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Kalamazoo County seeks residents to serve on Reparations Task Force Task force will examine historical discriminatory practices throughout the community, recommend next steps
KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners Vice Chair and head of the Kalamazoo County Reparations Task Force Tami Rey announced the county is accepting applications from residents to serve on the Reparations Task Force. The task force was created earlier this year following the adoption of a resolution brought forward by the Kalamazoo County Board.
“It is vital for the Reparations Task Force to have input from residents from all walks of life and professions that run the gamut, from the community organizers to doctors and attorneys, which is why I am encouraging residents to apply to be a member of the task force,” Rey said. “This task force will take a critical look at the historical practices of racial discrimination throughout the community and have frank and open conversations to determine how to remedy the discriminatory practices that have led to disparities in wealth, housing, employment, education and health.”
The task force is seeking residents from professional fields including, but not limited to:
Community organizers or activists
BIPOC community organizations
Elected officials and county leaders have also been invited to join the task force, including Administrator Tracie Moored, Treasurer Thomas Whitener and county commissioners.
“I applaud Vice Chair Rey for taking the initiative to create this task force and reach out to community members so we can start having the important conversation about reparations in Kalamazoo County,” Board Chair Tracy Hall said. “The goal of this task force aligns with our vision of ensuring Kalamazoo County is actively working toward racial equity and to become a welcoming place for everyone to live, work and raise a family.”
Once the task force completes its examination, it will be charged with recommending appropriate remedies to the county board
Kalamazoo, MI- Last night, youth and community organizers gathered to show solidarity and to continue to memorialize the short lived life of George Floyd who was killed by police last summer. Organized by Corianna McDowell and Quintin Bryant according to the Facebook post.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Derek Chauvin, a white police officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, knelt on Floyd’s neck for approximately 9 minutes and 30 seconds after he was handcuffed and lying face down in the street.
Floyd complained about being unable to breathe prior to being on the ground, but after being restrained he became more distressed, and continued to complain about breathing difficulties. Officer Chauvin placed his neck on the neck of Floyd until medics told him to.
Today is the first day trial began for the officer, Derek Chauvin, accused of who killed George Floyd. “I feel that we can not allow our voices to be silent”. Organizers met at 8:00pm with signs, and solidarity to show our community & the world we stand together. In addition to the program, there was a moment of silence for 8:46 that same length of time that George laid on the ground pleading for his life as the officer left his knees pressed against his neck until he passed away.
LIVE COVERAGE OF Derek Chauvin case https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=744978849344129&ref=search
Making a virtual appearance in Wayne County’s 36th District Court bright and early on Friday, the man on the screen in a dapper grey suit and striped tie, salt and pepper hair and a gentle demeanor, hardly cast the figure of a gun-toting outlaw. Sitting upright and attentive from his homey living room, Otis Goree took his turn in front of Judge Kenneth King for a preliminary hearing stemming from his February arrest for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.
Otis’ case was one many like it being heard that morning in courtroom 438. Though access to the public was limited (several were abandoned in the Zoom waiting room after attempting to log on using the public link), our from Majyck Radio was able to watch over an hour of the proceedings, during which dozens of individuals came before the court for concealed carry charges.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, gun sales across the country have been on the rise, and gun violence has risen alarmingly in many major metropolitan areas. In response, Detroit police are cracking down – focusing their efforts on identifying, stopping and questioning individuals they believe to be carrying weapons and making arrests when those individuals are unable to furnish a concealed carry permit – which, unlike the guns themselves, have become difficult to obtain. Getting a license requires a gun owner to successfully complete an approved training course – in person. While the pandemic rages on, many providers of the training have limited or entirely suspended their offerings due to public health concerns and social distancing requirements. Amidst an uptick in violence within their neighborhoods, citizens like Otis feel at risk, but unable to legally protect themselves.
Otis, 59, is a lifelong resident of Detroit. A hardworking family man and grandfather of 2, he enjoys working with his hands. Since heart attacks in 2018 forced him into early retirement from his job in building maintenance, Otis spends most of his time gardening, woodworking, and relaxing at home.
Prior to 2020, Otis had never owned or fired a gun in his life, and didn’t feel like his lifestyle necessitated a firearm. That changed with the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020, and the massive social unrest, racially motivated and politically sanctioned violence, and an increasing sense of fear and desperation among many of his neighbors that led to increased violent crime in his community. Otis no longer felt safe, and for the first time looked to equipping himself with a firearm for personal protection.
