Thanks so much for your support for my campaign! Since I started this petition, there has been some exciting progress; college administrators agreed to help find a hotel where foster and homeless students were able to stay warm and safe during winter break . But even more importantly, Aquinas’ administration agreed to establish a dialogue with experts and other universities to work toward a formal policy and solution on this issue– both at Aquinas College and other small colleges whose students face similar challenges. I’m looking forward to working with Aquinas to secure safe and stable housing for those who are in need in the long term. For now, I’ve closed the petition while we work together on a solution. I hope you keep you updated about our progress!
As an unaccompanied homeless youth, there were many barriers to getting into (and staying in!) college. Now that I’m lucky enough to be in my senior year at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I’m about to face another challenge this winter break: I’ll have nowhere to go when campus housing shuts down for winter break.Because I was a homeless youth when I was finishing high school, college was a goal that I was not sure I would ever reach. Sure, I had thought about it, and knew that continuing my education post high school was one of the greatest keys to building a future for myself. I was excited when I was able to apply for and was accepted to a small college in my city, Aquinas College. While there were many challenges, with the help of a great organization in my community, Arbor Circle, I was able to secure on-campus housing and started at Aquinas College in the fall of 2010.
Since then, there have been numerous obstacles faced and countless challenges overcome. But one of the main barriers remains: housing. One of the most tricky situations for foster and homeless students in college is what to do for break periods. Conceded, this is also a difficult situation for schools. Aquinas College provides opportunities to rent on-campus apartments during the summer months, and allows international students and in-season athletes to maintain their housing over fall and spring breaks. However, homeless and foster students are not included in the spring and fall allowances, and are left without options for the two-to-three week period during Michigan‘s cold winters.
Colleges across the country have combatted the issue of break housing in multiple ways. Some have chosen to keep one housing unit open for the break to provide shelter to these students. This cuts down on the utility use for the college, and is one of many ways that the college could ensure safe and stable housing for a very vulnerable group of students throughout the year. Last year, I spent part of my winter break sleeping outside on campus and I know that I don’t want to face the same experience again this year — and I’m sure there are other students who also fear the same.
As a senior, I am anticipating to graduate this upcoming May with a double major in Sociology and Community Leadership. I have overcome many challenges, and cannot wait to dance across the stage in celebration of the work that I have done. However, it is my greatest hope that students who are in situations similar to mine, including several freshman with whom I share a dorm currently, are alleviated of this one major barrier during their college years. Plus, there are thousands of other students — some who are homeless, some who were in foster care, others who have lost their parents or guardians — who are also affected by this issue across the country. I am so proud to be an Aquinas College Saint, will be even more proud to be an Aquinas College Alum, and would be so beyond grateful if my Saints would put forth the effort to show that they are proud and supportive of students like me, as well.
Thanks for signing my petition, and as always– GO SAINTS!
A Message from Britain on the Death of Renisha McBride
I read about the tragic case of Renisha McBride last Friday in a British newspaper called The Guardian, and wrote the following verses in response. Anyone who feels that my composition may be useful is free to use it in any form they see fit. I ask only that my authorship is acknowledged.
The following verses are also attached to this email in the form of a Word document, to facilitate their use.
I hope that justice can be served in this case, those responsible punished, and the law changed.
Regards and Best Wishes
Paul T Kegan
== The Dear Folk of Dearborn Heights
There’s a suburb of Detroit City Goes by the name of Dearborn Heights Where householders stand their ground Where they know their Goddamn rights
Their idea of assistance Is a bullet in your head If you’re young and Black and female They’ll probably shoot you dead
The highway of compassion It bypasses Dearborn Heights On blistering August days And cold November nights
Renisha McBride crashed her car At the tender age of nineteen Early one Saturday morning On streets unfriendly and mean
She knocked on his door and asked him for help He picked up his gun and he fired As from his house she turned away And on his front porch she expired
“The local police aren’t racist!” I imagine the outraged cries How then do we explain Their filthy racist lies?
Renisha she was dumped That was what they said On the porch of an innocent man She was already dead
The Prosecutor vetoed arrest In Wayne County it wasn’t a crime To shoot in the back of her head A woman, unarmed, in her prime
Because killing Blacks is legal It’s written in Michigan law They’re free to gun you down If you knock upon their door
Black folk can expect no sympathy In good ol’ Dearborn Heights Where householders stand their ground Where they know their Goddamn rights ■ Paul T Kegan 10 November 2013
In memory of Renisha McBride.
