Amplifying Community Voices

By Solomon Ayalew

Change often starts at the bottom. It begins with family and friends sharing ideas and solutions or neighbors identifying how to make their homes safer for their families. It begins with businesspersons contracting ways to improve local economies or parents organizing to enhance the educational outcomes for their children. All these moments have two things in common: One, community, and two, conversation.

The National Racial Equity Initiative (NREI) developed the Community Conversation Town Halls as a forum to amplify community voices and inform Black communities about priority policy issues. These events starting in Detroit will allow all community members to engage in community-level dialogue that leads to concrete, actionable steps in addressing systemic racism. We aspire to meet people where they are and support them by facilitating dialogue around issues relevant to the Black communities we visit. In addition, we hope to leverage relationships with partners to collaborate on intersectional issues.

On April 23, 2022, the CBCF will host its first Community Conversation in Detroit, Michigan. Home to one of the nation’s largest Black populations, Detroit has played a pivotal role in developing the Black identity in this country. From Motown to Motor City, Detroit has a long history of remaining ahead of both culture and industry. At its height, the city housed over 1.8 million people, making it the 5th largest U.S. city. Due to deindustrialization, Detroit lost around 60% of its population and went through a steep economic decline, eventually filing for bankruptcy in 2013. Since then, Detroit has resurged economically, and as the city rebuilds, one aspect under scrutiny is its public safety infrastructure. Some residents want to rehaul and reimagine public safety in Detroit, while others request more resources to bolster the existing system.  The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation has organized this event in hopes of carving a path forward in this critical conversation.

The day will include a Social Justice Art & Activism Fair where participants can learn about the work of local Detroit artists and social justice organizations. Following the Fair is a Fireside Chat with Representative Brenda Lawrence, moderated by CBCF President and CEO Nicole Austin-Hillery. The two leaders will explore Congresswoman Lawrence’s thirty years in elected public service and how legislators can work alongside communities.

It will also feature two panels. During the first panel, panelists will provide a retrospective analysis of Detroit’s public safety landscape to provide a framework around the four pillars of public safety: Economic Opportunity, Criminal Justice, Health Equity, and Education Equity. During the second panel, panelists will examine and identify existing and potential solutions to the public safety system in Detroit. We aspire to close out the day with concrete solutions.

Change starts from the ground up, so join us for an opportunity to connect with community members during a discussion on April 23, 2022, for the NREI Community Conversation: Making Safety Public. This event is FREE and will be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the historic city of Detroit and expand our understanding of the public safety landscape and what it can be.

About Solomon Ayalew

I am the Senior Program Manager with the National Racial Equity Initiative (NREI) here at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF).  I was born in Gonder, Ethiopia, and then immigrated to Columbus, Ohio. Throughout my life, I have often found myself at the crossroads of communities. This has helped me develop a talent for communicating across differences, allowing me to create meaningful and lasting connections with people of all backgrounds. I have utilized this talent to maintain strong relationships with stakeholders and connect them to the mission and vision of various organizations. Combined with my love for narratives, I have highlighted stories from my community to encourage changemakers to take action.