Category Archives: Criminal Justice Reform

Parents push Kalamazoo school board to take new approach to bullying, discipline

Groups call for end of segregation and medication

Social Economic and Educational Change (SEE Change), a parent advocate group affiliated with Michigan United and Justice Against Bullying at School (JABS) attended Thursday’s Kalamazoo public school board meeting to express concerns about students bullying their children and staff using excessive force to physically restrain them, resulting in cuts, bruises, muscle strains and in one case, a concussion.  

Parents were also concern about the use of alternative schools to segregate minority students and the excessive medication of students with disabilities. Earl Moore described how he saw his son’s behavior change after being bullied. Rather than dealing with the bullying, the school responded to the behavior change with physical restraint. Ultimately, his son was suspended from school for more 30 days.  “The school refused to allow my son to come back to school unless he took medication” Moore said. Kalamazoo keeps records of its students in a School Wide Information System (SWIS) Moore said the SWIS report on his son describes his behavior in criminal terms, a characterization that will follow him wherever he goes.

Gwendolyn Hooker told the school board how her granddaughter, Justyce suffered  multiple brutal attacks. She said the district showed a lack of concern in addressing the issue of bullying and how it affected students like Justyce.

Tammie Woods  spoke of her son’s battles with depression and anxiety after multiple restraints resulted in a concussion, cuts, and his arm being twisted. Woods described the Specific Learning Disabilities reading program (SLD Read) at Western Michigan University where she sought help for her son. Woods feels Kalamazoo school should provide since her child does not qualify for SLD Read services.

George White, lead advocate with SEE Change said bullying and the effects of bullying can lead to depression, withdrawal, low self esteem, poor grades, poor peer relationships, increases the dropout ratio and in rare cases can lead to death. White also commented on the need for the Restorative Justice models gaining traction all around the country in addressing student bullying. White also recommended Trauma Informed Care practices in classrooms to improve student, parent, teacher relationships.  

White said SEE Change will return to each school board meeting with more parents until they get the results that the parents seek. SEE Change plans further conversations in the community about policy reform needed to reduce bullying, expulsions, suspensions, restraint and medication dependence. The goal is to return all children to mainstream classrooms.

School board member, Lauren Freedman expressed an interest in working with SEE Change to resolve some of the issues. Dr. Rice also indicated a willingness to meet with the group.  

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JOB POSTING: Criminal Justice Reform Organizer

Criminal Justice Reform Organizer

Location: Kalamazoo

Salary Range: $30,000 – $32,000

Deadline: Candidates are encouraged to apply immediately. Applications are due by February 14, 2017.

Michigan United is a statewide coalition of faith, labor, civil rights, business, and social service organizations working together for racial and economic justice through community organizing.

We put everyday people at the center of campaigns that build power to address the root causes of poverty and inequality. We also provide services to help develop the capacity of our members to lead.

Our major campaigns areas include immigrants rights and immigration reform, ending mass incarceration, universal family care and environmental justice.

Michigan United provides extensive training on organizing for change. We are a collaborative work environment where we invest in our team and win powerful campaigns. We provide generous paid time off to promote work/life balance, health benefits for those who qualify, and the opportunity to earn a paid sabbatical.

We value passion for justice and our issues, creativity, and initiative. Expect to work in a fast-paced environment and balance multiple priorities.

Women, people of color, and LGBTQ persons are strongly encouraged to apply.

Michigan United is currently organizing numerous campaigns to reform our criminal justice system. Mass incarceration tears apart families and worsens the pain of poverty. We believe in a more humane approach that emphasizes alternatives to incarceration, diversion courts, fairer sentencing, and supportive re-entry programs.

The Criminal Justice Reform Organizer will work in Kalamazoo to develop the leadership of Returning Citizens and their allies to win important local and statewide reforms. These include better opportunities for housing and employment.

Prior experience in community or political organizing a plus.

Send resume and cover letter to Christine@miunited.org, cc: elisheva@miunited.org  

Subject: Criminal Justice Reform Organizer

“We’re Here to Stay!”

