June 2019

West Michigan unveils their vision for Michigan!

Organizers in West Michigan have had a busy couple of weeks! On May 25, West Michigan folks held their Regional Summit 2.0 and were finally able to ratify the West Michigan Regional People’s Agenda!

For our team of folks, it was important that our agenda demonstrate our vision of a liberated future. And we are excited by what we’ve achieved over the past year. Now, we are shifting our focus to making our agenda more accessible to everyone, regardless of varying abilities, learning styles, and different ways of engaging with information. You can check out the current version of our agenda here, and stay tuned for new ways to engage with it in the future!

We envision…

A Michigan that is sustainable.

Where our neighbors…

  • ...have access to free, safe, and clean water.

This means that every resident of the state of Michigan will maintain collective community control over water aquifers, and will not need to worry about their water being poisoned by lead or chemicals dumped into waterways by polluters. People will have access to free, safe, clean drinking water as a fundamental human right. All pollution and and extraction of our water resources will cease. All outdated or destroyed water infrastructure will be rebuilt safely, and Michiganders will not be required to pay for poisoned water. Oil pipelines that threaten the health and safety of our Great Lakes will be shut down, including but not limited to Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac, and our Great Lakes will receive full protection from threats of harm.

  • ...have access to clean air and clean land.

This means that corporations will no longer be allowed to pollute our air and land . Families will not need to worry about chemicals being dumped into the land. Corporations responsible for current unsafe and unhealthy living conditions, disproportionately impacting communities of color and low-income communities, will be required to clean up the mess that they have left behind. We will have access to clean air that is not poisoned by pollution and incinerators. Low-income communities and communities of color will not be disproportionately impacted by industrial polluters, and our state will be powered by renewable energy sources to counter the impacts of climate change, quickly enough to preserve our ability to live on the planet Earth.

  • ...have access to fresh, healthy food.

This means that food deserts will be replaced by new equitable food systems, community-owned and operated. Municipalities will relinquish control of land allowing the people to self-determine what development happens in their neighborhoods, rather than leaving neighborhood development to big corporations. The people will be given space to support vital pollinators, by allowing native wild grasses and flowers to grow. Investment will be focused on building sustainable food options including edible gardens and forests.

A Michigan where people have dignity.

Where our neighbors…

  • ...have access to adequate housing.

This means that we will recognize the right of every human being to have access to guaranteed, safe, and healthy housing. We will recognize that people live with various different abilities and thus will ensure that there is more housing available to serve people with different abilities.

  • ...have access to high quality public education.

This means our children have access to high quality public education and will feel safe and respected in their schools. Our public education system will be adequately and equitably funded and we will end the profit motive. Michiganders will have access to free or guaranteed college and vocational programs that lead to meaningful jobs and futures. Everyone will have a chance to graduate, regardless of race, class, or language.

  • ...have real economic opportunity.

This means that jobs pay a living wage, as defined both individually and collectively. Our state guarantees a sustainable minimum wage, the right to unionize is upheld, childcare is guaranteed, parental leave is sufficient to meet needs, and workers have access to earned paid sick time. In the long term, we will have a guaranteed universal income so that people can focus on the work that inspires and energizes them, as well as an end to deep disparities of wealth and access. Communities will be empowered to develop their own vision of self-sufficiency,  with the support of institutions. Our state and local municipalities will unequivocally support POC businesses. The State of Michigan, local municipalities, and other institutions will ensure equitable lending practices in financial institutions, equitable hiring practices, and support for worker enterprise co-ops.

  • ...have reliable and equitable neighborhoods, transportation, energy and internet.

This means that communities will be built with spaces to envision ways of being beyond mainstream culture limitations, and that development does not displace existing communities. We will have desegregation without gentrification. We will have adequate funding for infrastructure and an investment in accessible public transportation, as well as access to guaranteed car insurance. We will have renewable energy, where our people are not forced into choosing between heating our homes or feeding our families. All Michiganders will have guaranteed and accessible broadband internet access, as well as access to resources that make learning and communication easier and more efficient.

  • ...have diverse, authentic ways of being, without expected assimilation.

