MC Digital Edition 9.23.2020

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September 23-29, 2020

Michigan Chronicle


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Inclusion From page A-1

pled with a lack of cultural competency in dealing with Black and other people of color. His critics argue it has badly eroded morale and once again made the museum’s leadership treatment of race a source of contention after years of aggressive community outreach. This at precisely the time when questions about institutional racism are gaining new currency and urgency in cultural institutions around the country. A July New York Times story noted that Andrea Montiel de Shuman, a former digital experience designer, quit and complained in an online essay of “a contradictory, hostile, at times vicious and chaotic work environment” that censors the work of people of color and neglects Black communities. And the story reported two Black assistant curators, who were hired for the contemporary art department in 2016 as part of an effort to expand diversity, left within two years. One of the curators, Taylor Renee Aldridge, said in an email to the Times that her situation “is emblematic of many cases of abuse and systemic violence that permeates from the top down in museums, and especially the DIA.” But Salort-Pons has his defenders. Detroit cultural critic and author Marsha Philpot, known locally as Marsha Music, expressed her support for him in a widely read social media post noting his outreach efforts included everything from the screening of an Aretha Franklin documentary and a panel discussion at the DIA honoring three elder veterans of the arts in Detroit, all of whom were over 80-yearsold, Dell Pryor, Dr. Cledie Taylor and Shirley Woodson.

“It was standing room only in the Kresge Court. These women have been running galleries in Detroit for decades and the three of them had never been acknowledged in this way by the DIA,” Music said. “It is the staff people with whom we met who put together an event like that. However, as head of their organization Salort-Pons greenlighted this. It sends a very powerful message about acknowledgment of Detroit’s African American majority and its long-time arts legacy.” Under Salort-Pons the DIA even had a special weekend event celebrating African American hair by a well-known hair artisan. “Can you imagine that? An event celebrating Black hair at the DIA,” she said with a laugh. “My defense of Mr. Salort-Pons was not aimed against those who have labor issues,” Music told the Chronicle. “It was not my wish to be pitted against activists who have expressed concerns about their work environment. I desired to highlight the fact the NYT story about this controversy had completely ignored those of us in the community who have been the recipients of support by the DIA and Mr. Salort-Pons and the significant work that is going on.” Hubert Massey, a current nine-year-member of the DIA Board of Trustees agreed with Marsha Music. He praised Salort-Pons for his outreach to Detroit’s Black community and for making the DIA more accessible to a greater swath of Detroiters than any director who preceded him. “Of all of our directors of the museum, Salvador is probably the person that stands out in my mind as the person who more than any other innovates as far as bringing communities into the DIA,” he said. “I’ve never seen a museum director come to the community, break bread and celebrate local artists like he did …

Virtual Meeting From page A-1

always said that Gary and I are the onetwo punch for Michigan. Senator Peters makes a difference every day. I need him coming back to the Senate next year so we can continue to work together for the people of Michigan.” “Thank you for those words, and we will be together for another six years,” Peters declared. “Let’s hope that we are in the majority because we can truly make the kind of difference that we need to make in this country, and we can help all of our House colleagues that are already in the majority. Imagine putting all of these forces together – it would be great!” Peters pivoted to talk about COVID19 and the federal response to the pandemic. “I’ve been in the middle of that response as ranking member of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA,” said Peters. “I want to say the current administration was clearly too slow in coming together and putting together the kind of aggressive response that we needed. I know firsthand because I saw it firsthand.”

and all the other things he was doing.” Both Massey and Marsha Music specifically mentioned Salort-Pons’ involvement with the Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club, a Detroit art enthusiast group that supports the fine arts in the Detroit area. It is a group of community artists who meet weekly at a local Coney Island to share art, sell art, raffle art, get educated about art, announce openings and other art events, and even perform art. Salort-Pons and his wife are active members of the group. Massey said he could not speak on the handling of personnel issues at the museum, however, he rejected criticism that Salort-Pons has been insensitive and non-accommodating to the creative and cultural interests of Black Detroiters. “He has made strides to bridge the gap to bring the DIA closer to the community environment for the people of Detroit,” Massey said. “He sees the value in having and including people of this community within the DIA.” Salort-Pons said he was proud of the museum’s support within Detroit’s artistic community and relied on their advice in crafting the DIA’s outreach efforts. “The Detroit artistic community continues to be very supportive of the work the DIA is doing,” he said. “What is crucial is the fact I rely on their feedback and advice and ideas on how to learn more of what they are doing and to broaden and deepen our engagements within the neighborhoods.” Salort-Pons acknowledged while the DIA under his leadership has been making progress in becoming more inclusive and diversifying its operations across all departments, including offering paid internships to increase access to the

