Tag Archives: kalamazoo

8 arrested in civil disobedience protesting end of DACA protections

Immigrant youth refuse to return to shadows, citizen allies reject white supremacy

Residents held a heartfelt and tearful rally in Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park Tuesday as immigrant youth of Movimiento Cosecha called for solidarity with the 11 million people who are undocumented in the country and described how President Trump’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would impact their lives and families. Afterwards, they marched to Michigan avenue and Westnedge street where Eight citizen allies, who identify as white, were were arrested evening for blocking the intersection. The citizen allies used their white privilege in the act of civil disobedience to risk arrest in order to amplify the message of the risk that DACA & undocumented families make everyday to live in the United States.

Christine Lewis, co-Director of West Michigan Michigan United said, “For us as citizens who are white, we want to take up our responsibility to fight white supremacy; and that means taking risks,” Lewis said. “The point of the arrests was to show fellow white folks what it means to take action and invite people in.” It was one of many actions hosted across the state by Michigan United as they pushed for a legislative solution to the crisis Trump has created.

Nelly Fuentes of Moviemento Cosecha Kalamazoo and Pro-Kzoo said “This decision would be the height of cruelty: It’s an attempt to score political points by separating families and disrupting schools and workplaces across the country, it’s vile and the Kalamazoo community will not stand for blatant racist and cruel policy. We stand with all DACA recipients and the 11 million undocumented people living in this country.”

DACA Troy heroshot

Earlier at Rep. Dave Trott’s (R-MI 11) district office in Troy, Michigan, several DACA recipients spoke to a crowd of about a hundred gathered to urge the congressman to endorse legislation that would replace the popular program.  “DACA has done so much good for our immigrant youth and families and so many people want to see it continue, I don’t know why our President is listening to this tiny racist minority,” said Michigan United immigrant rights organizer and DACA recipient Adonis Flores. “Thank God for checks and balances! The American Hope or Dream act would be better solutions anyway.”

That afternoon, another hundred protesters gathered outside Western International High School as the first day of classes let out. Many of the college plans of seniors in this predominantly immigrant community could be put on hold if a replacement isn’t found when the protections it offers expire in six months.

Alondra Alvarez, a 17 year old student at the school has many friends in this situation. “I am unafraid and stand up for those who feel they don’t have a say. DACA is something that has helped so many of my peers and it hurts to know my loved ones will be affected by this.”

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State Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) also passionately described how DACA has helped young immigrants in Michigan. “Ending DACA without any guarantee of congressional action means these teachers, nurse, engineers students, first responders, members of the military are going to be ripped out of our communities and forced back into the shadows, facing at best an uncertain future and at worst potential deportation to a country they do not know.”

GR DACA heroshotBack across the state, Michigan United also took part in a vigil held in Grand Rapids at Rosa Parks Circle. The crowd of about 300 marched through the downtown until they reached Calder Plaza where they held a rally where several undocumented immigrants were able to speak. “DACA was the only thing we had.” said JP Palacios. “We had five years of progress and hope, only to see it revoked by politicians. It’s not only immoral, it goes against American values.”

Recent polling shows that most Americans support the Obama era executive action that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as minors. “DACA has done so much good for our immigrant youth and families. It has overwhelming support of both, Republicans and Democrats alike. So many people want to see it continue. Its unfortunate that this President is listening to a tiny racist minority, instead of the majority of Americans.” said Flores. “Thank God for checks and balances! The American Hope or Dream act would be better solutions anyway.”

Education advocates host first annual Kalamazoo schools year end celebration

Food, entertainment and an opportunity for “kids to be kids”

About 100 students and their parents were greeted by community leaders, volunteers and members of Social Economic & Educational (SEE) Change and Justyce Against Bullying in Schools (JABS) at the Kalamazoo Metropolitan Branch NAACP for their 1st Annual Expect Respect And Safe Education (ERASE) End of School Year Celebration. Participants took part in activities such as face painting, table crafts, hula hooping and  a water balloon challenge.