This means we will celebrate and respect different cultures and languages, we will welcome and support families instead of separating them, and recognize the value of people, communities, and environment outside of capitalist value. We will end disparities based on race and class, respectability politics that police identities and cater to white supremacist “professionalism”, and reject capitalism’s divisive narrative of scarcity. We will be united in building and sustaining systems of abundance, collective ownership, and community-based power.

A Michigan that is safe & healthy.

Where our neighbors...

  • ...have inalienable rights to health care.

This means we will have a simple, guaranteed single-payer healthcare system. We will have ready access to specialized care for all individual and family needs, including care for mental health, dental care, substance abuse, reproductive health, neonatal and maternity needs. Substance abuse and mental health will be treated under a healthcare professional, rather than the criminal system. All forms of healthcare will be accessible to people of any legal or documented status. We will eradicate health disparities along racial and gender lines.

  • ...are free from persecution and fear of violence.

This means the decriminalizing of bodies of People of Color, and an end to over-policing and police brutality in communities of color and poor communities. This means that there is no Muslim Ban and that our undocumented neighbors need not fear that their families will be torn apart by Customs and Border Patrol and ICE. This means the abolition of ICE. This means taking an active stand against xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Black racism of any kind as it appears in daily life, particularly when perpetuated by elected officials. This means that women, LGBTQ folks, and people with disabilities have rights to their bodily autonomy and dignity. This means an end to the prison industrial complex and mass incarceration and a shift to restorative and transformative justice as guiding philosophies.

  • ...are able to enjoy the built environment and participate in community regardless of varying abilities.

This means that we will ensure all spaces are readily accessible to differently-abled people. We will celebrate these differences in ability and eliminate the capitalistic devaluing of people based on their capacity for production.

A Michigan that protects our democracy.

Where our neighbors...

  • ...have the right to representative democratic processes.

This means our local and state governments will listen to their constituents, and communities will be controlled by the people who live in them and share their experiences. We will absolutely reject emergency management laws, gerrymandering, and any efforts made to restrict voting access, regardless of race, religion, gender, gender-identity, sexual orientation, party affiliation, documented status, disability, or incarceration. We will have automatic voter registration and voting holidays to eliminate barriers to participation. We will have voting machines located in all Michigan jails, prisons, and detention centers. We will limit the corporate influence over our political system. Anyone will have access to run for public office, and will not be restricted by race, religion, gender, gender-identity, sexual orientation, party affiliation, documented status, disability, and access to wealth and other resources.

  • ...are not an afterthought to corporate and wealthy interests.

This means that billionaires don’t get our tax dollars for stadiums while our schools lack adequate funding. Elected leaders will be responsive to all, not just the powerful few. Our rigged tax system will be overhauled, asking corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, so that we have sufficient revenue to ensure that our people live with dignity in safe and sustainable communities. Governmental bodies will be truly transparent to the communities they serve and will maintain control over community developments at all times.

A Michigan that acknowledges our history.

Where our neighbors...

  • ....experience collective community education to liberate.

This means we will all be educated on the history of power, oppression, resilience, and resistance of the global community. This will include the history of colonization, Indigenous genocide, the middle passage and chattel slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow segregation, redlining, mass incarceration, imperialism, economic systems, Liberation movements of POC, LGBTQ+ equality struggles, labor movements, the feminist/womanist movements, disability rights movements, and more. This education will focus on our collective history of struggle, rather than the history of “celebrity”, and will encourage critical thinking skill development, recognizing the multiplicity of POC history, as developed and told by POC. It will be intersectional, incorporated into various subjects and institutions of learning, and taught in various modalities, including art, for different learning styles.

  • ...learn from both established educational institutions, and new ones.

This means our community will have influence over the curriculum taught in our currently existing education system, and the freedom to develop new systems better suited to educate for collective liberation. We will ensure truth-telling in the education of our children, and the larger public, while requiring the education of government officials state-wide on the topics listed above. We will develop our own media sources to further the educational opportunities of our communities. Our truth-telling will include the elimination of color- and culture-blind education.

  • ...recognize the need for reparations of many types.

