CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE
My vision for Washtenaw County is for there to be an abundance of resources and for all of them to be accessible. Nobody should worry about housing, food, health, education, or safety in this town. I hope to see a community focused on making sure every member is happy and healthy.
Organization: Friends In Deed
I believe liberation comes through understanding individual and shared experiences. My vision for Washtenaw County is a more inclusive social and economical space. This means actively allocating wealth and opportunities to BIPOC and LGBTQA+ communities, re-imagining the county's policing and judicial activity, and creating accessible and free health resources to encourage the radical well-being of Black and Brown people.
I use my years of experience to inspire systemic change for a prosperous and equitable future for everyone – a future I most intimately foresee for my neighbors in Washtenaw County. A student of cultural anthropology, history, and finance, I pair my technical knowledge with my idealism to promote access to financial education and a deeper connection to neighborhood economics. Expanding our definition of wealth beyond money, disrupting the intergenerational bonds of poverty and theft of financial and human capital, and shifting investment power from Wall Street to Main Street form the basis of the work I have been called to do. I believe that when we embrace a holistic, human- and earth-centered notion of wealth and prosperity, we will connect with our true, ancestral wealth, regardless of the balance of our bank accounts.
Anindita Anne Partington
My long-term hope for Washtenaw county and beyond is that private and public sector partners work together to drive sustained diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) improvement measured through positive economic and equity impact. As a child of immigrants, a woman of color, a STEM professional, as well as a business, community, and entrepreneurial leader, I am sobered by the work we have ahead of us needed to drive measurable racial equity improvement. I recognize the importance of creating a culture and community where all aspects of diversity can be respected and people can bring their whole authentic selves. I look forward to continuing to create spaces of intentional listening and true connection to drive change. My hope is that through our collective efforts, we can improve access to education, training, and work opportunities to drive greater representation of leaders of color and other marginalized communities in this county and beyond. This is a journey of “we and us” working collectively with our hearts, heads, and hands to break down barriers to drive systemic change whether it is in the workplace or community. It has been an incredible privilege to be a part of the 2020-2021 community of the Washtenaw Champions for Change.
Organization: Office of Tech Transfer, University of Michigan
My vision for Washtenaw County is Revolutionary Change. According to Merriam-Webster, REVOLUTION is a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something. Our attitude on the path to racial equality is about taking the action to achieve bold, structural changes and powering through disruptive forces and untangling policies and practices that are unjust. My vision includes talking to our community to hear their experience, leveraging data and reports on racial inequality, and rolling up our sleeves to get to work. This means my vison is threefold for Revolutionary Change in Washtenaw County: Engagement, Evidence-driven and a movement of intentional action on racial equity. If you were to take a snapshot of the future, you would see active projects to address racial equity led by people of color, new community partnerships, and recognition and celebration of progress. This would not be the end of the road, but we would be motivated to continue toward full justice.
Dana Greene Jr.
I envision a Washtenaw County that is dedicated to creating an environment where all people regardless of socio-economic status, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation can live happy and authentic lives. For this vision to become a reality the county must work to provide equal opportunities in employment, education, and housing. This requires governmental, and higher education institutional accountability; too often these bodies fail to uphold the promises made to the community members they hope to serve. It is my vision that these bodies will be led in a critical self-reflection of their responsibilities to the community through an influx of diverse youth-empowerment and leadership. When institutions fail to change it is the responsibilities of those full of youthful-optimism and determination to correct these failures. A sense of renewed accountability through youth-empowerment and leadership will lead to a more empathetic and collaborative Washtenaw County. It is through these efforts that Washtenaw County will find itself in the forefront of creating racial equity not only in Washtenaw County but across the state of Michigan and the country.
Organization: University of Michigan Prevention Research Center
It takes a great deal of work for a group of strangers to achieve the safety of true community. Our folks know it is safe to share their heart. People in our group know they will be listened to and accepted for themselves. Years and years of pent-up frustration and hurt and guilt and grief have already been dealt with. Vulnerability is commonplace for us and flows in our community. We do not practice the rugged individualism that has become the hallmark of America.
We understand that most human attempts to heal and convert prevent community. For us, community is the answer. We have created a truly safe place, where these defenses and resistances are no longer necessary, and the thrust toward health is liberated. This safe place has unleashed the natural tendency for us to heal and convert ourselves.