“As we continue to pursue equity and justice for our youth to ensure they are successful and Promise ready,” said Dr. Strick Strickland, Kalamazoo NAACP’s interim President, “we must strive as a community to celebrate the accomplishments of all of our youth completing a year of school. NAACP is proud to support SEE Change and stands in JABS corner as Sponsor of JABS Awareness Month”

“Every year, students in Kalamazoo Public Schools are denied their right to education because of ineffective and harmful school discipline policies.” said Elisheva T Johnson of Michigan United. “When they fail to recognize and address the trauma caused by unjust, biased, and broken social systems, our kids are effectively ‘pushed out’ of public education. That needs to end.”

Community member and environmentalist, Chris Wahmhoff also answered questions as many of the curious youth enjoyed time playing with baby ducks. “For Michigan, for us, I think Environmental Justice is one of the most important struggles we face” Wahmhoff said.

500 show post-election unity, commit to fight injustice during Trump era

Al Jones | ajones5@mlive.comBy Al Jones
Mlive November 15, 2016

KALAMAZOO, MI – The idea of pushing past the Nov. 8 presidential election in peace and unity was popular enough to attract more than 500 people to Bronson Park on Tuesday evening.

But one week after the general election, the opportunity to rail against the election of Donald Trump and divisive feelings that many say have come with his campaign, was not to be missed by those who spoke.

“I’ve been struggling to find words to say that could inspire or offer support,” said Jay Maddock, executive director of the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center. “The truth be told, I have no words of comfort to offer you. Let me get real with you. Early Wednesday morning when it became apparent that the candidate that ran a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic campaign was going to be our president-elect, I sat on my couch completely numb.”

He described Trump’s presidency as “a further assault on LGBTQ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer), people of color, women, Muslim people and already marginalized groups.”

“I had one of my student volunteers give me a big hug,” Matthew Derrick, said of learning about the results of the presidential election last week.

“She hugged me and asked, ‘What’s next?'” said Derrick, who is a Western Michigan University student and Democratic party organizer who helped with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“And she asked if I’m safe,” said Derick, who is gay.

Acting as emcee of what was dubbed “Kalamazoo Against Hate,” Derrick said racism and discrimination he saw during Trump’s campaign “has been happening well before Trump.”

What to do about it?

Amid chants of “This is what democracy looks like” and “Hey,hey, ho, ho Trump and Pence have got to go,” he and others stressed unity.

Speakers asked people to be vigilant for and stand united against any efforts by the new administration to roll back progress that has been made to claim rights for gays, minorities, women and others.

“I want to continue to make sure that people who come to this community, to this campus, to this area, … know they’re not alone,” Derrick said. “I want to make sure they know that there are people in this community with open arms who are ready to take you in and say, ‘You know what, be proud of who you are.'”

Kendall Campbell, a community organization for Michigan United, asked people to be more aware of what’s going on and to take a bigger part in the civic process. Michigan United is a statewide organization that advocates against injustice and pushes for social and economic empowerment.

Anti-Trump rally at U-M Diag focuses on rights of immigrants

Anti-Trump rally at U-M Diag focuses on rights of immigrants

Tuesday’s protest and march was a “rally to stop Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrants, democracy and equality,” organizers from By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) said, gathering at the U-M Diag before marching down East University Avenue.

“Just be aware of what’s happening,” Campbell said, “because I think if we remain stagnant and not do anything about it, we’re just going to accept anything that they give to us. We have to be aware of what’s going on around us.”

Asked what there is to do with people’s opportunity to make themselves heard — the election — just over, the Kalamazoo resident said, “Learn from it.”

Conservative students criticize U-M response to Donald Trump's election

Conservative students criticize U-M response to Donald Trump’s election

The petition, labeled as #NotMyCampus, was signed by a number of students identifying as conservatives and some who don’t, criticizing remarks made by U-M President Mark Schlissel during a post-election vigil in the Diag on Nov. 9, while others feel they are facing bigotry and marginalization because of the conservative views they hold.

Campbell suggested that people who are not pleased with the outcome of the election should start preparing for the 2020 election.

“There’s not a lot that we can actually expect from this presidency,” he said. “But I think that if we’re aware of what’s happening, in the next one we’ll be more aware that we have a right to vote and what we can actually do with it.”

