League forum brings hundreds of residents together to discuss solutions to poverty and racial inequity in Michigan
For Immediate Release: October 10, 2016
Contact: Alex Rossman
League issues new report on race and education in conjunction with event
LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy held its annual policy forum today, Race, Poverty and Policy: Creating an Equitable Michigan, bringing together more than four hundred residents and state and national experts from advocacy, business, government and media.
The current national climate on race, the Flint water crisis, the ongoing struggles of Detroit Public Schools and other recent policies that have made it painfully clear that policymakers, advocates and residents needed to have an honest discussion about race equity and statewide policy change. The forum included a keynote address by Rinku Sen, president and executive director of Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation, followed by five breakout sessions to discuss challenges and possible solutions to racial inequity and poverty in Michigan. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician whose discovery of elevated lead levels in Flint’s children made policymakers address the Flint water crisis, was honored with the League’s Champion for Kids Award at the forum today.
“Race is not easy or comfortable to talk about, and that’s exactly why we decided to make it the focus of our policy forum this year,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “If we’re going to address and work to resolve systemic racism in Michigan, we need to address it head-on and have a unified front between elected officials, advocates, journalists and residents to address it, and that’s what we’ve tried to do today.”
In conjunction with today’s event, the League also released a new report, Race, place & policy matter in education. The report exposes deep disparities in educational opportunities for Michigan children based on income, race and geography that stem from poor state budget and policy decisions that have widespread economic and generational repercussions.
Students of color are more likely to be economically disadvantaged, due in part to their parents’ lack of economic and educational opportunities. Race appears to play a role in school discipline practices, reading proficiency, high school graduation, college-readiness and attainment, and finally lower levels of employment and earnings as adults.
“As our work finds time and again, there are racial disparities in nearly every area of public policy—health, reading proficiency, school suspensions and expulsions, college attainment and student debt, incarceration rates, employment and income,” Jacobs said. “It’s time for policymakers to stop arguing about causes and instead agree that these disparities are wrong and bad for us all, taking responsibility that they all must come together to pursue solutions. These inequities are caused by decades of bad policy decisions that continue today and will keep affecting each subsequent generation until systemic changes are made.”
The League continues to focus both its mission and work on racial inequity as well as poverty, examining all policies through a race equity lens. In addition to the report released today, some other recent materials produced by the League that examine racial disparities in different policy areas include: an analysis of Census poverty data, the Back to School Report on rising tuition and student debt, a fact sheet on income inequality and a review of the 2017 state budget.
NOTE: Diverse experts and interested parties from around the state participated in four panel discussions and one workshop as part of today’s forum. The sessions and participants were:
Solutions for Cities in Crisis: Moderated by Regina Bell, W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Panelists are Donnell White, Detroit Branch NAACP; Nayyirah Shariff, Flint Rising; and Stacey Stevens, Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.
Government’s Role in Achieving Race Equity: Moderated by State Representative Erika Geiss. Panelists are Jorge Zeballos, Center for Diversity and Innovation at Kellogg Community College; Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County, which is a member of the national Government Alliance on Race Equity (GARE); and Martha Gonzalez-Cortes, Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
The Next Move: Taking Equitable Action for Change (Workshop): Presenters include Peter Hammer, Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights; eliza q. perez-ollin, Detroit Equity Lab; Kate Baker, Detroit Historical Society; and Lisa Leverette, Community Connections Grant Program and Lower Eastside Community Grant Program.
From Watchdog to Dog-Whistle: Media’s Role in Reporting on Race: Moderated by Martina Guzmán, Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights Race and Journalism Fellow at Wayne State University. Panelists are Dr. José Flores, La Voz Magazine; Judy Putnam, Lansing State Journal; Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press; and Michelle Srbinovich, general manager of WDET FM.
The Business Case for Racial Equity: Moderated by Alfredo Hernandez, Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance. Panelists are Don Jones, New Economy Initiative; Jason D. Lee, Focus: HOPE; Abe Carillo, Herman Miller; and Sharon Darby, Cascade Engineering.
The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.