We have learned that it is within our power to listen to each other, to accept each other, and that our relationships are therapeutic. So we focus not so much on healing as on making our relationships a safe place where each of us is likely to heal themselves.
Paradoxically, we became healing and converting only after we learned to stop trying to heal and convert.
Our community is a safe place precisely because we are not attempting to heal or convert each other, to fix each other, to change each other. Instead, we accept each other as we are. You are free to be you. And being so free, you are free to discard defenses, masks, disguises; free to seek your own psychological and spiritual health; free to become your whole and holy self. We are a community who has learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to “rejoice together, mourn together,” and to “delight in each other, to make each others’ conditions our own.” We call it Wakanda Washtenaw. It is the product of the Kwanzaa Project, where the theme of Raising Royalty has been fleshed out.
Even more amazing is seeing this in all 50 school sites. The Parent Village and the Youth Council have been responsible for the rapid spread of this positive virus. We have learned to work together to solve our own problems.
The six metrics of the Raising Royalty theme are so present, they have made community building attractive and possible. The six metrics are the objectives: Mission, Love, Stewardship, Wisdom, Community, and Discipline.
Considering the current political/social-economic climate, I think it's unrealistic to expect bias and prejudice to disappear from our community any time soon. However, I do feel that racial and gender disparities can be recognized and minimized, leading to a more just society. I want to instigate conversations to help people see the reality behind the facade. Many residents of Washtenaw County consider themselves liberal and open-minded, but the actuality is far from that. That type of racism is far more insidious and difficult to root out. For example, in education, the disciplinary action for the same incident can be vastly different if the student is a person of color. Another example would be the perception of a police officer in a routine traffic stop. The officer's approach is too often dependent upon the race and gender of the driver. Bringing these inequities to light and codifying the responses can lead to more equal treatment. My hope is to encourage changes in the judicial and educational systems - changes that will lead to more accountability and fairer application of laws and policies.
Organization: Neutral Zone
My vision is for all humans to have unfettered access to their god given human rights. I hope to see racism and other isms eradicated because its always at the expense of another's dignity. I'm tired of seeing black folks gunned down by police officers and others who falsely say they were in fear of losing their life. As a black man I have that thought in my head whenever I'm amongst my European Americans but I cannot have access to that claim. I hope to also see a County that doesn't price lower incomes out of the county due to the large swaths of wealth inequality.
Organization: City of Ann Arbor Office of Sustainability
The Washtenaw County I envision and work towards is a place where members believe in the interconnected nature of our community. Members of our community hold a culture of curiosity and compassion that drives a desire to withhold judgement, ask questions, and appreciate differences.
Our community thrives when members both have and create spaces that honor their lived-experiences and acknowledge the complexities of social identities, to an end of deepening our understandings of ourselves and each other so we may act in our interests. These actions run the gamut, from a kind smile or nod to each other in passing, to policies that are cognizant and inclusive of the spectrum of experiences that exist in our community.
My credentialed background includes a MA in Diversity and Social Justice in Higher Education from the University of Michigan. I am an intergroup and intragroup dialogue practitioner—my praxis includes the four-stage model of intergroup dialogue, and sociology-based notions of conflict and psychology’s contact theory. I have faith and belief in the power of dialogue to bridge differences, and spark a desire for social change.
I am interested in growing our community’s awareness of social identity-based inequalities and inequities, ability to engage in self-reflection, capacities to share their own experiences and receive others’, and skills to serve as effective allies and advocates for social change.
Participation in the Leaders of Color cohort for the Champions for Change program connected me with so many amazing individuals that are doing inspiring work in Washtenaw County. Having fellowship with other people of color whose experiences- both personally and professionally- mirrored my own in many ways was immensely rewarding and gave me a sense of belonging. I cherish the relationships that I have developed through the CoC program and will carry what I learned from them and the great facilitators with me for the rest of my life.
Organization: Michigan Center for Youth Justice
I foresee Washtenaw County as a county that changes the context of the story on inequity, discrimination, and separatism. I envision all Washtenaw County communities engaging in conversations on diversity, equity, and inclusion; breaking down barriers that create disparities; and implementing transformative sustainable change that builds equitable access to education, healthcare, mental health services, employment, and wealth. Systemic change work encompasses self-reflection, awareness, networking, partnerships, community dialogue, advocacy, and policy change. I am committed to changing the narrative as my work focuses on youth development, skill building, eliminating the achievement gap, and changing the trajectory of young persons’ lives.
