Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund

Democracy Drumbeat: Celebrating Black Voices at Michigan LCV

Author’s Note

This year, the theme for Black History Month is Black Resistance. The legacy and importance of Black Resistance cannot be understated. By resisting, Black people have achieved triumphs and progress as seen in the end of slavery, dismantling of Jim Crow segregation, desegregation of educational institutions, electing Black leaders as mayors, members of congress, and even President of the United States. Black history is ongoing and we are witnessing everyday Black leaders rising and making changes in our communities.

I want to dedicate a special edition of the Democracy Drumbeat by highlighting Black voices that serve on the forefront of protecting democracy at the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. I asked staff at Michigan LCV, in what ways have you seen your work continuing the legacy of Black Resistance? Here are their reflections:

Rodney Austin (He/She/They) is Michigan LCV’s Voting Rights Organizer on the Democracy for All team

“This is ever SO true! I do know that in many ways for many reasons I can, have, and WILL resist much of the "status quo" and the systems/institutions of things because it just simply doesn't fit or is tailored for me to succeed. I almost have to be convinced that changes are happening through me, from different groups and changes that my work directly affects those in close proximity at any given time. This world lets me know I'm doing something correct and nothing should be feared or taken for granted. Persistently, consistently, resisting things that aren't fair, equal, and right for the good of ALL.”

Brooke Harris (She/Her) is the Voting Rights Manager for Michigan LCV

“My work in voting rights at Michigan LCV is quite literally continuing the legacy of Black Resistance since the fight for equal access to the ballot box has merely evolved. Voter intimidation remains, and voter suppression has shifted from literacy tests and grandfather clauses to strict voter ID laws and the rampant spread of disinformation. From working in coalition with democracy partners, to educating voters on their rights and freedoms, to leading safety teams for direct actions, I am proud to join my ancestors and co-conspirators in this continual fight.”

Amani Johnson (He/Him/His) is the Southwest Michigan Regional Coordinator for Michigan LCV

“I am Black Resistance. In 2020, I was elected to the Southfield Board of Education and subsequently became the youngest elected official in our city's history just six years after graduating high school. The vast majority of our student population identifies as Black or African American. I serve as an example to them that they too can successfully run for public office and effect change in their communities. In the work I do with Southfield Public Schools, I prioritize environmental issues, which tend to impact BIPOC communities the most: reducing our reliance on DTE for energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by investing in electric school bus infrastructure, and drafting a plan to get to net zero carbon emissions. Growing up in Southfield, I've been influenced by leaders like Kyra Bolden and Brenda Lawrence. I'm grateful to have the same opportunity to inspire another generation.”

Roslyn Ogburn (She/Her) is Michigan LCV’s Partnerships Coordinator

“I have seen my work continuing the legacy of Black resistance through working with committed, powerful, resilient residents, organizations and communities that will not give up nor quit towards building and supporting our Black & Brown communities towards ensuring clean air, energy and affordable water along with a sustainable system to survive climate change. History has exhibited that environmental injustice impacted and destroyed our neighborhoods creating a domino effect disrupting our families through health and economic disparity. But like Maya Angelou stated ''Still I rise!” Detroiters & Michiganders continue to rise, thrive and never give up regardless of the past; getting their voices heard and demanding a change. As Partnership Coordinator at Michigan LCV, I’m determined to live our mission and continue to build strong relationships honoring the legacy that came before us, working to demand resilient communities and fighting for those to come!”

Wesley Watson (He/Him/His/El) is Michigan LCV’s West Michigan Regional Coordinator

“For myself, it's important to honor and thank the leaders of my village and family who have created the path for me to get to this point in my life and career. I think continuing the legacy of Black Resistance is always sharing the stories of the local Black Resistance and creating space for our leaders of the past to pour into today's generation and future generations. I think it is important that we bridge the gap between different generations in our Black community in how we organize and uplift the black voices in our communities. The primary way I continue this resistance is by bringing different generations together and having a multi-generational voice at the table for continued policy impact.”

Shannon Rochon (He/Him) is Michigan LCV’s Partnerships Director

"The way I have seen my work continuing the legacy of Black Resistance is through keeping my community civically engaged in environmental, democracy, and political activism. As the partnerships director at Michigan League of Conservation Voters, my focus has been to ensure we build partnerships in seven key areas. (Education, Public health, Unions, Sports/Entertainment, Faith-based, Grassroots/Environmental Justice groups, and Academia). As I build in the different sectors my goal is to advocate for equality, access, and opportunity for the Black community adding to the legacy of Black Resistance."

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