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Make your voice known on the VoiceKent survey at the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market Saturday

VoiceKent-Color-768x210VoiceKent (previously known as VoiceGR) is a community survey offered in partnership with the Kent County Health Department in 2017. The survey is designed uniquely to connect demographics with the opinions, attitudes, and perceptions of Kent County residents on topics such as ability to meet basic needsaccess to healthcareneighborhood safetyemploymenteducation, and racism and discrimination. The data gathered from the survey is meant to help create a baseline to stimulate conversation on pertinent issues to our region.

The primary goal of VoiceKent is to provide objective data to residents, nonprofits, governments, businesses, and other decision makers regarding the perceptions and needs of the community.

Saturday Aug. 2 is the last time VoiceKent will be at the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market.

If you can’t make it to the market Saturday, click here to take the 2017 VoiceKent survey!

Tomar la encuesta en Español.

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Environmental Justice After Charlottesville, VA

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Make a comment
Governor Syder’s Environmental Justice Working Group is accepting comments and questions.  Emails can be sent to EnvironmentalJusticeWorkGroup@michigan.gov 

Reposted from the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition

Michigan, Open Your Eyes to Racism

The gruesome violence that erupted in Virginia last week was a terrible reminder of the stark reality of racism in the United States. It’s a hatred imbalance of power wrought from the treacherous past. The explosive clashes, tragically resulted in the death of a young woman Heather Heyer. In her obituary, published by the New York Times, they describes Heather as a young passionate woman who died standing up for what she believed in: love and equality.

Equality. This is a notion that the Alt Right explicitly denounces. It’s a notion rejected by Vanguard, the group James Alex Fields Jr.—the man charged for striking 19 and killing Heather Heyer with a Charger– reportedly marched with in the Charlottesville rallies. Although the group denounced his actions, and deny his membership, Vanguard’s ruthless intentions were laid bare for the nation to see– a vision of the United States fortified by hatred. Their manifesto details “that equality does not exist in nature, and a government based in the natural law must not cater to the false notions of equality.” It rails multiculturalism, “international Jews”, and sees men as the sole provider for women.

In Environmental Justice work, we fight every day for equality. It is not just a concept, rather it is a moral imperative, that has far ranging impacts even down to the molecules of the air that we breathe. Equality decides who has the right to live, and for how long. Whether we are talking about losing your home in the foreclosure crisis[i], the per pupil amount distributed to students[ii], health disparities[iii], the amount ofchemical pollution we breathe[iv] [to name a few], all are injustices, and, none of them are distributed equally in our society. Rather, each of these issues are racialized. That is, if you are a person of color, you are statistically more likely in every category to be on the losing end. And that is so true for Michigan.

In the case of Flint, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights found that the underlying issues of racism contributed to the water contamination crisis in Flint. MDCR, publicly stated, “a complex mix of historical, structural and systemic racism combined with implicit bias led to decisions, actions, and consequences in Flint would not have been allowed to happen in primarily white communities such as Birmingham, Ann Arbor, or East Grand Rapids.”

In the wake of the Flint Water Crisis the Governor of Michigan formed the Environmental Justice Working Group to explore possible solutions to help forestall or foresee other catastrophes. Residents from SW Detroit zip code 48217 – known as Michigan’s most polluted zip code—organized and hosted a listening session for working group members to hear local concerns. Local residents asked for so many things, from an EJ Office, to more pollution mitigation funding. But none more poignant that the local nurse, pleading nearly in tears on behalf of the asthmatic teenagers who visit her River Rouge clinic, “they want to breathe, they want to breathe”.  Detroit has three times the asthma rate than the rest of the state.

So, is our society equal? No. We have proven that over and over in every sector from here to the moon. The conversation that is present now is whether or not you believe it. Are you of the ilk of Vanguard, James Fields and the Alt Right which seeks to deny it? Or do you deeply and profoundly agree in equality, what Heather Heyer was marching for? And if so, what are you going to do about it?

The full report on the Detroit Opportunity Index, and other major cities, can be seen on the Kirwin Institute website of Ohio State University

Michelle Martinez is the Coordinator for theMichigan Environmental Justice Coalition, and the Executive Director of Third Horizon Consulting, a Detroit-based social justice consulting firm.

State of MichiganEnvironmental Justice Working Group Northern Michigan Listening Session Thursday, August 24th, 2017, 6:00 PM Reception, 6:30 – 8:30 PM Listening Session, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, 100 Grand Traverse Village Blvd, Acme, MI 49610, State of Michigan Working Group Website

SPLC releases guide”Ten Ways to Fight Hate”

Reposted from Southern Povery Law Center, August 14, 2017

A presidential candidate wins election after denigrating Muslims, Latinos, women and people with disabilities. A young white man opens fire and kills nine African Americans who welcomed him into Bible study at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, telling his victims, “I have to do it.” A Muslim woman is seated on a bench in front of a coffee shop in Washington, D.C., when a woman begins screaming anti-Muslim epithets. A swastika and other anti-Semitic graffiti appear at an elementary school in Stapleton, Colorado. A lone gunman carrying an assault rifle and a handgun storms a well-known gay club in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others.