For Washtenaw County and every county that I reside in and do work in (Macomb and Wayne counties), I envision a community that is better than what it is currently. I would have to adopt a Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’.s idea of a just society. One that is free of the three evils: racism, economic exploitation, and militarism (i.e., the notion of violence and hatred among community members). Like King, I wholeheartedly believe that there are times when you must take a stand that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but you must do it because it is right. Similar to the late Congressman John Lewis' Good Trouble mantra. Therefore, I envision: (1)A just society where folks can be themselves and be proud to live in each of their social identities and not be afraid of if they fit in with what is the norm/custom, (2)A just society where it is affordable to live and thrive for all people of color and those of low socioeconomic status all reside, (3)A just society where the people's voice and not politics drive policies and procedures, as residents know what their community needs are firsthand, (4)A just society where children can thrive with a quality K-12 and higher education with educators and professionals who are diverse and look like them and that can firsthand relate to them and their culture(s), (5)A just society that leads by example in the areas of law and public policy. For instance, in criminal justice reform enforce proper implicit bias training and the consistent measures of checks and balances with accountability directed to all law enforcement who are there to protect and serve.
Organization: University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
My work has been centered around connecting, helping, and encouraging people for over a decade. I have seen how much representation matters within our community and how much it has been ignorantly overlooked. It has been a blessing to meet and work with people that acknowledge the lack of representation, and wish to change it. I work with and for musicians because I am one; having released a full length album as well as collaborated with songwriters in our beloved community. My company (Sadie Madden Music) is driven to accentuate the giftings of musicians, to make known the opportunities available for musicians, and to influence change between the artist, the community, and local entities. Through my investment and connections, I have had the pleasure of working with breweries, consultancies, and nonprofit organizations that have the desire to amplify the importance of inclusion, diversity, and dedication to the arts. I continue to advise a number of southeastern Michigan venues and artists regarding booking, social media coordination, marketing, and publicity in order to impact and enrich. This work has also led me to become a director of the statewide nonprofit, Title Track, which is focused on using creative means to develop resilient structures that support racial equity, youth empowerment, and clean water.
Organization: Title Track
John H. Powell
Everyone desires to be a valued participant in their community. They want to have full access to opportunities that will help them reach their full potential to that end. My life’s work and commitment have been focused on helping that happen . . . building bridges among diverse populations to help them develop the skills for restructuring systems to meet individual and collective needs. I believe that our survival is dependent on collectively working to create opportunities and systems that allow everyone to engage in meaningful life experiences that impacts the lives of others. Prior to leaving Washtenaw County in 1993, I was engaged in activities that helped shape structures and systems so that people could exercise their full potential. There were mistakes made along the way; but, I learned to readjust my focus as a result of the mistakes. On returning to Washtenaw County after retirement, I discovered many of the same issues . . . the inability to achieve equity because of turf, social, economic, ethnic and racial divisiveness. I believe that we have the resources and know how to effect the needed change for accessible opportunity for everybody. My vision for Washtenaw County is for it to become a leader in Michigan in developing strategies to address the inequities among us. This means working intergenerationally multi-ethnically and inter-religiously to build coalitions for equitable change. I understand that this takes time, energy and ‘mind changing’ action for this to happen. Given where we are today, now is the time to start.
My vision for Washtenaw County, and myself, is that we will stay informed, step back when it is necessary, and step up when it is needed. We will actively fight to be anti-racist in our cities, our schools, our neighborhoods, and our family. We will hold each other accountable, speak out and listen. We will not just “agree to disagree” or to “see each other’s side”, but we will work, jointly, on one mission: to become the best county in the nation. Unfortunately, in our nation, we are so fixated on what is right, that we are not hearing what is wrong. We are grieving; we are missing out on humanity and human touch, and we cannot afford to stay in the status quo. The questions we have to answer cannot be answered by politics, because they are humanitarian issues at heart. And it takes our pulse to pump it through our communities. We are in a public health crisis; and it is up to us to find a way to mitigate the problem in the best way that serves our communities at all intersections. What makes Washtenaw County great is that we are a diverse county that is part privileged and part underserved intersected by our race, religion, identity and orientation. So how do we find answers? By recognizing that no answer is the right answer, but a starting point on which we can improve. We can problem solve, and we can heal. We can do this by getting uncomfortable and by finding solace in knowing that we are doing this for one reason: because we love where we live. And we hold that love as our universal truth.
