Sunday, September 27, 2020

Mayor Andy Schor releases details of Racial Justice and Equity Plan, community webinar opens dialogue

July 24, 2020
<p>Paul Birdsong speaks with Lansing Mayor Andy Schor outside Schor&#x27;s house after Birdsong led a group of protesters on a two-mile march from the Capitol to the mayor&#x27;s house June 6, 2020. Schor was not home when the group arrived.</p>

Paul Birdsong speaks with Lansing Mayor Andy Schor outside Schor's house after Birdsong led a group of protesters on a two-mile march from the Capitol to the mayor's house June 6, 2020. Schor was not home when the group arrived.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor announced the details of the Racial Justice and Equity Community Action Plan on Thursday.

The structure of the plan included detailed phases of action, an introduction to the city of Lansing’s long-term plan and the schedule for a virtual community input webinar series. The first of the webinar series took place Thursday night with a focus on racial justice and equity.

Schor, Lansing’s phases of action

Attorney Teresa Bingman will head the process of change alongside city departments and the mayor’s Racial Justice and Equity Alliance (MRJEA).

The MRJEA is broken into Executive Leadership, Steering Committee, Advisory Committee and Advisory Subcommittees.

Members include Schor, Co-Chair Human Relations and Community Services Director Kim Coleman, Co-Chair Lansing Police Department Chief Daryl Green, Bingman, members of Schor’s cabinet, chairs of select city boards, authorities and commissions, city representatives and residents and experts from around the community.

Schor’s action plan is broken down into three phases.

The first phase is the research and community input portion, where the MRJEA will work both internally and externally in the community to gather data and input to develop community-inspired action plans.

“The Mayor's Racial Justice and Equity Alliance (MRJEA) will conduct research by performing internal and external environmental scans and hosting town hall meetings, focus groups and individual meetings,” communications manager Valerie Marchand said in the press release. “Information and data obtained will be used to inform the revision of community-inspired police Use of Force policies and to develop a community-inspired Racial Justice and Equity Plan.”

Revising use of force policies and developing a racial justice and equity plan is Phase Two. Phase Two will be community-inspired and be a direct result of input and information collected and digested from Phase One.

The final phase in Schor’s action plan is developing a long-term plan and solution.

“The Mayor, along with the Mayor's Racial Justice and Equity Alliance (MRJEA) and the Lansing Board of Police Commissioners will share approved police reforms, including Use of Force policies and a Racial Justice and Equity Plan with the community,” Marchand said. “Throughout the year, education and training will be provided and community input will be received to inform updates.”

These steps are the most recent in Schor and Lansing’s actions to combat racism and inequity. On June 6, Schor created a Racial Equity and Anti-Racism Fund as a direct response to daily protests at the Capitol against police brutality, racism and injustice. Later that month, Schor declared racism a public health crisis in Lansing.

Community gathers for first webinar on racial justice and equity

In the first of three Zoom meetings with the community, MRJEA created a dialogue on changes that the community thinks need to be made in Lansing and how.

The webinar started with a 5-minute video showing clips of protests, those who lost their lives to police brutality, a statement from Schor summing what has happened in the last few months and why they started the community input system: taking action toward racial equity.

Hosted by Lori Adams Simon, the webinar was broken into two segments. The first segment was a Q&A format where participants gave their input on racism in Lansing.

The community agreed that racism exists not just here, but everywhere, both systematically and covertly and these webinars are a good place to start, but there is a lot more to be done.

“I do think that racism is an issue, and I don’t think that question should be ‘Is there racism?’ but ‘What are we going to do about it?'" Lansing resident Royce Jones said. “I think this (webinar) is part of the solution, but I think there is more we can do and that is really engaging with the community, in the community of color specifically. With single mothers in the community, with people who have been traumatized by a lot of the issues and challenges with people being a Black person, or person of color in the community. So, starting here is great, but I think there’s absolutely more we can do to really impact out community and the people that we serve.”

The forum also discussed racism in the workplace, with many asking for better representation and transparency.

Angela Mathews, a now self-employed resident of Lansing, said when she was employed in the city, racism was not being addressed to really address it, but rather to get it over with.

Additionally, many called for change in the educational system and the systemic racism within it.

Chuck Grigsby, who volunteered in the Lansing school district, said underfunding is key in inequity and can leave many behind as they get older. Grigsby said he believes that influencing the youth is where real change can be made.

“I really saw a lot of disparity and problematic, systematic problems over there with the educational system and the structure there, compared to East Lansing and some of the school systems that I’m in now,” Grigsby said. “I really think that’s where it starts and ends when it comes to being able to attack some of these complicated issues with racism, discrimination, equity, equality, some of the different things that come into play and affect us as adults lifelong.”

The second part of this session featured questions regarding the Lansing Police Department (LPD) with Green responding on behalf of the department.

The webinar investigated whether the community believed there was racism in LPD. Many shared their experiences, showing different perspectives, both positive and negative.

Green and the community focused on how trust could be rebuilt between the police and community. Green acknowledged that this wouldn’t happen overnight and will be an ongoing process.

While Green said that LPD is open and actively participating and enhancing training to better themselves, he also expressed how much the police are responsible for. Officers have filled the void where services don’t exist like homelessness and mental illness. Green said that if defunding the police meant reallocating to fill that void another way, he would support it.

Overall, the community called for transparency, accountability and cultural competency from the LPD and hope to break the stigma around policing. Green and the panel agreed this starts with the youth, just as those earlier in the meeting believed that the starting point to ending racism is to start with the educational system.

Future webinars and how to get involved

There are two more virtual community input webinars in the series, slated to take place next month from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on each day.

The next webinar will take place Aug. 6, with a focus on the police budget.

There have been calls throughout multiple Lansing groups to defund the police including activist Paul Birdsong, the Lansing chapter of Black Lives Matter and Michigan’s NAACP. Currently, Lansing’s police budget is $44.9 million, 32% of Lansing’s total budget.

When Schor proposed the Racial Equity and Anti-Racism Fund in June, $100,000 was taken out of the police budget for the fiscal year ending on June 30. Schor said the budget reallocation was "to start."

The final webinar, scheduled for Aug. 22, is also on the topic of racial justice and equity.

Each webinar is held over Zoom and is open to the public. Information on MRJEA and LPD actions, press releases and sign-up for the webinars can be found on Lansing’s website.

For those unable to attend or who wish to provide and participate in another way, there is a survey on Lansing’s website that allows for additional community input.

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