Christine Lewis, also of Michigan United, said her goal Tuesday as a white woman was to inspire other whites to speak to their families, friends and neighbors who have bigoted views – or who have misconceptions about issues. She said she grew up ignoring things her family members or friends said, and distancing herself for those with racist beliefs.

But she said Tuesday, “Our job now more than ever is to lean in to one another and to call in our friends and our families and our neighbors who may be thinking differently than us. And that’s really hard.”

She said, “I’m suggesting that we, instead of alienating one another, actually turn in to folks who may not be thinking like us and have real conversations with them. Listen to them. Hear where they’re coming from. Acknowledge the pain. And invite them to join us.”

Ed Genesis, a native of Gary, Ind., who now lives in Kalamazoo, spoke about the need to break a cycle that systematically leads more blacks and poor people into prison than into college. He said he is a convicted felon who has benefited from opportunities to turn his life around. But he fears that the new presidential administration will perpetuate a socioeconomic cycle that has seen the number of people sentenced to prison quadruple since the 1980s, while the crime rate soars.

“I want people to come away with knowing that we’re not defeated,” Genesis said. “And as long as we fight together, we can continue to win the fight. It’s a never-ending fight that we all have to fight together.”

As an alternative to locking people up, he suggested that people look for different programs and ideas that will help people reach their goals and allow them to become successful.

“I want people to know that we are not going anywhere, immigrants are not going anywhere, especially my undocumented immigrants,” said Nelly Fuentes, who works on immigration issues for Michigan United.

She balks at Trump’s promise to deport all illegal aliens, which would involve  millions of people living in the U.S.

Fuentes said she knows the rule of the land is against them, but she will fight for undocumented immigrants who are leading productive lives here to continue to live here peacefully.

Maddox said he wanted those who attended Tuesday’s gathering to understand “that the results of the election don’t determine the end results in our community. And that the community needs to join together to fight on behalf of one another to ensure that marginalized groups can reach their fullest potential in our society and be allowed to participate in their daily lives free of fear.”

Kalamazoo County Commission votes in support of ‘Drivers Licenses for All’ bills

Pending legislation in Lansing would restore driving privileges for thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Michigan

The Kalamazoo County Commission passed a resolution Tuesday night in support of restoring driving privileges for undocumented immigrants living in Michigan. House Bills 5940 and 5941, dubbed the ‘Drivers Licenses for All’ bills, were introduced in September by Michigan State Representatives Harvey Santana (D), Dave Pagel (R), and Stephanie Chang (D).

img_20161018_18554532130 members of Michigan United attended the Commission meeting to support the resolution. One of them, Kim Hilton, a chemistry professor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, weighed in before the commission’s vote. “I’m not sure why it is that just by me being born here and someone else not being born here, I somehow get treated as more of a human being,” said Hilton. “It’s like having a group of hardworking students in a classroom, and making one group move to the back where they can’t really hear what you’re saying. They’re just as smart, just as eager to learn, just as capable, but now you’ve made it much, much harder for them to do what all the students are working to do.”

Nelly Fuentes, an organizer with Michigan United told the commission “I invite you to recognize these values in yourself and vote in favor of the resolution that will give immigrants the opportunity to drive to their places of worship, drive their children to school, drive to their places of employment, and drive to local businesses making Kalamazoo’s economy stronger.”

Michigan used to allow undocumented residents to have driver’s licenses until 2008 when Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land reversed the policy. There are currently over 600 thousand immigrants in the state of Michigan, roughly 120 thousand of them are undocumented, many of which work in Michigan’s $100 billion dollar a year agriculture industry.

Despite the bipartisan origin of the ‘Drivers Licenses for All’ bills, the commission voted 6-5 in a straight party line vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. After the vote, County Commissioner Kevin Wordelman expressed his disappointment. “Immigration is not a partisan issue, and making it a partisan issue only leads to disaster,” said Wordelman. ”The sooner we can decouple this issue from partisanship, the better. I hope we can start to have constructive conversations. But what I would like to see in coming days and years is Democrats and Republicans coming together on this issue.”

“In this political climate, we need more than ever to remember what it means to love one another,” said Lizbeth Fuentes, a member of Michigan United.  “If you are a person of Christian faith, I invite you to ask yourself What Would Jesus Do if it was in his hands to help his foreign neighbor?”