Organizations: Ozone House and WCC - Adult Transitions Pathways
I want to be happy, healthy, and I don't want my projected death sentence to be impacted by the location that I chose to live in. My life expectancy is currently impacted by my zip code in Washtenaw County, even though I am healthy. It is decreased in comparison to my white female neighbor, who is also healthy, and have the same access as I do. My four black sons have to worry about being judged as less than, because they are from Ypsilanti. My vision is for all of this and more to be dismantled, so that we all have the same opportunities regardless to our race, ethnicity, age, zip code, and other characteristics that may separate us.
Organization: Corner Health Center
I'd like to see a place that is on its way to becoming free from the astonishing levels of violence that have been made "necessary" to maintain the gross imbalances of power along racial, class, and sexual lines. I want to know that, on a cultural/social level, I'd be able to travel anywhere and know that I would feel welcome, accepted and understood. I'd like to see a place where our resident's chances in life are not predetermined by whether they happen to be "insiders" or "outsiders" in the various power categories mentioned above. I'd like to see the all of the institutions of our county—educational, political, legal, etc.—functioning with a deep awareness of the ways they've historically been constructed to create "insiders" and "outsiders", and that they were actively working to restructure themselves to achieve fairer, more equitable life outcomes for our residents.
Many believe that "children are our future." When I think about how much additional work needs to be done to combat systems of oppression, I also consider how such systems, impact today's youth, as they strive to become leaders of the future. I believe that when young people have their basic needs met, safe communities, trusted adults, equity, and barrier-free access to resources, they are destined to achieve their fullest potential.
I have been dedicated to social justice work, with the intent to help improve the conditions of systemic oppression. I firmly believe that failed systems create communities with; high crime, mental/behavioral health stigma, high unemployment rates, housing insecurity, low performing schools, mass incarceration and many other disparities that marginalized communities disproportionately experience. I have had the privilege of working in multiple professional roles with many youth, families and single adults, served by nonprofits since 2002.
I'm a minister so my vision ultimately has theological imagery. In my faith tradition, the sacrament of communion is vital -- the bread and cup are life-giving. More than that, the table is a place where all are truly welcome, where there is plenty. Life abundant. My vision for Washtenaw County, is that our community becomes a place where all are welcome, where there is plenty, where life in all its particularities is celebrated and lifted up.
Organization: First Presbyterian Church
Marv Fox Jr.
In my experience in working with students in higher education and professionals in profit and non-profit sectors, one truth remains constant 100% of the time…the brightest, best, and most productive are always intrinsically inspired by a higher calling that empowers them to persist and thrive through impossible odds. The key ingredient in their will to power through and perform on the highest level is Purpose.
My Purpose is to help brave and highly ambitious people discover the identity that will help them live the life of their dreams, help their family, improve industry, and their community. I want to be instrumental in helping Washtenaw County live a Purpose-centered Life. When people show up in purpose, they show up as the highest versions of themselves. Purpose engages and clarifies the spirit, heart, and mind unlocks imagination and expertise and develops fortitude.
My goal is to provide purpose programming that uses purpose to explore:
So often, beautifully spirited children, teens, and adults never experience what it feels like to have confidence in their unique skillset, identity, and background, which can translate into an awesome and hard-working person living an unfulfilled life. I want to change that. I want to create as much conversation about purpose as possible to provide a success manifesto and inject a feeling of confidence and worthiness to ensure the future of Washtenaw Community isn’t just working hard, but working hard in using their genius-level talent and passion to improve themselves, their family, industry, and their community.
Please visit www.MarvFoxjr.com for more information.