Otis is not alone. It is estimated that first time gun owners account for over 40% of gun sales in the country since early 2020 – more than double the average in previous years.
Otis purchased his small pistol from an authorized dealer and made sure to have it registered immediately. He didn’t know when he made his purchase that he would not be able to take a class locally to obtain his Concealed Carry Permit – information the seller didn’t share with him until after Otis had purchased and registered the weapon. So, while the gun would afford him some peace of mind at home, it would have to stay there. And it did, until one snowy day in February.
Normally, Otis relies on friends and family to drive him when he has errands to run. On February 17th, however, there was no one available to take him. Instead, he would have to walk to the stop on 7 Mile and take the bus. “I needed my vegetables”, Otis says, so he set out with his reusable grocery bags, his walking cane and, for the first time, his pistol. “Things had gotten pretty bad,” he explained, referring to violence in his neighborhood off 7 mile in Detroit. Indeed, homicides in Detroit rose 19% in 2020, and non-fatal shootings were up 53%. So when he left on what would have otherwise been a routine trip to the market, he tucked the gun securely into the waistband of his pants, underneath his heavy winter coat. Otis explains that he didn’t make the decision lightly, but that he felt the need to bring a weapon with him because he feared for his safety in the neighborhood and at the bus stops.
The shopping itself was uneventful, but while he waited, loaded down with bags of groceries, at the stop for the bus that would take him back home, suddenly two officers pulled up in a black stealth police SUV, got out, approached him (and only him) directly and immediately asked him if he had a weapon. Otis replied honestly that he did, and when asked if he had a CCW permit, told the officers he did not. Otis was relieved when after a few minutes, the officers then told him to go ahead and get on his bus and go home. Unfortunately by the time he gathered his bags from the sidewalk, the bus had already moved on. Not wanting to stick around, he decided to walk to the next stop and catch his ride from there. He made it less than a block down the road before another stealth police vehicle pulled aside him and two more officers questioned him – exactly as they had at the bus stop moments before. Otis replied as he had at the bus stop, and once again the officers told him to be on his way and pulled off.
Increasingly nervous and just wanting to get home, Otis walked on for another half a block or so before a third police vehicle pulled in front of him at the next intersection and blocked his path. He was bewildered. The exchange started out much the same – Otis shared when asked that he had a weapon, told them where it was, and explained he did not have a permit. This time, he was arrested.
Sitting in the back of the police car that day, Otis recalls that his arresting officers claimed to not know about his having been stopped previously, which surprised him. Surely it was more than coincidence that led to his being stopped by three separate police vehicles on such a short journey. And how did they all seem to know he had a gun? Were the police using some kind of detector tools on patrol? He asked his arresting officers, who laughed. “We’re just really good at our jobs” one said. The coy denial didn’t convince Otis. What would have otherwise prompted them to approach a greying older gentleman with a cane and bags of groceries at a bus stop? If they didn’t already know he had a gun, why was that the first question they asked at each stop?
Others agree with Otis’ suspicions – and the idea isn’t far fetched. For years, the department of defense and policing agencies in the united states have been developing and piloting technologies that can detect weapons from as many as 80 feet away, raising fourth amendment concerns about whether or not scanning a person’s body of personal effects absent a warrant constitutes an illegal search. Though public information on the use of these technologies in Detroit is difficult to find, we know they have been implemented elsewhere in recent years, including in New York, where after public outcry the city voted to require the police department to publicly disclose their use of surveillance technology – something they had been actively trying to keep quiet. Meanwhile, the Detroit Police Department has increased its surveillance on citizens in recent years, with the installation of cameras on city streets and audio gunshot detector software that uses cell phone audio to pick up gunfire and triangulate its location. And given the department’s partnership with federal agencies over the summer with Operation Legend – and the millions of dollars that came attached – it’s easy to imagine they may have gained access to even more tools like these.
Farooq Azizuddin says that even if Detroit Police haven’t acquired new technology, for over fifteen years they have employed a scanning device that can be aimed at individuals from a distance to pick up “unusual amounts’ ‘ of metals on a person. Azizuddin, a security expert and former Black Panther, says these devices were developed during the Iraq war to keep troops safe from armed insurgents overseas and eventually, as commonly happens with military tools, they became available to law enforcement agencies stateside.
