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DPS appeals to U.N. for relief

Human rights rally help

By Victor Walker
Special to Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Citing a list of governmental actions depriving Detroiters of their vote, DPS school board members, community leaders, activists and citizens issued a human rights appeal to the world community on Dec. 10 at a press conference in front of Coleman Alexander Young Center.

“The will of the people is being ignored with impunity,” read the group’s statement. “The people of Michigan voted to repeal the unjust emergency manager law (Public Act 4), which strips all Black and brown communities in the state of our voting rights, and yet the emergency managers remain.”

The group said it is seeking relief from the Inter-Hemispheric Commission of Human Rights under the organization of American States and under the Conference on Elimination of Racism and Discrimination (CERD). Two professors at Eastern Michigan University who are members of the local chapter of the United Nations have agreed to help the group fill out the proper documents for submission to the international agencies.

Members of the community braving the cold to stand in support of the international appeal included Malik Yakini, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network; Helen Moore, Keep the Vote No Takeover; Lamar Lemmons III, president of the Detroit Public Schools; Elena Herrada, DPS board member, District 2.; Margaret Collrin, parent of a child in the shuttered Detroit Day School for the Deaf; Bill Wylie-Kellermann, pastor of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church; and writer Tolu Olorunda.

“The state has set up a separate and unequal school district (EAA), which relegates the poorest and most vulnerable students into classrooms of despair. We have a responsibility to defend the rights of all children to a fair and equitable public education, and because we find no relief in the courts,” Herrada said.

“Gov. (Rick) Snyder has set Detroit back to a time before civil rights laws,” said Lemmons.

The city is plagued with assaults from state forces, the speakers said, and listed many: Operating under a costly consent agreement, city assets are in jeopardy, including land giveaways to corporate interests, the threat of privatization of the water department, school closings, state seizure of 15 buildings to create the EAA (Educational Achievement Authority) and emergency managers’ refusal to obey the Freedom of Information Act, among other grievances.

“Our children are being stripped of their right to be educated,” Herrada said.

Wylie-Kellermann said it is necessary to make this appeal to the world because “we haven’t had any area of redress and court rulings are incoherent.”

Appealing to the international community is not a new strategy. Since we have no recourse locally, we do what Malcolm X said and we take our issue to the United Nations, Yakini said. “The people of Detroit have a right to our land, our schools and other assets and we have to protect them,” he said.

“We call on the international human rights community to focus attention on Michigan, to condemn the actions of institutionalized racism at the hands of the state,” the statement reads.

Lemmons spoke of the irreparable harm the state is causing by putting money before the children in the community. “When millions of dollars are at stake, no expense is spared to keep our children on the school to prison pipeline.”

“We also seek to destroy the narrative that Detroit cannot govern itself, and that anyone who chooses can take our schools, our children, our property. We demand respect and self-determination. Our human rights demands are our pedagogy. This is the new curriculum,” the group’s statement read.

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