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.”

Immigrant Rights Leaders: Tied Supreme Court Decision Means We Head to the Polls

Vacancy on bench allows decision to be revisited when court at full strength

On a press call in response to the Supreme Court’s tied decision in the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) case, Michigan immigration reform leaders urged the community to head to the polls in November. The decision in the case of USA v. Texas addressed President Obama’s DAPA program which would have granted protection from deportation and a work permit to up to five million undocumented parents of US citizen children. it is estimated that as many as fifty thousand of those parents live in Michigan. Today’s decision was on an injunction halting the program, not the legality of the program itself.

Download selected audio from the press conference here

“The Court’s tie decision leaves the door open for the Supreme Court to come back to this case and enact deportation relief that would keep families intact,” said Adonis Flores of Michigan United. “But that can only happen if voters make it clear that we want and need a Supreme Court justice that values all families, including immigrant families, and will recognize deportation relief as crucial for millions across the nation. We have to mobilize to make that happen.”

The current vacancy on the Supreme Court has created a unique situation that made this tie decision possible. Consequently, the court could revisit the program when a new justice is appointed.

“We’re going to fight for our families, and that means mobilizing every voter we can this summer and fall. We need to send a strong message to the next President and win a pro-immigrant Supreme Court,” said Nadia Tonova, director of the National Network for Arab American Communities. “This summer you’re going to see undocumented families register voters, knock on doors, and get out the vote. Even if you can’t vote, you can still organize.”

Organizers promised to contact at least thirty thousand Arab , Asian, and Latino American voters this summer and fall as part of a coordinated civic engagement effort.

Participants promoted the following public events regarding DAPA and the civic engagement push:

  • Friday, June 24, 12 p.m., Michigan State Capitol, Lansing, MI
    Vigil with the Mid-Michigan Immigration Coalition & Greater Lansing Network against War and Injustice
  • Tuesday, June 28, 6:30-8 p.m., Town Hall Meeting – Now What? Next Steps for Immigration
    Michigan United Kalamazoo, 1009 E. Stockbridge, Kalamazoo, MI
  • Saturday, July 9, 10 a.m., St. Francis of Assisi Parish Hall, 4405 Wesson, Detroit, MI
    Town Hall Meeting for Immigrant Families on the Consequences of the DAPA Decision
  • Saturday, July 16, 10 a.m., Immigrant Citizens Voting Power Door-to-Door Canvass
    Michigan United Detroit, 4405 Wesson, Detroit, MI
    Michigan United Kalamazoo, 1009 E. Stockbridge, Kalamazoo, MI

Kalamazoo City Commission passes ‘Fair Chances’ ordinance

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.”

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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.”

“Fair Chances for All’ to reveal details of pending Kalamazoo City Attorney report

City commission running out of excuses to delay action on anti-discrimination plan

The Kalamazoo city commission has put off discussion of a ‘Fair Chances’ hiring ordinance until they’ve received a report from the city attorney, Clyde J. Robinson. Earlier this week, Robinson met with ‘Fair Chances for All’ (FC4A), the Michigan United group that is pushing the commission to take up the rules preventing employees from inquiring about criminal records before hiring.

Before the next commission meeting Monday, FC4A will hold a press conference to detail what they discovered in their meeting with Robinson.  FC4A members will also have another tailgate party leading up to the press conference that will include roasted meats and sidewalk art expressing their hope for their loved ones.

Once inside, FC4A members will keep up the pressure on the commission with a speakout and creative direct action during the public comment period.

WHAT:
Press Conference detailing FC4A’s meeting  with the Kalamazoo City Attorney and what this will mean for proposed ‘Fair Chances’ hiring ordinance.

WHO:

  • Jerrin Yarbrough, Kalamazoo area student
  • Kendall Campbell, co-founder of Humans Beyond Boxes
  • Lisa Bloomberg, Kalamazoo resident
  • Amy Vliek, Director of Admissions WMU School of Social Work

WHEN:
Monday May 2, 2016
6:00pm Tailgate & Chalk Up
6:30pm Press Conference
7:00pm City Commission Meeting with Speak Out & ACTION

WHERE:
Kalamazoo City Hall,
241 W South St.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007