“Gary, I just want you to know that you have a whole team of fighters on your side,” said Lawrence. “We are committed to making sure you return to the Senate. You’ve been a true fighter in the Senate for Michigan.” Lawrence went on to speak about racism and her fight to eradicate it. The congresswoman described how she was impacted by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this year. “When I went to Minneapolis and knelt at the spot where George Floyd was killed, it took a little bit out of me,” said Lawrence. “But I had to get off my knee and get back to work to keep fighting. I was proud that the U.S. House of Representatives stood up, went to work, and produced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. I am proud to be on the Congressional Black Caucus that led that bill.” The Bill (H.R. 7120) addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices, measures to eliminate discriminatory policing practices and law enforcement accountability. Lawrence stressed the importance of turning out to vote. She cited words of wisdom that the late Congressman John Lewis liked to convey to as many Black people that he could reach.

Peters pointed out how African American and other communities of color are vastly disproportionately impacted as it relates to being infected and dying from COVID-19. Peters said that he has introduced legislation to create a civil rights and community inclusion unit of FEMA. The mission of the unit, according to Peters, will help communities of color impacted disproportionately by any kind of natural disaster.

“Why do you think there are so many people trying to keep us from voting?” Lewis would ask. “Because they know when we vote we change things.”

“There has to be a focus on those communities that get hit the hardest because they tend to always be communities of color,” Peter said. “That legislation has now passed out of committee and now heads to the full Senate for a vote, hopefully soon.”

Other U.S. House of Representatives members who spoke included Dan Kildee (Michigan’s 5th Congressional District); Debbie Dingell (Michigan’s 12th Congressional District); Elissa Slotkin (Michigan’s 8th Congressional District); and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan’s 13th Congressional District).

Peters said he is also working in a bi-partisan manner to address criminal justice reform and ways to strengthen community policing. Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, who represents Michigan’s 14th District, spoke next and immediately addressed Peters.

Lawrence said that while we have lost courageous fighters like John Lewis, John Conyers, Elijah Cummings and others, this is our time to step into those footprints to continue the fight and stay on the journey to justice.

“As we push forward to vote, it’s not just about names on the ballots,” Tlaib said. “There are also issues that matter to us. When Black and Brown communities come out to vote, we win. But beyond elections, we have to be out there speaking about injustices in America.”

museum field, it still has room for improvement. “When I became director in 2015, we made a commitment to diversify our board to really reflect the diversity of our tri-counties,” he said. “We have been diversifying our staff and I think we have been successful in diversifying our junior staff and must do better with our senior staff and other areas.” “We really want to transform the culture of the organization and make sure that in our future work, inclusion, diversity, equity and access is expressed and portrayed in all activities, and we have engaged The Kaleidoscope Group to lead our work in developing that roadmap,” Salort-Pons said. “That includes internal work, exhibitions and permeates all the way to our governance.”

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Your Vote

far to turn back now. We urge everyone to TAKE YOUR SOLES TO THE POLLS AND VOTE,” said NAACP Detroit Chapter President, Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony.

cessing, which is not enough to make a significant difference. Benson also pointed out that thousands of voters were disenfranchised in the August primary because their ballots arrived late or without a signature matching the one on their voter registration. The legislature has not advanced the bills that have been introduced to prevent such disenfranchisement in November.

“I encourage all voters to turn to trusted sources of information, like our printed voter guides distributed this week and our award-winning online voter guide, as well as the information shared by the Department of State and local election clerks,” said Michigan League of Women Voters President Christina Schlitt. “And if you see election information that is untrue or suspicious, report it immediately to the Department of State by emailing”

From page A-1

Community leaders joined Whitmer and Benson to express their confidence in Michigan’s elections and to call on all to support them. “Every citizen of the state must know that the upcoming election will be safe, secure and solidified on the rolls for voter accreditation. Every vote must count. We will not be tricked, bamboozled, or have our eyes taken off the prize of voter participation. We have come too

“Michiganders can also support our elections directly, by serving as an election worker on Election Day,” said Michigan Emgage Executive Director Nada Al-Hanooti. “Communities across the state need more election workers than ever this year, and bilingual workers are especially helpful. Sign up at Michigan. gov/DemocracyMVP.”

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