When Otis was booked at the county jail after his arrest in February, he shared a cell with several others, at least 11, who were also awaiting arraignment on weapons possession charges. All had similar stories about their arrests. Over the course of his 3 day stay, the trend continued; those that bonded out were quickly replaced with others newly arrested under similar circumstances. The numbers aren’t surprising; DPD’s Chief James Craig calls his department’s efforts to crack down on guns “aggressive”.
There is no question that gun violence is a huge problem in our communities, one that has grown considerably in the last year. But rather than address the root causes of crime and violence in a community historically marginalized and poverty stricken, currently experiencing the worst effects of the current pandemic, the city is focusing instead on increasing surveillance of its citizens and casting a wide net to grab as many guns as they can. But who is getting caught up in it? Chief Craig has been a longtime advocate for an armed citizenry, stating his belief that “good guys”, law abiding citizens with guns create safer communities, reduce crime, and even deter terrorism. Thanks to the pandemic’s limiting effect on the registration and licensing process for firearms in addition to an increased need for personal safety, people like Otis, who has no prior criminal history, are finding themselves targeted – seemingly by virtue of being Black. The stealth units appearing in Black neighborhoods conducting these sweeps seem to be absent from more affluent white areas of the city. Maybe that’s where Craig believes the “good guys” are?
Now Otis, who has been looking forward to finally being able to spend time with his children and grandchildren once the threat of Covid-19 subsides, is instead staring directly at a felony charge of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit – punishable by up to five years in prison. The process is slow, but Otis has a lot of questions about his case, and he intends to use this time to get answers. His preliminary hearing today was adjourned until June 30th on account of his attorney having only this morning received the discovery packet – containing documents and evidence necessary to develop his defense. In addition to working with a public defender, Otis has also partnered with Emergent Justice’s Participatory Defense Hub – a cooperative of individuals who come together regularly to review cases, strategize, and dismantle roadblocks to achieving just outcomes. The team will be working diligently in the coming months to support him and his attorney on this case in the coming months.
In the meantime, while the specter of “justice” hangs over his head, Otis plans to go about his business more or less as usual. He’ll ready his gardens for spring, do a little woodworking, practice the harmonica, and maybe even get around to restoring the old Corvette in his garage. And while his own fate is uncertain, he wants more than anything for the community to be aware of the tools and tactics of the police that patrol his city. “Everybody is safer when everybody else knows what’s going on”.
Majyck Radio reached out to the Detroit Police Department to inquire about their use of surveillance technology, and hopes to learn more about the circumstances that led to Mr. Goree’s arrest. We will continue to follow his case. More information about Participatory Defense can be found online at Emergent Justice’s Website: emergentjustice.org.
On Sunday evening at approximately 6:30 pm, a series of fiery explosions wreaked havoc at the site of Kalamazoo’s Homeless Encampment on Mills street near downtown. The Encampment, often unofficially referred to as “Tent City”, sits on a brownfield redevelopment site just east of the city’s downtown business district, and serves as de-facto “home” to 15 plus residents – some of whom were previously ejected from other locations such as Bronson Park when city leaders began cracking down on what they considered a nuisance – the presence of houseless citizens in close proximity to high rent business and residential properties. Setting up tents and other temporary shelters is more often than not a last resort for residents who have been unable to find a safe place to stay elsewhere as a result of the lack of resources afforded by the city of Kalamazoo and what many see as a failure on the part of city leadership as well as private organizations such as the Gospel Mission to adequately and humanely serve the city’s houseless citizens.
Reporting live from Tent City just after the area was declared safe, Majyck Dee spoke to residents and others who had come to help. The cause of the destruction is still under investigation, but those on the scene say that a fire began inside of one of the tents and quickly spread, igniting several propane tanks on the site that had been donated in order to provide some heat and cooking fuel to residents during the cold winter months. Tanks that remained after the fire were removed by the city, and many are concerned that propane will no longer be allowed on the property – a chilling prospect, literally, for this small community.
It is unclear how many people have been or will be displaced as a result of the fire, but individuals who spoke with Dee on Sunday night expressed a need for tents, sleeping bags and blankets to replace items destroyed by the flames. While fortunately no serious injuries were reported, many residents’ essential belongings were reduced to ash, or destroyed by water. The backened, soggy remains of blankets, clothing, tents, and other items dotted the encampment on Sunday night. For those that had little to begin with, the loss is great.
