Strong Passions and Community Interests Emerge in Children’s Center Forum

Detroit – Thirteen candidates running for Congress and the state Legislature appeared before a Children’s Center audience that showcased the power of youth and family engagement in community issues as diverse as mental health access, economic development, funding for public education, reproductive rights, auto insurance rates, gun violence and school safety.

In a high-energy, pre-primary candidate forum moderated by Detroit Fox TV newscaster Charlie Langton and co-sponsored by Michigan’s Children, the July 7 program featured candidates from the newly drawn 13th Congressional district, and candidates for the newly drawn 8th state House and 8th state Senate districts. Questions came in quick succession from community members with the Detroit human service agency’s Youth Advisory Council and parents associated with the Family Success Center there.

Chief Clinical Officer Carlynn Nichols set the stage when she invited members of the public to take advantage of the strong showing of candidates in attendance to ask questions “on your minds and hearts.” To the candidates, she said, “We really get you could have been anywhere else. Your attendance shows that you to believe in what we are about at the Children’s Center and our partners at Michigan’s Children.”

Sponsors invited every major party candidate for each of the featured races, considered among the most competitive in the Center’s large service area, stretching from Detroit into northern Oakland County communities to the north. Candidates freely moved around the room, meeting voters, and later formally answering questions heard not only in the room but before over 300 people who watched online. (See list of candidates who attended on this page.)

Candidates who attended included 13th Congressional hopefuls Martell Bivings, John Conyers III, Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, Michael Griffie, Adam Hollier, Sharon McPhail, and Portia Roberson; 8th Senate District candidate Mallory McMorrow (an incumbent); and 8th District House candidates Durrel Douglas, Earnest Little, Mike McFall, Robert Noble, and Attie Pollard.

To those who might believe youth aren’t interested in politics, the young people in the room demonstrated otherwise. Made clear by their participation was that Detroit-area youth are deeply interested in their futures and the futures of their communities. 18-year-old Thalia, a first-time voter, asked candidates how they would change gun laws. She said her generation has repeatedly witnessed gun violence in schools and thinks about it often when she considers her open-concept school floor plan. “If it actually happened, I doubt many of us would get out,” she said. Candidates generally cited the need to push for sensible gun laws, limiting the sale of military-style assault weapons, placing law enforcement officers in every school, creating universal background checks, and accountability.

Far from voting age was 11-year-old Ahmad. Yet, the youth boldly raised his hand and asked the Congressional candidates, “When is discrimination going to be over with all this stuff happening in the United States?” While one cautioned that the government can’t rely on policies that “remove hate from people’s hearts,” the actions that flow from those beliefs should be made illegal to protect minorities. Other answers touched on the proliferation of racist views on how children are raised at home; policies that codify anti-discrimination measures found in such landmark actions as the Voting Rights Act of 1964, and the historic ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education. One pointed to overreach by government agencies such as ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), familiar to cities like Detroit that are located on international borders.

Michigan’s Children Vice President Bobby Dorigo Jones called this a significant election year due to the change in all of Michigan’s political jurisdictions in the wake of new U.S. Census counts. Many candidate names will be facing voters at the polls this August and September. “Everyone running here today needs to learn from these voters,” he said.

To view a Facebook Live recording of the event, access it here.

– Michigan’s Children staff