Detroit, Michigan- Elisheva Johnson serves as the Executive Director of EMERGENT JUSTICE, an organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration in our community country, and eventually world.
The foundation of the work this organization serves to fulfill is participatory defense. We essentially become an effective part of the defense team for a person moving through the system, supporting their defense attorneys as researchers, story tellers and sometimes investigators supporting families and loved ones of those in trouble with the Criminal legal system.
Since there is no such thing as, “My loved one went to jail school”, we help people to navigate the challenges of the injustice system, and to show community support for someone returning home. We do this as a community of returning citizens and directly impacted people. We take and transform these stories into campaigns for policy reforms, and campaigns to replace bad actors in the system like prosecutors, judges, police chiefs, and others. We know that supporting families in writing biographical materials to help humanize clients and tell their stories, can be impactful in changing the trajectory of a case, in fact we have won cases in this very fashion!
“In Michigan, it is legal for a person to carry a firearm in public as long as the person is carrying the firearm with lawful intent and the firearm is not concealed. … It is legal because there is no Michigan law that prohibits it; however, Michigan law limits the premises on which a person may carry a firearm.”
To Otis this all seems to be very unfair on top of the fact that this is all happening during a Pandemic.
“Right now we need help for Otis Goree!” :
MJR: Can you give us a briefing on what is currently going on with Mr. Goree?
EJ: “Sure, no problem”.The story is: Otis was sad that he had recently lost his dog, Martin. Martin was a Japanese Akita, that Otis loved and cared for for a long time. He had just left the vet and was preparing to bury his beloved pet, when he tried to dig a hole the ground was frozen, he broken down from frustration in a furry of tears, Otis was completely heart broken. He couldn’t bear thinking about having to bury his dog sitting in the box in his living room, so he decided he would take a break and walk to a local store. On his way back, his mind started to clear, he felt a little better, as he stood at the bus stop on 7 mile and Outer Drive. Then out of nowhere, the police pulled up and asked Otis what kind of gun he had. Otis was stunned, and scared that the police stopped and wanted to search him. There was no cause to search or ask him anything, but Otis fully cooperated with the police. Otis worried he was going to jail and mentioned that he has pre-existing conditions that made it unsafe to locked up right now. He is a triple by-pass survivor and still has heart conditions that he takes medicine for today. He missed out on medication for over two days while he was being detained in a Detroit Detention center on Mound Road, where he was held in a cell with about ten other inmates that where not social distanced. How could this happen when Otis doesn’t even have a felony record. (The usual argument used by police.)
MJR: “Thank you for sharing his story. Social media has helped show the world that many instances when a BIPOC person is dealing with police have been non-violent”.
ET: “Most definitely!” Social media has helped with sharing of traumas and similarly shared interactions with police and black men that are minor or over embellished bringing harm or even death”. Over the past year, we have heard of the rising COVID-19 cases in MI jails and prisons. Again, looking at the circumstances of Mr. Goree’s arrest, we know, WE are targeted even more as Black people”.
EJ:So there’s been a scramble in states to release non-violent detainees. Nina Ginsberg, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says it’s a critical step that needs to occur. “This is ground zero,” she says. “Once coronavirus gets into a jail, there’s no way to stop it from spreading. You cannot do social distancing in a jail. You cannot.”
MJR: For the folks that are reading this or will hear about Mr. Goree, what can they do to support him and the work of Emergent Justice?
EJ: Thank you for asking! First, folks can call Representative Rashida Tlaib and tell her that gun profiling has to stop! At Emergent Justice, our work is led by directly impacted folks. We are always recruiting and open to like minded individuals that want to transform the criminal justice and end mass incarceration”
Message from Statewide organization Michigan Liberation
Michigan Liberation friends & families have crafted a non-exhaustive list of demand elected officials in the position of power during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Michigan Liberation organizers are demanding crisis protection for vulnerable populations and prevent the spread of the virus due to overcrowded conditions in Michigan state prisons and jails.
The grassroots organization recommends the following types of changes to be implemented by our Governor, legislature, sheriffs, prosecutors, and judges. Also demanding the immediate release from prison and jails for vulnerable populations, limiting arrests and warrants for low-level offenses so people don’t live in a higher state of fear, suspend criminal charges that can serve a more severe life-altering burden, and relief and care for our incarcerated loved ones. To find out more about the petition and details of the demands use the link below.
Kalamazoo, MI- Prior to the start of the regularly scheduled Kalamazoo School Board, dozens of teachers, parents and community members were seen holding signs protesting outside the administration building. Standing room only, recognizing area students for their athletic achievements. The meeting’s priority for many in attendance, t step raises for teachers after one year of service. KEA, President, Amanda Miller states, “the other way teachers receive compensation increases are when we bargain an increase on the step schedule. The money budgeted doesn’t even get us to the step that teachers earn for last year’s service”.
A very emotionally charged meeting, parents and former KPS students shared their experiences of support from a KPS teacher that “took that extra time” or provide resources to them that they were not able to get on their own at the time. Teachers current and retired shared emotionally charged stories as well. Students that were able to move past a barrier or challenge in their lives and contributing part success to the dedication of KPS teachers.
George White, Lead parent advocate for SEE Change a local group from Kalamazoo, states, “It appears there was an agreement in principle to a 2.2 percent step increase for teachers this coming school semester. Recruiting and retaining quality teachers depends on stability/dependability of employment and step increases after their first year to assure that teachers feel valued and are able to support their families”.
White has met with many KPS parents and working with them to “navigate” through the “chain of commands”. In addition, White adds, “80 new teachers last year aided by a very high turnover ratio in Kalamazoo Public Schools. Kalamazoo Public Schools enrollment is thriving/growing over the last 10 years and students received an increase in per pupil funding this school year. It is no secret the school board has never met with teachers and this action serves to even deepen the rift. Our pupils deserve a school board that visits the schools and talks to the students/teachers and places the value where it belongs”.
The next KPS school board is scheduled for August 31, 2017, at 7 pm. The administration building is located 1220 Howard Street.
Kalamazoo, MI- SEE Change, a parent/student advocacy group based in Kalamazoo held an open community speak out to hear concerns of parents, students as well as educators within the KPS school district. Many families seeking educational supports for their student shared similar stories of challenging progress toward successful resolutions.
A few KPS board members were present as well and made themselves available to parents to answer questions they may have. SEE Change is collaborating with similar organizations in Michigan to provide advocacy to parents, caregivers, and students their rights to “due process” and rights.
SEE Change plans on conducting workshops and trainings throughout the year. For more information on what this group is doing, visit them on social media
Kalamazoo, MI-Hundreds of folks from the community showed up at LaCrone Park on Saturday to enjoy music, food, games and more at the ninth annual Ultimate Family Reunion.
The event, hosted by Mothers of Hope, their mission, to connect the community with the information and resources with a family reunion feel and function. Plenty of entertainment for everyone, inflatable bounce houses, live-performances from local youth and artists.
Multiple basketball games going on at the same time, as well as information booths set up throughout the park sharing information about educational, environmental, health and social organizations throughout Kalamazoo.