I was born and raised in Ann Arbor. My parents, who are retired educators, came from a sharecropping background in Mississippi and they were each the first in their family to go to college. I have a large extended family with 71 first cousins. I have had the chance to live in many places throughout the US and 2 years in Japan. I enjoy being active in the community, traveling, learning new things, reading, live , baking, real estate management, and exercise. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to attend Spelman College and the University of Michigan Law School. I have been a lawyer for 19 years and have worked for Washtenaw County for the past 14 years. In this County, there is this false view that the problems that are going on nationally do not exist here because we are supposed to all be progressive and affluent. However, there is no true justice in our current criminal legal system in Washtenaw County. Black children are the victims of the school to prison pipeline. My vision for the County is that we implement creative solutions to eliminate the extreme inequality that exists for Black, Brown, and economically disadvantaged people in the criminal legal system, health care, education, employment and housing.
Organization: Washtenaw County Public Defender's Office
As a son of refugee parents, with ties to the Indian and Latinx community, having lived in the deep south and worked with people around the world, I live at the intersectionality of the east and west, the global north and south, science and spirituality, grit and miracles. I am passionate about social justice and equity in our Washtenaw community as well as for our black brothers and sisters in Detroit, and across the country. I was privileged to receive the gift of education from some of the best institutions globally, and a 25+ year career in the tech sector that gave me life changing opportunities to make a difference in the board rooms to the front lines. Inevitably I made a conscious decision to work in the more consequential ‘arena’ - the non-profit and philanthropic sector, in this second inning of life. We are now in an unprecedented period, created by a viral pandemic and racial reckoning, that could be the most significant time in a generation, taking stock of what has worked and what needs to be overhauled in our economic, health, education, societal, government and corporate systems. It is hopefully the time for a transformation, as when a caterpillar dies to itself, but eventually emerges as a butterfly. The difference is that our change has to be a conscious choice and process - we have to choose to evolve. Leadership now requires demonstrating what it means to have a purpose, cultivated consciously, focusing on the long-term, creating a culture of trust, love and caring, ultimately leading to the triple bottom line of creating a win-win-win for people and the planet. Am keenly interested in helping nonprofits and social enterprises going through transformation, program innovation, technological change, talent and cultural renewal, rebranding and new business development. Causes I care about the most include empowering women, the elderly and disabled, social justice, sustainability, financial inclusion, fair trade, urban renewal, digital learning and healthcare for all. As a servant leader I take this quote from Lao-tzu to heart - Of a good leader, who talks little, when the work is done, the aim fulfilled, they will say ‘we did it ourselves’. My hope is that the silver lining from this experience that has forced us to distance ourselves from each other, can be one that forces us to realize just how interdependent we are. We suffer to get well, we surrender to win, we give it away to keep it. Let’s shape the new world order with love, compassion, courage and equity. When one part is hurt, we all feel that pain, and if one part is liberated, we all will share in the joy!
Myron H. Michael
To invest in and curate/operate a space, both brick and mortar and virtually, wherein humanity is lived, experienced, and shared through language, visual, performance, and literary arts. To create a platform and collaborate with networks where ideas are exchanged that advocate for socio-emotional and physical health and well-being, pedagogy from the diasporas and anti-racist practices, and social justice initiatives and reform. And to participate in commerce both as an entrepreneur and as a supporter of black owned and locally owned businesses. In addition, my vision for Washtenaw County is to see the long-term affect that language and literary arts has on mental and emotional health, cultural and multicultural awareness, and group and self-expression. Placing emphasis on workshops led by, presentations and performances by, readings and exhibitions by, and collaborative endeavors with, artists, activists, and authors of color alongside their white co-liberators.
