. His passing in 2015 left a void in the heart of Detroit, yet his legacy endures. 

Detroit, a city synonymous with grit, innovation, and a rich cultural tapestry, has been the crucible for numerous icons who have shaped not just their respective fields but also the broader cultural landscape. Mel Farr stands as a testament to this legacy, embodying the spirit of Detroit through his remarkable journey in both sports and business. In a city known for its formidable automotive industry, Motown music, and a resilient community, Farr’s story intertwines with Detroit’s narrative of resurgence and tenacity. With the Lions spectacular season capturing national attention, and the city experiencing a renaissance in development and economic vitality, Detroit’s moment in the spotlight is amplified by the NFL Draft choosing this storied city as its venue. This convergence of events underscores a pivotal era for Detroit, showcasing its enduring legacy and its role in shaping global icons like Mel Farr. To purchase tickets:

“With this talent that we have culturally, being the cultural leaders of the world, we want to make sure that a lot of that revenue flows back into black companies,” shared Bartell. 

Detroit’s history of Black excellence isn’t just a chapter in a book; it’s the lifeblood of the city, pulsing through its streets and echoing in its achievements. As the NFL Draft makes its way here, it’s set to do more than just showcase new talent. It’s about to throw a massive spotlight on everything Detroit stands for—its culture, its people, and its heart. This is a city where greatness isn’t just remembered; it’s lived, every single day. So, as we gear up for the draft, let’s remember that this isn’t just Detroit’s moment in the sports world; it’s a celebration of everything that makes this city what it is. Detroit, this is our time to show the world what we’re made of. 


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