Detroit’s immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ and Communities of Color honor Dr. King with a message of defiance and unity

Hundreds of people from across Southeast Michigan gathered at UAW Local 600 Saturday afternoon to honor Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr. in a show of unity across lines of color, gender, ethnicity, religion and immigration status. Michigan United joined the United Auto Workers and community based groups in a mass call to action to defend the rights of immigrants, refugees, communities of color and the members of the LGBTQ community. In addition to the King holiday, groups cited the well documented rise in hate crimes in Michigan since the presidential election as inspiration for the event.

“We have no doubt that Reverend King would be pushing us to stand with people who are under attack because of their immigration status, the color of their skin or who they love,” said Michigan United member, Reverend Samuel Johnson of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church. “Mobilizations like this are crucial to show that the majority of people will not tolerate hate crimes and attacks. The fight to keep immigrant families together is connected to the fight to keep all families safe.”

The Congress of Communities, Chadsey Condon Community Association, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights worked with members of the LGBTQ community to host the event. The intersection of struggles and resistance was at the heart of the gathering.

“Some victories such as marriage equality or the Deferred action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which protects immigrants brought here as children are recent,” said Seydi Sarr, General Secretary of the Senegalese Association. “Some, such as the 1960s civil rights legislation are decades old. We stand to defend them all. We fight to keep immigrant families together here in the US, for refugee families fleeing violence to be safe here. We must defend human and civil rights won for the LGBTQ community and people of color. We can win if we see that all these struggles are connected.”

“No event, not even a presidential election will stop us from standing up and fighting for human and civil rights,” said Sergio Martinez, Michigan United board member. “As Gay man who has benefited from DACA and advances in LGBTQ rights, I refuse to go backward just as Dr. King and those who fought with him resisted the backlash against civil rights laws. Those of us fighting for justice are the majority. Making that clear with gatherings like this will push us toward victory.”

Immigrant families at risk if Trump keeps promises

Don’t despair. Organize!

Join Michigan United and our partners as we work to resist deportations.

Michigan Sanctuary Movement 

Are you or your congregation interested in providing sanctuary for immigrants in danger of deportation? CLICK HERE  to become part of the statewide movement to protect immigrant families.

 Michigan United statewide strategy summit-December 10th

We have a lot of work to do, and we need to get organized. Please cjoin our statewide strategy summit, co-sponsored with the Michigan Immigrants Rights Center. CLICK HERE to be part of the discussion on how we can resist the deportations, support families, and develop strategies for how we can stand up for justice and dignity for all. 

Strategy Summit

Saturday, December 10
12:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Trinity Lutheran Church
1400 W. Stadium
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Michigan community organizations push back against Sessions’ appointment

Too racist to be Federal judge, certainly too  racist to be Attorney General

Detroit city council members stood with Michigan civil rights organizations to oppose President elect, Donald Trump’s appointment of Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General. Janee Ayers, one of the city’s two at large representatives, and Brenda Jones, the council President joined the chorus of voices calling for a more moderate choice. “We’re talking about is a dangerous person.” Said Ayers. “The Civil rights act, sanctuary cities, criminal justice reform. These are all things that any one of us could have to deal with at any given time… We are all human beings who have had somebody come before us who fought so we could have inalienable rights. Now those rights are under attack.”

Hear and download audio from the press conference

Sessions, the Junior US Senator from Alabama, has been a staunch opponent of immigrant rights. His bid for a Federal Judgeship ended amid controversy over reported racist statements. He’s also referred to groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union as “un-American”. Add to this President elect, Donald Trump has called for unconstitutional policing tactics such as “stop and frisk”, the use of “waterboarding and much worse” and that American citizens could be sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and held without charge.

“Donald Trump staged a very divisive campaign to be elected President” said Bishop Herman Starks of Michigan United’s Detroit Pastoral Alliance for Change. “If he hopes to heal the nation, he’s going about it all wrong.”

Starks focused on the effect Sessions would have on voting rights going forward. As Alabama Attorney General, Sessions pursued bogus voter fraud cases against African Americans. “In the post- Voting Rights era, this is not the person to put in charge of protecting minority rights.” said Starks “The next AG must have a respect for civil rights and equal protection under the law.”

