mlppOn October 10, the Michigan League for Public Policy hosted a half-day forum, Race, Poverty & Policy: Creating an Equitable Michigan. We were blown away by many of the speakers and resources so we wanted to share a few with our members:

  • What is racial justice? – Keynote speaker and Race Forward President and Executive Director Rinku Sen defines racial justice as the “systematic fair treatment of people of all races that results in equitable opportunities and outcomes for everyone.” She also gave some great pointers on how to talk about race by shifting the focus from an individual’s prejudice or intentions to the bigger question of what’s causing inequality and how are people impacted? Learn more from her presentation.
  • What’s the government’s role in achieving race & equity? – MLPP hosted an entire breakout session on this question and there’s still way more to talk about. The entire presentation was impactful, but we were most excited to share the work Ottawa County Administrator Al Vanderberg is doing in his community with Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance and the Government Alliance on Race & Equity. LEDA is leading an organizational system review of equity in Ottawa County’s HR policies and practices, as well as getting all 900 employees trained in cultural intelligence. View the session’s Powerpoint slides here and see Vanderberg’s portion towards the end.
  • Racial Equity Impact Assessment – Sen shared this important equity tool communities across the country are using to evaluate how government decisions and actions will impact racial and ethnic groups. For example, the Minnesota School Board requires an equity impact assessment to be performed before every policy and program is implemented. Similarly, the Oregon State Senate passed legislation in 2013 requiring the Criminal Justice Commission to issue a racial impact assessment when requested by a state legislator.

There’s so much more to say, and equity and inclusion is an area in which we should all be focusing our attention. Here at the League, we plan on bringing you more tools, speakers, discussion groups, and resources on this topic in the coming months and at future events. For now, check out our Review issue on equity from late 2015. Please also let us know what tools you’re looking for, topics you want help exploring, or discussions you want to host in your community. Feel free to comment below or email me directly at scraft@mml.org.

Law enforcement officials participate in a panel discussion at the Race and Law Enforcement in the Urban Community forum in Saginaw November 14, 2015.

Law enforcement officials participate in a panel discussion at the Race and Law Enforcement in the Urban Community forum in Saginaw Nov. 14, 2015.

(View additional photos from the event here)

More than 100 people attended a highly successful forum in Saginaw on Race and Law Enforcement in the Urban Community.

The event, sponsored by the Michigan Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (MBC-LEO), featured national and state speakers discussing the rising concern of race relations following numerous high-profile cases of police incidents involving African-American men and women across the country.

Kicking off the event was Leon Andrews Jr., Director of Race, Equity and Leadership (REAL) for the National League of Cities. Andrews came in from Washington D.C. for the event and reviewed the issue. He also showed a video and slide presentation of the many faces of young people, as well as people of all ages, who have succumbed to violence in urban communities throughout the nation.

 

Leon Andrews Jr. of the National League of Cities REAL program speaks at the forum in Saginaw.

Leon Andrews Jr. of the National League of Cities REAL program speaks at the forum in Saginaw.

“In some cities, more than half of all young adult black men are currently under correction control, either in prison or jail, or probation or parole,” Andrews said. “One in three young African American men will serve time in prison if the current trends continue.”

Event organizer Dexter Mitchell, Buena Vista Township manager, was pleased with the event and the turnout, which included coverage by area TV news stations, WNEM TV 5 and WEYI TV 25.

“This forum was not intended for attendees to have a magic bullet to resolve this problem as they left the meeting,” Mitchell said. “Rather the purpose was to open a dialogue and a conversation and we accomplished that.”

Mitchell added he hopes to have future forums on similar topics take place throughout the state.

Other speakers Saturday were Angela Austin, My Brother’s Keeper, Lansing; Cal Talley, chairperson of My Brother’s Keeper, Saginaw Michigan Challenge; George Copeland, Saginaw Valley State University student; and Montel Menifee, Bay Regional Director of the Office of U.S. Senator Gary Peters.

Race and Law Enforcement Forum sign editedThe event concluded with a law enforcement panel discussion featuring Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton; Inkster Police Chief William Riley; Saginaw Police Chief Bob Ruth; Buena Vista Township Public Safety Director Robert Schulz; Saginaw County Prosecuting Attorney John McColgan Jr.; Saginaw County Sheriff Bill Federspiel; Michigan State Police Lt. David A. Simon, Post Commander of the Tri Cities Post; and Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman.

The forum was attended by youth and concerned citizens from the Saginaw area as well as elected officials from throughout the state, including the communities of Durand, Flint, Auburn Hills, Highland Park, Saginaw, and South Haven.

Huge crowd attends MBC-LEO forum on Race and Law Enforcement in Saginaw Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015.

Huge crowd attends MBC-LEO forum on Race and Law Enforcement in Saginaw Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015.

There were multiple opportunities for conversation between the audience and the speakers. The topics covered included ways to help young men who have college educations get jobs that match their education, the desire for additional assistance for young black women facing legal issues, and the need for more programs and opportunities for people who are now out of the prison system and trying to better themselves.

MBC-LEO is an affiliate organization of the Michigan Municipal League, which also was a supporter of the event. The conversation that took place in Saginaw fits directly with one of the eight assets the League has deemed essential for building vibrant communities – diversity and multiculturalism. Other event sponsors were Meijer, Spicer Group, Vividar Mor, W&W Cleaning Services, Siemens, Absopure, OHM, the National League of Cities, and the Saginaw Community Action Committee.

Click here to view additional photos from the forum.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and (734) 669-6317.