Photo by Jemell Cotton
Can Detroit, a primarily Black city, get some proper representation?
That’s the question asked by a Coalition of Detroit Caucus members, Council of Baptist Pastors, union leaders, and community activists who called a press conference on Tuesday, December 28 at the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Detroit.
The local and area movers and shakers spoke to the press inside the historical church discussing their general disapproval over Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission’s (MICRC) plans to vote to finalize voting districts, which the groups feel would unfairly represent Black Detroiters politically.
Citizens in Michigan voted in 2018 to rid gerrymandering, a referendum led by the group Voter, Not Politicians. Starting in 2022, the MICRC, a bipartisan group, will take on the role of drawing up new boundaries state-wide.
The local leaders want the MICRC to draw fair maps that “do not unfairly crack black communities in Detroit,” Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) said at a press conference.
Many other Detroiters who share Hollier’s sentiments expressed such feelings during MICRC public hearing in early October at TCF Center in Detroit. Residents concerned about how they will be represented per the drafts the commission had previously proposed talked about the matter, the Michigan Chronicle previously reported. Ramone Jackson, a member of Pressure, a community advocacy group in Detroit, said during the meeting that Black people don‘t have most of the voting power in the state.
The MICRC recently voted to take 10 newly-drawn maps to the public. The commission has held over a dozen public hearings before introducing the proposed new maps. A series of hearings were also held across the state.
Per the State of Michigan’s website, the commission’s mission is to “assure Michigan’s Congressional, State Senate and State House district lines are drawn fairly in a citizen lead, transparent process, meeting Constitutional mandates.”
The criteria for reaching an equitable standard means the commission is asked to adhere to the voting rights act, community interest, and partisan fairness.
Hollier believes this commission has drafted maps that have cut up Detroit in a disadvantageous way for Black residents where their representation would be swallowed up by primarily white suburban areas and politicians who have little interest in representing their Detroit-based constituents.
According to the commission’s memo, Detroit is the most segregated city in the country yet their expert reiterated his opinion that there is no obligation to draw any majority-minority districts because the courts have become more conservative. “At no time since post-reconstruction have the rights of Black and Brown people been so under attack. The commission must fix their maps by drawing majority Detroit seats that do not further erode black communities.” Sen Adam Hollier (D-Detroit).
The leaders are asking the Commission to recognize that where they draw these lines impacts Detroit’s ability to elect those who represent the Black resident’s interests on topics like the fight for fair housing, senior care, the investment in youth programming, and other critical issues.
Dr. Steve Bland president Council of Baptist Pastors was also in attendance during the event and encouraged the Commission to rethink the map.
“We don’t want a return to a Jim Crow state, but a path forward to equitably contribute to the growth of our diverse society,” Bland said previously.
Bland said during the event that the group’s leaders “stand in solidarity” with the issue of redrawing Detroit’s lines properly.
He added that the issue of voting is about “citizenship” in the country, founded on principles.
“Why do we have to see act after act in order for Black people to find their place?” Bland said adding that the Commission’s decision sets the course for what will happen in the next 100 years.
The Michigan Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission will begin voting on the adaptation of proposed maps on Tuesday, December 28 with adaptation effective January 1st, 2022.
To find out more information and how to view drafted maps visit www.michigan.gov/micrc.