This means we will recognize the impact of white flight on many of our urban centers. We will also recognize the policies that actively hurt our communities today, such as the Flint water crisis and the Detroit water shut-offs, and how those relate to historic practices that intentionally target low-income communities, Indigenous communities and communities of color. In the long term, governments across our State, as well as our State itself, will support policies of reparations where we invest in repairing communities that have been harmed.

  • ...recognize that our communities share a linked fate.

For too long, our communities have been pitted against one another, but we know that our communities share a common fate. This means we will work to build strong and lasting relationships across communities, engage our communities in deliberate, earnest and thoughtful political education and organizing. We will continually fight to ensure Michigan is a place where our people live with dignity and our communities can thrive.

  • ...lift up the work that has been done by people and movements in the past.

This means we will acknowledge the rich history of people in our communities who have come together to build powerful movements across our state that demanded dignity. We will recognize that we are building upon a legacy of movements past to forge a new path for the Michigan that our communities deserve.

A Michigan that protects our bodily autonomy.

Where our neighbors...

  • ...have their reproductive rights protected.

This means that everyone, including people with uteruses, will be allowed to make decisions for their bodies without the intervention of governmental institutions. This means people will not be required to risk their own health, safety, or lifestyle to sacrifice their body to the development of another person’s body, without their consent. People will enjoy the right to choose either to be parents, and have the right to raise their children in safe, healthy communities, or to choose not to be parents. POC parents will no longer lose their ability to parent their own children to the capitalist state.

  • ...have the right to safe, healthy intimate relationships.

This means that we will not have our sexuality, gender, or gender expression, policed. We will experience safe relationships, and put an end to culture that dehumanizes non-men/marginalized genders. We will enjoy our own sexual liberation as core to who we are and the power of our humanity.

  • ...have the right to the decriminalized use of drugs.

This means that we will treat drug addiction by addressing the social needs of all Michiganders, seeing it as a public health issue, and not as an excuse to incarcerate individuals processing trauma.

A Michigan that embraces healing and decolonization.

Where our neighbors...

  • ...experience healing through storytelling, trust-building, and the permissible expression of emotion.

This means we will see each other as whole people, rejecting the divisive and destructive narratives promoted through colonization. We will allow space for the complexity of our lives, and our governmental systems will respect and support that complexity. We will have space for art and culture throughout all facets of our lives and all community spaces.

  • ...practice decolonized and collective ways of being together.

This means we will engage in collaborative problem solving rather than white saviorism, where People of Color lead our communities, and we practice collective community responsibility without the interference of dehumanizing systems of oppression. We will recognize that law changes are not enough by themselves, and will have a shift in institutional leadership, ensuring that POC and other criminalized bodies are part of leadership and decision-making. in order to shift institutional culture, and to eliminate respectability politics as a way of measuring humanity.

  • ...are safe from the harm and trauma caused by white supremacy.

This means we will reject all forms of white supremacy and expect all of our elected officials and people in positions of power, to do the same. We will build collective community analysis of white supremacy and how it functions in our day-to-day lives to cause us harm. We will disrupt this system by focusing on the collective healing of trauma experienced throughout all of our communities.

Standing in solidarity with Benton Harbor

Folks in West Michigan have also been in a major fight to protect schools in communities of color and low-income communities, by jumping on board to stand in solidarity with Benton Harbor. For those who are unaware, Benton Harbor Area Schools were given an ultimatum by the Whitmer administration; close the high school or or face the dissolution of the entire district. We The People MI has been there on the ground offering support and solidarity, learning more about the specifics in Benton Harbor, and ultimately laying the groundwork for helping to coordinate a statewide strategy to help in this fight. We understand that a threat to education justice anywhere, is a threat to education justice everywhere. Thank you so much to all of the West Michigan WTP folks who’ve been showing up, and partners from across the state (MEJC, 482Forward, BLM MI, to name a few) who have been helping to build a coordinated response. To learn more about our stance on this issue, click here.

When We The People of Michigan stand together we are strong, and that has been incredibly apparent in West Michigan these last couple weeks.

Megan Collier Hess