Presidential-nominee Joe Biden’s political campaign held a roundtable Friday updating Michigan voters on Biden’s plans to achieve racial equity. The roundtable discussion was an extension of Biden’s ‘Build Back Better Agenda’, an economic recovery plan designed to tackle America’s structural issues and racial injustice.
Biden’s ‘Build Back Better Agenda’ economic plan for working families outlines targeted initiatives that include: setting a national goal of ensuring all formerly incarcerated individuals have housing upon reentry, expanding access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, eliminating existing barriers preventing formerly incarcerated individuals from fully participating in society, and eliminating cash bail.
“The racial equity plank focuses on a critical strategy to invest and uplift black, brown, AAPI, Native Americans, small businesses and owners because they’re the source of our job creation and future economic growth,” said KarineJean-Pierre, Biden campaign senior advisor.
An array of members joined the panel, talking in great detail on the “clear disparities in the justice system.” Rev. Dr. Steve Bland, Senior Pastor of Liberty Temple Baptist Church, Ken Whittaker, Director of Movement Politics at Michigan People’s Campaign, Don Hemphill, Criminal Justice Reform Activist, Yolanda Walker, Minister and Advocate for Second Chances, Richard Speck, Co-Founder, L.U.C.K, Inc. and Community Engagement Specialist, SAFE & JUST MICHIGAN, and Brian McKinney, CEO and Founder, Gayanga Co. were all in attendance. Jean-Pierre sat in place of Ashley Biden who could not make Friday’s event.
Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist participated in Friday’s webinar and discussed his support of Biden’s campaign.
“I’m excited about the elements of criminal justice reform that are part of this campaign,” said Gilchrist. “From an ideals perspective it quite aligns with the work that we’ve been doing to unlock this community, to reduce our jail and prison populations, and to remove barriers to success upon exiting contact with the system and hopefully reduce contact with the system in the first place.”
A detailed explanation of how improving America’s criminal system can be achieved was presented to Michgander’s on the Zoom call.
“Criminal justice reform includes such things as reducing the prison population, eliminating mass incarceration, increasing access for reentry programs and wraparound services,” said Whittaker. He also emphasized the impact mental health has on incarcerated persons, a targeted focal point in Biden’s ‘Build Back Better Agenda’.
Speck, a Detroit-native and father of four, offered a number of potential “keys for success” aimed at aiding previously incarcerated individuals. The focus was placed on getting basic needs met and pairing newly-freed Michiganders with role models of similar interests.
Differences in inequality proved to be a strong talking point during Friday’s discussion.
“What we have known for far too long is that communities of color were locked out of opportunities, lack access to capital and the resources they need to grow and sustain their businesses,” said Jean-Pierre.
Countless panelists emphasized the importance of community in the fight for justice.
“In addition to breaking down barriers we [must] also have the support for people to have somewhere to be able to get where they need to go, to be able to have their chance at success and the pursuit of happiness. That is the responsibility of every public servant,” said Gilchrist.
The governor’s statement was echoed throughout by countless attendees.
“The real work has to be done on the ground, in the grassroots among us,” said Bland while in prayer. Remarks made by panelists emphasized the critical nature of the next 95 days leading to the election.
Michiganders can make their voices heard by voting in the next presidential election on Nov. 3.