Michigan United’s Capitol Day gives activists a platform

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Imani Patterson

Protesters marching to the Capitol Building.

Passion was running high in the Lansing Center when activists from around the state met to speak with representatives about issues in their communities. Michigan United provided buses for groups from Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo to ensure constituents were able to make it to the annual Capitol Day. Issues included treatment of immigrants, living wages, prison reform, environmental issues, healthcare and racial inequality.

Activists started in the Lansing Center, where Michigan Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, 19th District, gave the keynote address. After the speeches, participants had an opportunity to speak with some state representatives. Finally, they took to the streets and marched to the Capitol.

Hundreds made their way to Lansing for the event, as has been the case in past years. The large turnout had some hopeful for change.

“These are really tough issues,” said Clare Luz, a Michigan State professor who supports a direct-care workforce. “We know what some of the challenges are, we know what some of the solutions are, but they are going to take political will. They’re going to take fiscal committment an champions and we have to mobilize because there’s more power in numbers and we all need to be saying the same thing.”

Imani Patterson

Protesters outside of the Capitol building.

Several generations marched together. Some thought it was especially important to have children present.

“They [the children] need to know how to advocate for themselves and step into different rooms and articulate what the want to see happen,” said William Atkinson, a Kalamazoo resident and leader in the city’s Men Of Purpose program. “So it’s a thought-provoking exercise where they can learn and see how things work and not just sit back and complain, but be a proactive participant in the process.

Imani Patterson

Lashaya Darisaw speaking at the Michigan United Capitol Day rally.

Michigan United’s name explains the mission of the group and the goal of Capitol Day. By bringing constituents together to talk to representatives, the idea is to unite and make change. Organizers saw this format as essential in an attempt to fight influences other than the will of the people.

“There’s two kinds of power as we see it in the world,” said Erik Shelley, communications coordinator for Michigan United. “There’s money power and there’s people power. A lot of times in Lansing and D.C., folks with a lot of money come and spread it around and they get a lot of influence. The other way is people power. If you have a lot of people, the money doesn’t even matter because, really, that money is just used to get our support. By organizing people we can go directly to the source of the power.”

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