Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Black leaders to rally in Detroit to oppose new redistricting maps that favor white candidates

Posted By on Tue, Oct 19, 2021 at 3:12 PM

click to enlarge The rally takes place at the TCF Center in downtown Detroit. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • The rally takes place at the TCF Center in downtown Detroit.

Lawmakers, community activists, clergy and union leaders are hosting a rally on Wednesday afternoon in Detroit to oppose new redistricting maps that would wipe out all 17 majority-Black districts.

The rally begins at 12:30 p.m. at the TCF Center in downtown Detroit and will be followed by a public hearing before the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission at 1 p.m.

The commission, which includes four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independents, advanced the newly drawn maps for state Senate and House districts last week. The commission was tasked with redrawing the boundaries after Republicans created heavily gerrymandered districts following the 2010 census.

Under the current boundaries, there are 17 districts that are predominately Black. But the new proposed boundaries would wipe out all of them and dilute representation of Detroit, the state's largest city.

During the rally and public hearing, Black leaders are going to call on the commission to redraw the maps to preserve the majority-Black districts.

“The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission still has time to get this right and it is my sincere hope they take the feedback from Black Detroiters seriously,” State Rep. Adam Hollier, D-Detroit, said in a statement Tuesday. “For those of us in Detroit, this is more than lines on a map. The decisions made by the commission will have a lasting impact on who represents us for the next decade — and perhaps decades to come.”

During the hearing Wednesday, the commission will listen to testimony from Detroiters and others about the maps. Black leaders are calling on residents to provide testimony.

Rep. Tenisha Yancey, D-Detroit, said the proposed districts will weaken Black representation.

“When I first ran for office, knocking on doors and making phone calls was painful. As a Black woman, I faced racist attacks from people seeking to shut me up and put me down. The experience was nothing new,” Yancey said in a statement. “Today, as an elected official those same attacks have followed me to this job, as they have targeted me throughout my life. With proposed redistricting maps that dilute the voices of voters of color, I worry that future candidates for office who look like me will not have a seat at the table. They will be forced to run for office in communities that are unwelcoming to them. They could even be put in danger. These maps must be reformed and restructured so that people’s representatives are truly representative.”

In redrawing the districts, commissioners are required to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, which requires equal opportunity for minority voters to elect representatives of their choice. Opponent of the new districts argue that Michigan voters tend to vote for people who look like them, so fewer Black lawmakers would be elected under the new boundaries that are all majority white.

“While the MIRDC intent may not be of a nefarious nature, their process is flawed, lacks transparency, and must be challenged legally,” former state Rep. Sherry Dagnogo, D-Detroit, said. “For too long African Americans have served as the backbone of the Democratic Party while demanding very little in return. It is time that our allies join in this fight for equity; to remain silent is to allow the advancement of taxation without representation throughout many of our urban populated house, senate and congressional districts.”

The commission is required to hold public hearings before approving the new maps.

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