Organization: Student Advocacy Center of Michigan
My vision for Washtenaw County is progressive, holistic, yet still reasonably attainable. It encompasses education reform (including higher ed pipeline, community and anti-racism education), development of STEM and technical programs, college and career development, and culturally relevant community programs for Blacks and Latinx. Community building initiatives are key in connecting diverse communities and fostering understanding, cultural appreciation, and civic consciousness. With the expanse in technological advancement and tech related jobs, technical education and collaboratives could provide access to crucial training with the potential to decrease poverty and fuse racial disparities in tech. Partnerships with institutions like the University of Michigan and Google Ann Arbor can be utilized to aid in dissolving both racial and socioeconomic divides. Washtenaw County is home to Michigan's premiere higher education institution and I’d like to see an improved education pipeline that widens access to underrepresented students of color. It seems that Washtenaw County boasts a lot of structural diversity, however, my experience with many spaces and institutions demonstrate that these environments and communities are not inclusive. We must move beyond tolerance towards inclusion and understanding. Community education is key in repositioning problematic racist postures that continue to marginalize and disenfranchise people of color; thus, fracturing communities. My vision incorporates the elevation of cultural events and art through meaningful cultural exchange. True diversity is beneficial to all parties and I’d like to see a Washtenaw County that is receptive to the contributions of people of color. Real Estate has long been re ective of racial divides and this redlining is also re ective in local neighborhoods. Affordable housing initiatives, rst time homebuyers' education and housing related sponsored programs (down payment assistance, subsidized housing, etc) are vital to improving racial equity in my view. Holistically, my vision also includes a Washtenaw County committed towards honoring not just all races, cultures, genders and religions, but the planet. Environmental consciousness/sustainability, permaculture and accessible farmers markets, recycling programs, and eco community education are vital to all of our quality of life. I understand that in just shy of 6 years we cannot solve these problems; however, we can work towards establishing strategic plans, collaborations, initiatives, funding and programs that will catapult us in the right direction towards truer equity, diversity, inclusion, and cultural appreciation.
My vision for Washtenaw County has a specific focus on K-12 students. Working in a school district with resources and mostly white students, but living in a school district with few resources and mostly Black students, I see first hand the inequities in education. Although the students have different access to resources they all need to feel valued and affirmed, especially those who are marginalized. Teaching educators to develop and practice cultural competencies serves all our students which in turn will improve their achievements. I welcome the opportunity to continue to discuss and train anyone in the community especially teachers, who wish to expand their cultural knowledge in order to better serve our marginalized communities.
My experiences with living in Washtenaw County have made me both appreciate the benefits and question the inequities that exist in our community. I have been the beneficiary of others intentionally creating inclusive spaces and believe we have a collective responsibility to make this county one that is welcoming to all. The focus of my work is on social justice education and connecting university and community partners to develop long-term equitable partnerships. I have seen the power of partnership in my work, and I would love to see our community work collectively to be more equitable, in terms of housing, employment and education. I want to see a wider array of people from diverse economic and racial backgrounds living, working and leading in Washtenaw County. I hope that our area can continue to work towards the promise of being one of the best places to live not just for a select few but for anyone who wishes to call Washtenaw County home.
Organization: Ginsberg Center, University of Michigan
My vision for Washtenaw County is to be the diverse, equitable, safe (enough) and inclusive county that our representation is beyond, especially for the BIPOC citizens. The university is the heart of the community yet poverty, academic gaps and racism is an undercurrent. So I feel we can be better stewards to those that are historically marginalized and deserve access, respect, and opportunity.
Organizations: Huron Valley Association of Black Social Workers and UM School of Social Work
I am the proud daughter of two immigrant parents who instilled in me the importance community service and giving back. I am a compassionate advocate for human rights; including the rights of women, children, those who identify as males and LGBT+ with over a decade of experience in the profession of advocacy, domestic violence and sexual assault, and social justice. My vision for Washtenaw County includes affordable housing and more resources for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
A dream I have for my local neighborhoods in Ypsilanti looks like an intentional network of cooperative resource exchanges and food sovereignty programs that are lead by people from the bottom up; femmes, queers, and working class folk who know what their needs are and how to achieve them. We are manifesting this at the Mutual Aid Network of Ypsilanti (the MANY), a project focused on meeting people's most basic, material and emotional needs through collaboration, sharing, and direct action.
I was raised in Northern Canada, have lived in India, but truly grew up in Ann Arbor over my 20 years here. This city is where I learned, connected, networked, failed, overcame and experienced many memorable joys that have led me to where I am today. I can be the light in the room, the listening ear, the mentor or the outside-the-lines thinker for a greater impact. I have a Bachelors in Business Management and am currently pursuing a Masters in Strategic Communications at Michigan State University. I have a long and varied career at Toyota Motor North America and am currently responsible for their Community Relations division for Michigan. Over the years, I have served on many non-profit boards, and continue to serve as a City of Ann Arbor Parks Commissioner. I was honored with a mayoral proclamation from the City of Ann Arbor for volunteerism. I am working on creating awareness of the divide between borders in Washtenaw County with access to equal opportunity. My goal is to continue to bring collaboration across boundaries in our community to create dialogue, partnerships and common goals here in our county. Praveena means “well cultured and skillful” and I aim to live up to my namesake.