​Bias is a human condition, and American history is rife with prejudice against groups and individuals because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or other characteristics. As a nation, we’ve made a lot of progress, but stereotyping and unequal treatment persist.

 

Fight hate in your community. Download the guide.

When bias motivates an unlawful act, it is considered a hate crime. Most hate crimes are inspired by race and religion, but hate today wears many faces. Bias incidents (eruptions of hate where no crime is committed) also tear communities apart and can escalate into actual crimes.

Since 2010, law enforcement agencies have reported an average of about 6,000 hate crime incidents per year to the FBI. But government studies show that the real number is far higher — an estimated 260,000 per year. Many hate crimes never get reported, in large part because the victims are reluctant to go to the police. In addition, many law enforcement agencies are not fully trained to recognize or investigate hate crimes, and many simply do not collect or report hate crime data to the FBI.

The good news is, all over the country people are fighting hate, standing up to promote tolerance and inclusion. More often than not, when hate flares up, good people rise up against it — often in greater numbers and with stronger voices.

This guide sets out 10 principles for fighting hate in your community.

Environmental Justice Listening Session with Gov. Snyder’s EJ Work Group

flintwaterAugust 1, 2017  5:30-8:00pm
LINC Gallery-341 Hall St.

The members of the Governor’s Environmental Justice Work Group are interested in hearing directly from community members about how we can work together to improve our state and local communities around environmental justice. The Work Group has organized various listening tour stops around the state, that are designed for Work Group members to hear directly from community members how we can improve environmental justice awareness and engagement and increase the quality of life for all Michiganders. This input will help shape a set of recommendations the Work Group will send to the Governor.

Attendees should be prepared to discuss their needs to best address environmental justice in their community and their ideal vision for environmental justice in Michigan

Read more about the Environmental Justice Work Group on their website

Report: Michigan communities, water face twin assaults from environmental budget cuts

 

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These cuts will directly reduce remediation of the toxic plume poisoning families living near Madision and Hall St. SE.

Reposted from LINC-UP June 14, 2017

 

LCV, MEC urge lawmakers to consider combined impact of state, federal proposals

LANSING — Michigan lawmakers are rushing to pass budgets that slash core environmental programs — especially ones protecting our lakes and waterways — without considering the dire impacts they will have when combined with likely cuts at the federal level, a new report from the Michigan Environmental Council and Michigan League of Conservation Voters warns.

The report, prepared by Public Sector Consultants, compiles for the first time all the known environmental programs and protections for public health that are threatened by steep budget cuts currently proposed in Lansing and Washington. At risk are essential programs for protecting the Great Lakes, ensuring safe drinking water and cleaning up toxic contamination, the analysis indicates.

“This report shows that irresponsible, sweeping cuts at the state and federal levels will have real-world impacts from Menominee to Monroe, Taylor to Traverse City,” said Lisa Wozniak, Michigan LCV executive director. “This report is a wake-up call. We urge our elected officials in Lansing to pump the brakes and stop rushing to pass a budget that will only hasten our race to the bottom when it comes to the environment.”

Both the state House and Senate have proposed significant cuts to the Department of Environmental Quality budget. At the same time, President Trump has called for cutting the Environmental Protection Agency budget by nearly a third. Combined, those cuts would fundamentally weaken the the DEQ’s ability to protect public health and natural resources, since federal funds — mostly from the EPA — make up more than a quarter of DEQ’s budget in the 2017 fiscal year.

“We want Michigan residents to understand that the drastic budget cuts lawmakers are rushing to pass before summer break will mean less enforcement of the bedrock environmental standards that hold polluters accountable and protect our families from poisoned drinking water and dangerous air pollution,” said Chris Kolb, MEC president. “Failing to fund these essential programs will only cost us more down the road and put public health at risk in the meantime.”

Most notably, the House and Senate budgets do not address the fact that Clean Michigan Initiative funds, used to clean up hazardous sites in Michigan communities over the past decade, will no longer be available next year. By not replacing those funds, lawmakers are in effect cutting $14.9 million in cleanup funds for contamination that threatens drinking water supplies, our rivers and lakes, and the health of Michigan families.

Both chambers also cut Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed $4.9 million to address the emerging threat of vapor intrusion, which occurs when poisonous gases enter buildings built on sites where contamination wasn’t cleaned up. Buildings in Michigan have been evacuated recently because of vapor intrusion and blood tests have found high levels of toxic chemicals in the blood of some people at those sites. The state estimates there are about 4,000 sites statewide at risk for vapor intrusion.

“These cuts aren’t just line items on budget documents, they are real threats to the health and safety of Michigan residents,” said Jeremy DeRoo, co-executive director of LINC UP, a community development organization in Grand Rapids working to educate and protect local residents from toxic vapor intrusion. “Our cities are facing many environmental risks that are now being exacerbated by these proposed budget cuts — everything from worrying about whether the water coming out of their taps is safe to drink to living everyday with air laced with toxic chemicals.  Now is the time to address these problems head-on.  Ignoring them won’t make them go away.”