Those interested in donating are encouraged to reach out to local organizers who have already been working to provide basic needs to residents. Kalamazoo Coalition for the Homeless is one such group. On their facebook page, they keep an updated list of specific needs, offer guidance to those who want to help, and coordinate volunteers to collect items and deliver them to the encampment.
Kalamazoo, MI- A student-led and created survey, virtually shared and hard copies circulated in various communities throughout Kalamazoo with the support of community members and local organizations. Recently, newly hired Kalamazoo Public Schools, Superintendent Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri recently created a one question survey to capture the “voice” of high school students opinion on the value of School Resource Officers (SRO’s).
During the summer of 2020 Students K-24 have engaged in community conversations police, school administration, local organizations and community leaders to discuss the reallocation of funds for School Resource Officers and provide more meaningful solutions that do not criminalize social, emotional growth of adolescents and young adults.
There are many students in the district that have been very outspoken about the trauma’s that connect with SRO’s in public schools and research and data that contradicts what are interested in hearing what other students opinions about their experiences as a student in Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS).
Student participation is confidential; and responses are not connected to student accounts or ID’s. Youth organizers plan to share student voices with KPS staff and the community the results. High school students from KPS are encouraged to respond. Students are eligible to register online for a free raffle.
For more information about ridding SRO’s from Kalamazoo Public Schools; bit.ly?KPSNOSRO
Kalamazoo Youth Development Network will be hosting a Youth LINK event Wednesday, December 16, 2020 to give the youth a chance to learn about what youth advocacy organizations are operating in the Kalamazoo area! This Youth LINK Event will be in a speed dating event where local youth can learn about different youth advocacy efforts in the community. Please use this link to sign up: https://us02web.zoom.us/…/tZMvdeqoqjMjHt3g1kqKLR724PpHM…
40 days. If you haven’t already, NOW is the time to prepare. Here are some tips:
Learn self defense. Arm yourself. Get a gas mask and a helmet. Cardio.
Stock up on non perishable food, water and a portable water filter, and first aid supplies.
Identify and secure alternative power sources (battery powered flashlights and lanterns, candles, camp fuel/propane, a solar powered phone charger, camp stove, a generator if you can).
Get a battery powered radio and begin collecting hand tools, paracord/rope, blankets and tarps.
Keep your gas tank full as possible at all times and fill a duffel bag with extra supplies to keep in the car.
Evaluate your home security and consider getting a door/window alarm, a porch/outside camera, and inspect the sturdiness of door frames and windows. Determine if you will need boards to cover windows or barricade doors and start collecting wood now (often found free or cheap on marketplace).
There are lots of good deals at Park St right now to stock up on food. Many of these items can be found cheaply on Amazon or some thrift stores.
Sit down and force yourself to walk through possible scenarios and formulate a plan on how you would realistically react, and plan accordingly, so you have already thought it over before it occurs.
Identify a small group of people who you have zero doubt that you can trust your life with. Discuss one another’s skills and vulnerabilities. Collaborate and strategize to keep your group safe.
Keep your eyes wide open and your ears to the ground. Pay critical attention to the news and double check sources, stories, and facts now more than ever.
Copied from a friend
P.S.: After you’ve mentally and physically prepared yourself:
Go for long walks in the woods as the leaves are changing colors.
Find your favorite music and play it as much and as often as you want. Dance like nobody’s watching.
Cuddle with a loved one. Reconnect with old friends. Take care of unfinished business.
Read a book. Not a Marxist book, or a political book. A fun book. Like science fiction, or romance, or a graphic novel.
Look up your favorite wholesome entertainment and keep it at the top of your streaming queue.
Cook your favorite meals.
Help organize and prepare your community but don’t spend a solitary second doing something you don’t need or want to do.
Engaging the under 18 crowd isn’t usually a big priority for candidates during election season. Votes win elections, and campaigns will leave no stone unturned in order to identify and appeal to voters, register eligible adults, and talk about the issues with anyone able to cast a ballot.