GOP War on Women, Michigan Edition
After the 2010 elections swept Republicans into power in legislatures across the country, they set about passing an unprecedented number of restrictions — 135 in 2011 and 2012 and 84 more so far this year — on abortion rights.
Michigan has been no exception. A year ago, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed one of the nation’s most extreme anti-abortion laws.
Now lawmakers have used a quirk in Michigan law to push through a bill mandating rape insurance. Yes, you read that right: rape insurance.
On Wednesday evening, both chambers of the Michigan legislature approved a measure that will require women to purchase an additional insurance rider if they want abortion coverage, even in cases when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. It will take effect 90 days after lawmakers adjourn, making Michigan the ninth state to restrict coverage of abortion on the private insurance market — an increasingly popular method of imposing barriers to the procedure.
Opponents decried the legislation as a “rape insurance” bill, pointing out that victims of sexual assault would be forced to pay out-of-pocket for an abortion procedure unless they had thought ahead and purchased a separate rider. In the lead-up to the vote, State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) called the bill “one of the most misogynistic proposals” that has ever been up for debate in the legislature, adding that forcing women to consider purchasing extra insurance in case they’re raped in the future is “truly despicable.”
And Republicans endorsed the measure even after their own colleagues shared their personal stories of sexual assault and miscarriage. Last year, two female Michigan state representatives were temporarily banned from speaking on the Michigan House floor after they dared speak the word “vagina” during the debate on a different draconian anti-abortion bill.
Snyder had vetoed the bill last year but it will become law this year without his signature because “citizen-initiated” bills (bills advanced following a signature gathering drive) approved by the legislature don’t require his approval. The legislature could have disapproved, in which case the measure would’ve been put before Michigan voters in 2014. Instead, they endorsed the offensive and cruel notion of rape insurance.
Harsh anti-abortion measures like this are just one example of a nationwide campaign by right-wing activists to impose their own theological doctrines onto others using public policy.
BOTTOM LINE: If Republicans don’t want to be accused of waging a war on women, they should stop passing bill after bill that attack women and their families.
The tragic killing of unarmed 19-year-old Renisha McBride has left her family and supporters across the country seeking answers and demanding justice. More than a week after Renisha’s death the shooter has not been arrested and he may not face proper prosecution because of Michigan‘s so-called “Stand Your Ground” or “Shoot First” law.1
Shoot First laws have been under intense scrutiny since the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman – who “got away with murder” – because Florida’s Shoot First prevented a proper investigation and controlled the instructions given to the jury.2 These laws, when combined with the daily reality of deep-rooted racial prejudice, create a culture of fear and violence where Renisha McBride — a young Black woman perceived as a threat — can be killed without consequence.
Renisha’s family deserves justice and an end to a culture that does not value Black lives. Please join us in calling on Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and the Dearborn Heights police department to fully investigate Renisha McBride’s killing and bring the shooter to justice.
Shortly after the news of Renisha’s death broke, local residents of Detroit and nearby areas rallied for justice — condemning racial profiling and violence against women. Demonstrators referred to Dearborn Heights as a “sundown town”, a mostly white suburb outside of Detroit that has a history of being hostile to Black folks.3
Michigan enacted “Stand Your Ground” in 2006 and its law closely resembles Florida’s.4 In this case, the law can protect Renisha’s shooter from criminal prosecution if he believes that he was in danger, even if his belief is wrong and rooted in racial bias. But this tragedy and the countless others like it are preventable, if enough of us continue to speak up and demand justice.
Demand that Wayne County Prosecutor and the Dearborn Heights police department fully investigate and bring Renisha’s killer to justice. And when you do, please ask your friends and family to do the same.
Thanks and Peace,
–Rashad, Matt, Arisha, Kim, William, and the rest of the ColorOfChange team November 11th, 2013
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1. “Michigan’s ‘stand your ground’ law mirrors Florida law more than any other state,” Michigan Radio, 7-15-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/3078?t=9&akid=3186.1689899.7lphca
2.”7 Mind Blowing Moments From Zimmerman Juror B37′s First Interview,” ThinkProgress, 07-16-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2799?t=11&akid=3186.1689899.7lphca
3. “Detroit activists demand justice for Renisha McBride,” The Grio, 11-08-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/3079?t=13&akid=3186.1689899.7lphca
4. See reference 1.