Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By Jessica Carreras
Reclaiming Our Rights
12 p.m. Jan. 26
Arab American National Museum, 13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn
The metro Detroit branch of the American Civil Liberties Union is making everyone an activist. This Saturday, they will be holding a Civil Liberties Conference at Dearborn’s Arab American National Museum to educate attendees about the importance of defending their rights through activism like writing letters to the editor, speaking up at city meetings and having the knowledge to be an active citizen.
For members of the LGBT community, the event, called the “Reclaiming Our Rights” conference, will be a chance to learn how to defend rights that very directly affect them.
Though the topics of the conference do not focus directly on LGBT issues, the speakers and panelists of the day will be covering topics that concern every American, including wiretapping, Internet spying, torture cover-ups and censorship. “These issues affect the LGBT community just as much as anyone else,” insisted Heather Bendure, president of the ACLU of Michigan metro Detroit branch.
The first half of the event will focus on the speakers and dialogues with panelists, which include Executive Director of the Detroit NAACP, Heaster Wheeler, editor of the Arab American News, Osama Siblani, author and clergyman Reverend Harry Cook and Wayne State University Law School professor Robert Sedler, among others. There will also be several representatives of ACLU acting as speakers and panelists.
To decide the topics and people for the panels, the ACLU of Michigan used an online survey to divine the top four issues that are most important to active citizens. These turned out to be the separation of church and state, privacy, racial immigration and the abuse of power.
However, the thing survey takers asked for the most was a way to speak out and actively fight for their rights. As a result, the second half of the conference will be spent breaking people up into groups to talk about activism and how to get involved. “People will be designated by the areas that they live,” Bendure said, adding that the focus will be on activism at the local level. Though the issues being discussed are mostly national, Bendure believes that getting people active at a local level is the first step toward national change. “There are so many people who want to do something but just don’t know what to do so we’re hoping they’ll become active.”
As for the LGBT community, it is not only a chance to learn to be active for gay rights, but for issues that affect everyone. “Everyone who is concerned about the direction that our country is taking should attend the conference,” said ACLU attorney Jay Kaplan.
Kaplan reiterated, however, that the issues being discussed do affect the gay community specifically, as things like the invasion of privacy and fair treatment in the justice system will directly concern them. “Any effort to roll back the rights and protections of people affects the LGBT community because this begets a slippery slope,” Kaplan explained. “We’re talking about due process and privacy rights of people in America – which definitely impacts the cause of equality and civil rights for LGBT people.”