Tonight, concerned citizens in Mt Pleasant will host what organizers are calling a Community Action Dialogue, titled “Black Lives Matter.”
David Nicholas sat down in our studios with Andy Blom, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Central Michigan University and Joyce Henricks, Professor Emerita in Phiosophy, to learn more. Henricks began by describing the movement’s roots…
“The Black Lives Matter movement started a few years ago with events in Florida, but we didn’t do anything here in town. And some of us were very concerned about the fact that the kind of incidents that were being reported elsewhere were happening here but without the end result, without the violence.”
The incidents Henricks describes in Mount Pleasant and on the CMU campus are anecdotal. Neither she, Andy Blom nor I brought police statistics to this discussion.
“I come from a time when someone says we gotta do something. It meant you go out and you march and you picket and you demonstrate and you make noise. We got together and my friends wisely counseled me that that’s not the way to approach it here in town and so what we realized is that we need to educate people. We need to make people aware that the incidents that have been reported in the national press over the last, you know, year or so, are not unique. That they have been occurring before and there are many more that are occurring that we don’t hear about. And we do hear in town incidents from people about being…feeling, perceiving that they are being profiled by the police, that there is discrimination here against people of color.”
Perception, Henricks says, that mirrors statistics of incarceration for people of color in Mt Pleasant, around the state and across the nation.
Andy Blom noted that CMU students can always file complaints with campus police — they and others in the community can also lodge concerns with the Isabella County Human Rights Committee.
He says there is a gap between experiences and formal charges…
“They’re often very difficult to interpret. You know that you’re having an experience where you perceive that you are being harassed or you are being subject to attention or suspicion that your white counterparts have not been. But very often it’s not the kind of case where somebody’s going to come up to you and tell you exactly why they’re giving you this extra attention, this extra suspicion. But we know nationally from the stories that we’ve heard from many communities like ours and larger communities as well that these are very common experiences for people of color to have with the police and so it’s very…it’s very plausible to interpret a lot of these encounters as, as bringing suspicion because of one’s race and so part of having a dialogue for this rather than looking into formal complaints right away and that sort of thing it to begin to identify where our problems are and to make us more aware and to make us more aware as a community of what the issues are, uh, so that we can be proactive.”
Blom is one of the organizers for this year’s Speak Up, Speak Out forums at CMU. Included in that schedule is a direct discussion of Racism, Police, Communities.
Blom says there are parallels for both events — and hopes that raised awareness is just beginning…
“So really what we’re hoping Tuesday will be is an open dialogue for people to be able to come together and learn from each other and talk about possible solutions. And then moving forward, we hope that this is going — what we intend for this to be is a long-term project where this will not be the first and last meeting where we’re going to have continuous meetings on the issues that we identify and that this will a continual process of education too for all us in the community and part of that will come up at the Speak Up, Speak Out forum in January.”
Andy Blom, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Central Michigan University and Joyce Henricks, Professor Emerita in Phiosophy, spoke with CMU Public Radio’s David Nicholas.
The Community Action Dialogue, “Black Lives Matter,” will be held tomorrow (Tuesday) evening from 7-9 pm at the Veterans Memorial Library Annex in downtown Mt Pleasant.
It is a project of the Mt Pleasant Area Diversity Group.
We’d like to know if similar discussions are going in your community.
Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or on our facebook page, facebook.com/cmupublic radio