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.”
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.”
Michigan United group celebrates new hope for returning residents and their families
The Kalamazoo City Commission voted unanimously Monday night to give residents who paid their debt to society a fair chance to get back on their feet. As of June 1st, 2016, companies that receive tax benefits from the city, as well as companies seeking Browstone Redevelopment qualification will no longer be allowed to ask about criminal backgrounds on employment applications under the new ‘Fair Chances’ anti-discrimination hiring ordinance. Employers will still be allowed to do criminal background checks after the decision to hire the applicant has been made under certain circumstances.
The Michigan United group, Fair Chance for All (FC4A), has been pushing for this rule since the last election. Several Commissioners ran with support of the plan as a key plank in their platform. After the polls closed, FC4A kept up the pressure, speaking at Commission meetings and even meeting with the City Attorney and Assistant City Manager to see the policy through to the end.
“This policy has been an important mark of growth for more than just me, personally. I’m glad that the fair chance policy is finally being recognized for what it is, a necessary change in our community.” said FC4A leader Jerrin Yarbrough “For my family, for all Kalamazoo families. It has been an amazing process to work alongside the City Commission to make this win possible for our community.”
The Fair Chances ordinance is part of a growing trend across the nation for criminal justice reform to end mass incarceration, protect families and rebuild struggling communities. “With ‘Fair Chance’, you have the winning model. Now, let’s take tonight’s win and leverage it,” said City Commissioner Erin Knott. “I would like to see this grow from here, there are other cities, other counties. Let’s make this happen.”