Civil Rights, Faith Groups Stand Together Against Post-Election Hate Incidents

Detail Plans to Resist Deportations

More than a dozen civil rights and faith groups stood together at Central United Methodist Church Monday to condemn a recent spate of racist incidents and to declare their intention to work together to protect their families and communities in the coming years.
sam_8680“The election is over, but that doesn’t mean we have to quietly accept the policies of a Trump Administration,” said Sergio Martinez, Michigan United board member. “We’re not going to give an inch to mass deportations. Our community is organized like never before to defend our families. We’re going to resist Donald Trump’s immigration plans, and we need your help.”
Speakers outlined specific plans for family defense:
  • Michigan United will host a town hall and know-your-rights meeting on Saturday, November 19th, at Noon, at their offices, 4405 Wesson in Detroit. Legal support will be on hand for immigrant families wondering about their options.
  • The Michigan Immigrants Rights Center is calling for pro-bono attorneys to volunteer to defend immigrant families in deportation. Volunteer attorneys will be trained in the basics of immigration law. Contact Susan Reed—susanree@michiganimmigrant.org
  • Volunteers who are not attorneys but would like to learn how to get credentialed to represent immigrants in deportation cases can join our Family Defense team. Contact Susan Reed or Michigan United legal director Diego Bonesatti, diego@miunited.org
  • Congregations who are interested in learning how to provide sanctuary to immigrant families in imminent threat of deportation, contact Rev. Jack Eggleston of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, j.eggleston@semisynod.com
  • Survivors of anti-Muslim hate crimes or bias incidents can report them to the Council on American Islamic Relations, www.cairmichigan.org248.529.2247
  • To help promote tolerance, diversity and educate your community, contact Take on Hate at ACCESS, Asha Noor, anoor@accesscommunity.org or Welcoming Michigan, Christine Sauve, csauve@michiganimmigrant.org
Participants in the event included Michigan United, the Michigan Immigrants’ Rights Center, Asian Pacific Islander Americans – Vote Michigan, ACCESS, ACLU – Michigan, National Lawyers Guild, Methodist Coalition for Social Action, Council on American Islamic Relations – Michigan, Latino Family Services, the Muslim Community Council, the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, the National Lawyers Guild, Voces Community Center, and State Representative Stephanie Chang.

Faith, labor and community groups march against hiring discrimination

Demonstration in downtown Detroit kicks off Fair Chances campaign.

Communications Workers of America (CWA) activists joined Michigan United members as they marched on city hall to urge the Detroit City Council to expand its ‘Ban the Box’ ordinance to private-sector employers. The ‘Fair Chances for All’ campaign focuses on private employers who receive tax breaks from the city and seeks to postpone questions about criminal records early in the hiring process.

“It will make us better. It will make us a more cohesive community,” said Kelli N. Williams, a CWA activist and state president of the Michigan Coalition of Labor Union Women. “Mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, and juvenile delinquency are just a few of the issues plaguing our society. After the punishment, there should not be a period of more punishment. There should be a time when businesses are reaching out and lending a hand to help former prisoners become productive members of society.”

Because a majority of recent job openings are in the private sector, this coalition of labor, faith, civic and business organizations is now working to ensure all Detroiters have an opportunity for gainful employment. Employers would still be allowed to do background checks later in the interview process, but the change would allow applicants to be evaluated on their merits first. Additionally, the ‘Fair Chance’ rules would also take into consideration the age of the criminal offense.

“Just as bankruptcy has given Detroit a fair chance to turn around and become productive again, the same opportunity should be given to returning citizens.” said Rev. Louis Forsythe, who is pastor at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist church, a member of Michigan United’s Detroit Pastoral Alliance for Change. “This is not only the right thing to do; it is the fair thing to do as we want all citizens to be part of the city of Detroit’s comeback story.”

A “Fair Chance” employer:

  • Has an equal opportunity employer statement on the initial job application.
  • Does NOT ask applicants to “check the box” inquiring about criminal convictions on the initial job application.
  • Does NOT conduct background check until conditional employment opportunity is offered.
  • Does NOT take into account convicted misdemeanors over three years old and convicted felonies over seven years old.

The momentum is growing and pressure is building on city council to prevent gentrification in Detroit amid rapid growth and investment. More than 100 cities and counties across the country have already adopted similar hiring policies including Kalamazoo where Michigan United recently won a similar effort earlier this year.  And President Obama recently announced an executive order doing the same thing at the federal level.

CWA activists were in Detroit this week attending the CWA Next Generation Summit. CWA Next Generation engages members ages 35 and under in key issues including organizing and bargaining rights, voting rights, campaign finance reform, income and racial inequality, fair trade, immigration reform, and LGBTQ rights.

