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Here are the local pop culture stories that had the biggest impact this year:

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Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, dies at 76

The city of Detroit came to a standstill on Aug. 16 with the news that legendary singer Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, died at her Detroit home of pancreatic cancer. Over a two-week period, the city and the world celebrated her life, her celebrated 60-year musical career, and her legacy of quiet generosity for causes far away and close to home for more than 30 years.

For complete coverage, go to detroitnews.com/series/arethafranklin

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Death of Michigan Opera Theatre founder David DiChiera

A little more than a month after Aretha Franklin died, Detroit suffered the death of another entertainment giant: David DiChiera, 83. The impresario, described by many as a cultural powerhouse who brought opera back to the Motor City, helped jump-start downtown Detroit’s revival and pioneered the practice of casting African-Americans in key operatic roles. He died Sept. 18 of pancreatic cancer in his Detroit home. 

Leonard Slatkin has heart-bypass operation; makes planned transition into “laureate” position in the fall

Leonard Slatkin underwent a heart-bypass operation in May, forcing him to bow out of his last three concerts as DSO music director. Slatkin also moved back to St. Louis, preparatory to his transition to music director laureate — long-planned, and unrelated to his heart surgery — with the start of the 2018-2019 season. He’s vowed to stay at the DSO through at least the 2020-2021 season.

Departure of directors leave uncertainty in Motor City museums

Devon Akmon’s April departure as director after just five years leaves the Arab American National Museum at an uncertain hinge point. Then a few months later, Juanita Moore, director of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, retired after 12 years in June. Her departure was unexpected, robbing the museum of the director who’d given it the greatest stability in its turbulent history. The Michigan Science Center found itself in a similar predicament with the departure of CEO Tonya Matthews after 4 ½ years at the helm. All three positions remain unfilled.

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Since her husband Jorge Garcia was deported on Jan. 15, Cindy Garcia has become a nation voice for immigration reform By Robin Buckson, The Detroit News

Garcia family becomes international symbol for immigration reform

Cindy Garcia became a national voice for those “living in the shadows” after her husband Jorge was deported in January. Her family’s story is incredibly timely given the ongoing national debate over immigration.

NABJ celebrates 42nd annual convention in Detroit

It was the organization’s first convention to visit Detroit since 1992, and it was an overwhelming success, with more than 3,000 members pumping up to $11 million in direct spending in the Motor City. Speakers included entertainment mogul Tyler Perry, legendary filmmaker Spike Lee, Chance The Rapper, singer Bobby Brown and Olympic tennis gold medalist Zina Garrison. The convention also honored a record number 10 Detroit journalists for outstanding service, including Detroit News Assistant Managing Editor Felecia D. Henderson; the most honored for any host convention city.

Death of Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain's unexpected death was talked about worldwide, but locally he impacted chefs who looked up to him, and fans as well. Bourdain was outspoken about his love for Detroit’s grit, its music and culture.

Socially- and economically-conscious restaurants

As part of the 20th annual Allied Media Conference, the pop-up Dream Café meals aimed to highlight Detroit food growers and upcoming chefs who are people of color, mostly women. Socially-conscious chefs from around the world were part of the Dream Café.

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Black Panther, a giant at the box office for African-American culture in Detroit, around the globe

The February release shocked the movie world and became the year’s biggest film, earning $700 million, the third-highest domestic box office gross of all-time. At the same time, it inspired celebrities and community leaders to buy out theaters to host screenings for inner city children. Detroit rapper Big Sean introduced a free screening of the film for Detroit Public Schools students at the Emagine Royal Oak, and national writer and Detroit native Jemele Hill challenged local celebrities to help her send schoolchildren to screenings of the film.

World renowned designer to leave imprint on Belle Isle

Piet Oudolf is a world renowned garden designer who made national headlines when he committed to designing a garden on Belle Isle in Detroit. He unveiled his design this fall, which will include walking paths and almost immersive experience the Nancy Brown Carillon. This is huge news in the garden world. Oudolf also designed the Lurie Gardens in Chicago and the High Line in New York.

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