I am Black Unitarian Universalist whose ministry centers on Black liberation. I use my facilitation skills to connect people, communities, and resources. I work to bring the voices of marginalized populations to the decision-making table so they can speak and advocate for themselves.
Organization: First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor
My vision for Washtenaw County is to see more representation of People of Color opening up businesses. To see more people of color in leadership positions, more people of color working at white non-profits, to see the city of Ypsilanti receive adequate resources and opportunities as does the city of Ann Arbor. I’d love to see equitable advancement and opportunities for all people of color throughout all of Washtenaw County.
Organization: Avalon Housing
My vision for Washtenaw County is to have an increase of people of color in leadership at local agencies and to have a formalized network for leaders of color in Washtenaw County. I truly believe the Leaders of Color Fellowship has provided a launch point for this kind of network. There have been spaces in the community and informal groups such as Professionals of Color that I have been connected with, but a formalized network comprised of a leadership board to oversee the yearly vision of a Professionals of Color Network would be my vision for the county. This network would serve to provide a space of support for professionals of color, professional development and mentorship for professionals of color, and a leadership board that would provide recommendations to agencies, insight or hiring and retention trends, and advocacy for professionals of color in the community.
I don’t view the earth or nature as something we are separate from or something to own but rather we have a responsibility to preserve the earth to ensure our continued survival. I recognize that in the United States where there are colonial and Eurocentric ideas of what an environmentalist looks like, I am seen as the exception. I am seen as the token few people of color who care for the environment. I think it’s critically important to challenge and break down these structures of white supremacy in all facets of society. I am committed to breaking down the unspoken and unmarked ‘norms’ in society that serve to benefit mainstream identities of privilege and leave marginalized identities to constantly question self-worth and efforts in society. My vision for Washtenaw County is that people of color can be our authentic selves. Not be seen as the exception or the token but be our authentic selves because the norm is equitable and inclusive within our County.
Organization: Institute for Sustainable Communities
IF WE WERE FREE FROM OPPRESSION, MY VISION FOR WASHTENAW COUNTY WOULD BE: The zip code you live in would no longer determine your economic opportunities, health outcomes or life expectancy. Academic achievement gaps and homelessness would be eliminated. Racism, xenophobia and misogyny would not exist. No one would be marginalized or ostracized. People from every walk of life would work side by side to strengthen our communities. Everyone, regardless of age, race, gender, gender identity, gender expression, income, faith, sexual orientation, or cultural background would have the opportunity to live life to its fullest. All people would be empowered to learn, grow and thrive.
In order for all youth in Washtenaw County to be celebrated and feel valued for his/her/their successes, we as adults have to put forth the energy and resources to create opportunities where youth can succeed. The existing standardized assessments and practices in our education system have to be de- and re-constructed to give our students a diverse and dynamic view of what's possible, and that can start right here in our county. It is vital we recognize that not every student finds success through the same path. We have to offer a myriad of options. Through creative programming that offers exposure to unfamiliar careers, demanding funding for art and music, introducing professionals that mirror the racial, ethnic, lived experiences of our students, we can create meaningful and long-lasting impacts through shared learning and art-making.
I am well versed in the language and syntax of Detroit as an author, educator and neighborhood organizer. I epitomize redemption from the many lessons I learned from my father whom I met in prison for the first time. As a Black organic intellectual, unorthodox leader and father, I have demonstrated my commitment to the revolutionary principles of social justice as activist and organizer to enhance the lives of others across race, religion and class through his works of restoring the neighbor back to the hood.
My vision for Washtenaw County is that it is a space and environment where young people feel included in their community and empowered to push for change on issues they care about. I believe this starts with programming for young people on identity development. The more we know about who we are and how we interact with systems and structures- the more we are confident in our ability to push for a more just community and world. Washtenaw County is a diverse community and my hope is that all young people feel welcomed, embraced, and celebrated in their community.
Racial justice education is a central piece in building inclusivity. I’m excited about this opportunity with Champions for Change as a means to build leadership skills in facilitating conversations and learning in regard to racial justice. I hope to take what I learn in this fellowship and work with the young people in Washtenaw County as they navigate the changing and challenging landscape of our current world.
Organization: University of Michigan- LSA Opportunity Hub