Education and community advocacy organization PACCT is trying to change that. Or at least, to raise awareness among candidates and the public the importance of youth – those under 18 – as key stakeholders in any sustainable equity strategy. To further that message and help inform the community about candidates for Kalamazoo Public Schools Board of Education and where they stand on issues important to them, on Wednesday evening the group hosted a student lead and moderated School Board Candidate Forum. Participants in the forum joined virtually, while youth gathered outdoors and on site at Interfaith homes to run the show. Of the 7 candidates for KPS’ Board of Ed who were asked to participate, Megan Maddock and Marshall Kilgore accepted the invitation to answer questions from community members live via Zoom.
To support young leaders in the community, PACCT partnered with AIMS Kidz, a resident initiative to provide educational opportunities, meals, and activities for students who reside at Interfaith Homes. Through AIMS, PACCT was able to recruit and train over 10 KPS students to take the reins at the forum.
Taking on the role of host, 10th grader Jamiya says that this was the first time she had ever had a public speaking role. She admits to being a little nervous about introducing the candidates and reviewing the forum rules and procedures to a live audience, but she enjoyed the experience and is looking forward to coming back for the next forum in the series (taking place on Wednesday, September 23, and again on the 30th).
Welcoming attendees, keeping the trolls away, monitoring the Zoom chat and screening questions submitted by the public were among the duties handled by Akasha, Dequariana and Aliya – and they kept busy. For about an hour and a half, Maddock and Kilgore thoughtfully answered a steady stream of questions posed by moderators Jada and Doris on topics ranging from the School to Prison Pipeline to nutrition and of course, online learning. Timekeeper Denisha kept the pace and made sure candidates kept to the allotted time (60 seconds) to respond.
What did the candidates think about being on the (virtual) hot seat and grilled by teens? Megan Maddock says she appreciated the approach, pointing out that “Students are most directly affected by decisions of the KPS board but historically have the least amount of space given to voice their input and concerns” and that student leadership “might make candidates consider how their platforms meet the needs of all young people in the district”. Similarly, Marshall Kilgore says it was “awesome to see out youth’s voices being uplifted” and says he looks forward to more opportunities to receive feedback from students and families.
Watch the full recording of the forum below. More information on PACCT and their upcoming forums can be found on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pacct.board.5
To learn more about AIMS Kidz, go to: https://www.facebook.com/aims.kidz
KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN – Starting next week, Wednesday, September 16, 2020, PACCT Board will host two forums for the public to talk to 2020 candidates for the Kalamazoo school board. The forums will take place on September 16th and 23rd at the same time (see time information below). The purpose of this event is for residents and students to express their needs and question these candidates! This year more than ever, we need to hold our leaders accountable for the safety of our kids.
Wednesdays (9/16, 9/23, 9/30)
6:00PM-6:25PM Virtual Meet & Greet
6:25PM– 8:00PM EST School Board Candidate Forum
LIVE STREAM INFORMATION: Live Stream from Interfaith Homes
Promise Advocating for Children & Community Transformation (PACCT) is a group of diverse stakeholders in Kalamazoo in direct opposition with KPS Administration and Board of Trustees lax efforts to make changes in district policies that are criminalizing, bias and not equitable to all students and families in the district. The formation of PACCT amplifies the voices of many parents, students and educators that are experiencing substandard treatment. This fierce group of individuals from the community is directly impacted by the education system and move as a collective to educate the community of the intersectionality of the issues the community faces. We will show intersections and educate using the known examples of the STPP (school 2 prison pipeline) in Kalamazoo, and State. We will also show how the juvenile justice system is connected to the school system and how the next prosecutor and sheriff election is important to Kalamazoo County.
PACCT Board, Majyck Radio Evolution & Michigan Liberation Host Midsummer Youth Mini Festival in Western Michigan
KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN – On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, PACCT Board, Michigan Liberation and Majyck Radio Evolution will host a Midsummer Youth Mini Festival in the Vine Neighborhood area of Kalamazoo. The event will offer a much-needed break and opportunity for young adults 17-25 years old to celebrate summer by providing resources, live entertainment, giveaways, and activities to help ease the tension and stress of the pandemic.
There will be a variety of activities taking place. There will be live entertainment featuring local groups and musicians from the area. There will be youth resources for self-care dealing with mental health, a free clothing swap, and job connections for youth looking for employment opportunities. There will be several vendors onsite such as Planned Parenthood and several LGBTQ related organizations. Attendees will also get a chance to register to vote and learn about the upcoming election.
Midsummer Youth Mini Festival for Youth (Ages 17 – 25)