Unitarians, EMEAC, MWRO strategize on standing up for families

December 1, 2011

Gilda Jacobs gives her keynote address during the
Standing Up for Families conference 
DETROIT -- With the recent government cut backs to cash assistance programs for poor families in the state of Michigan, the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Netowrk (MUUSJN) joined with the East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and other community groups in a series of workshops on November 20 to strategize about community responses at the Cass Corridor Community Commons or the First UU Church of Detroit. 

Unitarian Universalists from congregations in Detroit, Grosse Pointe, Birmingham and Ann Arbor were among those that came together to address how they can stand up for families in the wake of what appears to be a first wave of austerity measures being imposed through out the state. 

Gilda Jacobs, President of the Michigan League for Human Services, said, “Michigan has a crisis of conscience about the way it treats low income families." Jacobs, a former state representative, added that the state is cutting 25,000 families off public assistance during her keynote address. That is in addition to disabled persons who will now be cut from assistance after five years according to DHS Director Maura Corrigan.

Janet Peplin speaks during the Stand Up for Families
panel session as EMEAC's Charity Hicks, Kim Sherobi
 and others listen on
“The Standing Up for Families and Kids workshop, co-sponsored by EMEAC, the Michigan UU Social Justice Network and three UU congregations, provided an anti-dote to that crisis of conscience," said MUUSJN Director Randy Block, "Workshop participants were introduced to the tough realities. They identified strategies to assist low income families and to challenge harsh policies that oppress them."

EMEAC's Charity Hicks agrees. 

“None of the (politicians) really are confronted with the lived experience of people because they are cut off,” said Charity Hicks who also represented the Detroit Food Justice Taskforce and the Peoples Water Board Coalition during the workshops. “(Jacobs) talked about facts and how to measure the impact on people. She talked about how the average person affected by the cuts will be a seven-year-old child. That’s a second grader.”

UU discussion leader Raja Badran
Following Jacobs’ keynote, Janet Peplin of the Grosse Pointe UU Church spoke about their efforts to collect and distribute food to people in need. Hicks then spoke on the lived experience of local residents under going foreclosures and evictions. Hicks was followed by MWRO Co-Chair Marian Kramer on their efforts to organize a “Resurrection March” picket line each Thursday at noon outside the State of Michigan Building at 2044 West Grand Blvd. 

The 68 people in attendance then broke up into separate groups to brain storm around action strategies and priorities going forward. The groups focused on two main topics: advocacy and community service. 

“Afterwards, we talked about the need to be aware, to participate, to be present and to lift up the voice of people who are affected,” Hicks said. “We took questions on the end of wars. We talked about how mechanizations and computers have thrown people out of jobs. With those jobs not coming back, how do we restore community? People were interested in how to serve community. We had a question on some things that are currently working to promote the kind of values that we want to live.”