Labor and community groups to march along Jefferson demanding hiring reform

Action will kick off ‘Fair Chances for All’ campaign in Detroit

Members of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) will take a break from their national convention to march in solidarity with Michigan United to begin their ‘Fair Chances for All’ (FC4A) campaign aimed at helping people with criminal records find gainful employment. Detroit passed a ‘Ban the Box’ ordinance in 2010. FC4A would extend that rule to include private employers who receive tax breaks from the city.

The statewide community organization recently won a similar effort in Kalamazoo earlier this year and just this week, President Obama announced an executive order doing the same thing at the federal level. The momentum is growing and pressure is building on city council to prevent gentrification in Detroit amid rapid growth and investment.

WHAT:
March and rally supporting ‘Fair Chances for All’ campaign

WHO:
Rashida Tlaib, Sugar Law Center
Rev. Louis Forsythe, Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church
Kelli Williams, Communication Workers of America – Next Gen
Ronald Simpson- Bey, Just Leadership USA/Leading with Conviction
Deacon Charles Thomps on, President of Belmont Community Council
Nicholas Buckingham, Nation Outside
Kim Buddin-Crawford, Michigan ACLU

WHEN:
11:30AM Wednesday July 20th, 2016

WHERE:
March begins in front of the Renaissance Centre
March ends at rally in front of Spirit of Detroit statue

Michigan United Goes Door to Door Seeking Racial, Economic Justice

Voters engaged on crucial issues months before historic election

Dozens of Michigan United members in Detroit and Kalamazoo spent Saturday morning directly engaging voters on two of the most crucial issues of the upcoming presidential election: racial and economic justice. It  was part of a “National Doorstep Convention” for racial and economic justice. The outreach effort was prompted by extremist rhetoric from the presidential campaign and violence against people of color and other marginalized communities.

“Bigotry is real. Mexicans and Muslims have been vilified on the campaign trail and people of color have been poisoned and imprisoned for profit. We can’t stand by and watch this happen,” said Shaina Smith. “We have a moral obligation to engage with people to confront these issues, to work toward a society where we are all safe and welcome. That is what this canvass is about.”

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Canvassers had no scripts just a general outline. This allowed them to have more open conversations about what is really on the minds of voters.

“We want to have honest conversations about what it means to live in a country with people of all colors, ethnicities, nationalities and religions. We are going door to door to put those issues out in the open” said LaTifah VanHorn.  “Communities of color face more environmental hazards like the expansion the US Ecology hazardous waste site on Detroit’s Eastside. Black and brown people are disproportionately locked up and then even after serving time, returning citizens are prevented from getting work. The reality of struggles on the ground and the divisive campaign rhetoric means we all need to step up.”

If we stand together, they cannot divide us.

An evening of prayer and reconciliation with Michigan United’s Detroit Pastoral Alliance for Change

A religious event hosted by the Michigan United group Detroit Pastoral Alliance for Change (DPAC) took on added significance with the shooting of two black men by police and the shooting of five police officers by a black man last week. DPAC had hoped to confront the rising racial tensions brought on by divisive political rhetoric when unresolved issues of systemic racism reared their ugly head yet again.

“If we stand together, they cannot divide us” will feature a performance by the predominantly white Refuge Youth Choir of the First Baptist Church of Jefferson City, MO at the Triumphant Life Christian Church in the predominantly black community of Highland Park, MI. Pastors of both races will directly confront how racism affects us all.

WHAT:
“If we stand together, they cannot divide us” racial reconciliation service

WHO:
Deacon Charles Thomas,Evangel Ministries
Pastor Harvey Presberry,Canfield Church of God
Rev. Sharon Buttry,Associate Dir., Training and Education International Hope Center
Pastor Kevin Johnson, Calvary Presbyterian Church
Apostle Velma Clopton,Victory In The Truth, Mesa, AZ
Apostle Joseph Hobbs, Triumphant Life Christian Church
Bishop Herman Starks,Sanctuary of the Holy Spirit
Refuge Youth Choir of the First Baptist Church of Jefferson City, MO

WHEN:
7PM July 11th, 2016

WHERE:
Triumphant Life Christian Church
13254 Thompson, Highland Park, MI 48203