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Sunday, April 24, 2011


I just saw something I thought I would never see in my country.  Students who loved their school and wanted to stay there were dragged  out by uniformed police officers.  Yes, you read that right.  The students do not want to leave their school.  They love it there.  They are learning there.  And uniformed officers dragged them out, while the students screamed in terror.  It should probably come as no surprise to anyone that these students were young, female and black.  This would never happen to white middle class kids.

I feel like I have time-traveled back to the fifties, when black students simply wanted to go to a good school, and whole towns fell completely apart.  I hope there are people out there who care and will stand up for those young people.  Apparently, it is not going to  be their elected officials.

Most people know by now that in Michigan our Republican legislature and governor gave unbelievably broad powers to Emergency Financial Managers (EFM).   These EFMs can not only nullify contracts, they can fire local elected officials and sell off assets.  In other words, EFMs do not have to listen to the people in the communities they take over.  They become dictators.  Local citizens’ hands are tied; they can only resort to begging -- and civil disobedience.

The EFM in Benton Harbor this week stripped all power from the Benton Harbor City Council.  Oh, excuse me, not all their power.  They can still call meetings, accept the minutes, and adjourn meetings.  That’s it.  All other decisions will be made by the EFM.

And in Detroit, the EFM decided to close schools, including the Catherine Ferguson School, a place for young women who are pregnant or have young children and still want to pursue their education.  These young women and their children will grow into adults.  The best case scenario is that they are educated.  I guess that will not be happening now.  An effective place of learning is being closed down by the EFM.  The young women decided to turn to a technique that broke down the walls of Jim Crow in the fifties and sixties.  They had the courage and will to turn to to civil disobedience.  They  held a sit-in at their school.  Their thanks for trying to get an education?  They got dragged out of their own school and hauled off to jail.

I am sick about it.  I hope you are too.

We simply cannot sit by and do nothing when dedicated students are dragged out of their own school by uniformed police officers.

I talked to my state representative about the Emergency Financial Manager bill today.  She seemed to think that because the mayor of Benton Harbor did something wrong, it was okay to take over cities, sell off assets, end contracts.  I was disheartened to think she was returning to the same “blame the victims” mentality that has been used since the beginning of time to oppress people.

There are actions we can take.  There is a rally at Benton Harbor at noon on Wednesday.  The more people that come, the stronger statement we make.

Soon there will be petitions to circulate.  If we can get signatures to equal 5% of the people who voted for the governor in the last election, the law is stopped in its tracks until it is put to a vote of the people.  We simply must stop this travesty.

This week it’s Benton Harbor and Detroit.  Who is next?

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