The report also looks at the impact on Michigan communities of major cuts to federal environmental programs proposed by President Trump. It specifically looks at key projects funded by the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Superfund, Brownfield, and Sea Grant programs, which are at risk of losing funding under the president’s current budget proposal.

“Our analysis shows that the Legislature’s significant cuts to environmental programs will have direct impacts on the ability of local governments and organizations to protect public health and the natural resources that are vitally important for Michigan’s economy and quality of life,” said Julie Metty Bennett, senior vice president of Public Sector Consultants. “The report also serves to inform policymakers on the range of cuts proposed at the state and federal level, effectively causing a one-two punch to their ability to ensure Michigan’s environmental policy is carried out in a way that maintains their constituents’ expectations in recreation, economic activity, and public health.”

– See more at: http://lincup.org/news/reportmichigancommunitieswaterfacetwinassaultsfromenvironmentalbudgetcuts#sthash.AFsGptHJ.dpuf

2017 Equity Profile highlights potential for equity to drive shared prosperity

d4d9f39aca054e979f1356c054ec4613_175x175_croppedReleased by Partners for a Racism-free Community 

An Equity Profile of Grand Rapids, released April 28 , highlights inequities in income, employment, education, and opportunity in Grand Rapids. The report was developed by PolicyLink and the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) at USC, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Since 2011, PolicyLink and PERE have engaged in a formal partnership to amplify the message that equity—just and fair inclusion—is both a moral imperative and the key to our nation’s economic prosperity as America’s demographics shift and communities of color emerge as the new majority. An Equity Profile of Grand Rapids underscores while the city demonstrates overall strength and resilience, gaps in income, employment, education, and opportunity by race and geography place its economic future at risk. In 2014, more than 40 percent of residents were people of color, double the share (20 percent) in 1980. Diverse groups are driving growth and change in the region and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

“The City of Grand Rapids believes in equity-informed decision making which is why we are committed to creating and implementing an equity dashboard and scorecard,” said Stacy Stout, Assistant to the City Manager, City of Grand Rapids. “We don’t want data paralysis, we want action; if you have analysis without the action it often results in managerial racism and that hurts the community. Tools like the PolicyLink Equity Profile help us better visualize that work.”

“Robust data about the state of equity in Grand Rapids is essential for crafting strategies to improve outcomes for vulnerable children,“ said Huilan Krenn, Director of Learning and Impact at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. “Our foundation is committed to enabling communities to take data-driven actions using the powerful data contained in the Equity Profile.”

“There has been growing consensus amongst economists that more equitable cities and regions experience more sustainable growth,” said Jessica Pizarek, Associate at PolicyLink. “This is also true for Grand Rapids.  If racial gaps in income were closed, its economy would be $4 billion stronger. We call this the ‘racial equity dividend.’”

Other key findings in the report include:

• Since 1980, communities of color have driven the city’s population growth.  While Grand Rapids’s population has not grown much overall (only a net increase of about 9,000 people), its demographic makeup has changed significantly.  All of the city’s population growth since 1980 has come from communities of color, which has countered steady decline in the number of residents who are White.
• Young people are leading this demographic shift.  Three in fiveyouth under the age of 18 in the city are non-White.  Looking to the future, Grand Rapids will become a majority people-of-color city around 2050, just behind the nation, which will become majority people-of-color in 2044.
• In 2014, 12 percent of all residents who could work and were employed full time but still lived below 200 percent of the poverty line.  Latinos have the highest rate of working poverty, at more than 26 percent.
• Median hourly wages have dropped for all residents since 2000, but Black workers saw the largest decrease of nearly $3 per hour from 2000 to 2014. Latino workers continue to earn the lowest median wage of all groups at $12.30 an hour.

“I am glad PolicyLink is elevating data about racial inequities, particularly at a time when we are being presented with new studies locally showing disparate interaction with law enforcement in Grand Rapids communities of color,” said Faye Richardson-Green, Executive Director of Partners for a Racism-Free Community.

The equity profile and potential solutions included therein will serve as a unique resource for local advocates and residents seeking to address disinvestment in communities of color. To this end,PolicyLink and Partners for a Racism-Free Community are holding a panel discussion and community forum around equity in Grand Rapids this morning at DeVos Place (303 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503). To download a copy of the report, click here:

http://nationalequityatlas.org/sites/default/files/GrandRapids_final_profile.pdf

About PolicyLink
PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity by Lifting Up What Works®. For more information, visit PolicyLink.org.

Urgent Community Meeting – Tuesday, May 23

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This and following meetings in other parts of the city are a chance to gather resident feedback on the city’s implementation of the 12-point plan and community/police relations. Join the NAACP, Micah Center, LINC, and other community organizations in holding our city and police accountable. Come speak up and have a say in our city’s recommendations! Join the event on facebook.