Face to Face: East Lansing comes together to talk social issues

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The City of East Lansing, East Lansing Human Relations Commission, Michigan State College of Education, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan put on a community conversation about bans, walls, and mass shootings in our society. The talk took place at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center on March 27.

“We want to create a place where people feel courageous,” said Hannah Community Center coordinator Elaine Hardy.

East Lansing’s Human Relations Commission put together a panel of five experts on gun violence, racism and race relations in the United States. The panel featured three professors, psychiatrist, and a high school student.

Ryan Collins

Amira Rinker Okemos High School Senior talks at Face to Face event.

The discussion was led off by Okemos High School senior Amira Rinker, who recited a speech she wrote after the Parkland school shooting called Russian Roulette, where she spoke about the fear attached to being a high school student. The crowd gave Rinker a standing ovation.

The other speakers told their own stories. Each was moving and hard to hear.

“24 hours ago someone yelled at my wife to go home,” said MSU professor of Religious Studies Mohammad Hassan Khalil. “She was born in Sparrow Hospital.”

Ryan Collins

Mohammad Hassan Khalil tells story at Face to Face event.

“I litigate for deportation trials,” said MSU professor Oscar Castaneda. “I’ve lost 90 percent of my cases.”

The panel asked the East Lansing community to stand up for what’s right.

“Call our own communities out,” said Yael Aronoff, director of the Sterling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel. “People are mainstreaming prejudice as if it isn’t prejudice.”

This event was a part of a series of East Lansing events planned effort to spark community conversations about diversity and inclusion. The room was filled with people from all backgrounds talking about their own story. City Councilman Aaron Stephens attended. //It says on the agenda that he is the City Council liaison to the commission.

“It was the brainchild between the HRC and I,” said Stephens. “These are great conversations, but they’re tough, even in our community.”