As the November election draws nearer, Americans won’t be voting just for a presidential candidate, both state and local candidates will be voted upon, too. In Michigan, there will be dozens of candidates running for the first time and for reelection across the state. Between The Lines has reached out to pro-equality candidates to get a sense of their goals and priorities for the LGBTQ community if they are to be elected. To get a full list of the pro-equality candidates running, visit mivoterguide.com.
Here, Marshall Kilgore answers questions about why he would be a good fit for the Kalamazoo Public Schools Board of Education.
Why do you think you’re a good fit for the office?
As a community advocate fighting for our most marginalized and a student at Western Michigan University, I know firsthand the struggles of our students. I’m ready to be a champion for their success and provide equity within our schools.
Why is education a focus for you?
Education is the strongest building block to success that we have in our communities. In the future, after K-12, if a student wants to be a small-business owner, be a trade-skill worker or further their education via a four-year university, their K-12 education is an important step in the success of their goals.
What experience do you bring to the table that makes you stand out from the other candidates?
I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community, which would make me the only “out” member on the KPS board. In addition to being bisexual, I am also a Black man. These two groups that I have lived in my whole life are some of the most marginalized in our world. I know how it feels to be counted out and bullied. So, I will champion implementing anti-bullying programs in our schools while providing equity to all 13,000-plus KPS students. In addition, as a member of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s field team, I learned the power of building bridges. The Whitmer team traveled to all 83 counties in Michigan, seeing and hearing grievances and building coalitions. Listening and being able to connect to folks who are different from you are two important skills to have. I possess both.
What are your top three priorities if elected?
One: Provide real transparency and communication to parents and guardians. Two: Implement a student advisory board. Three: Create a safer district.
How will you use your time as a school board member to advocate for LGBTQ students?
Making sure I am genuine and kind to all 13,000-plus students and their families in addition to revamping programs such as the GSA — Gay/Straight Alliance, or other LGBTQ+ support and advocacy groups — for some of our middle and high school students to learn from each other and understand what coexisting and respect means in our community.
How did your own experience as an LGBTQ student shape how you view the education system in Michigan?
I can recall being beaten until I was almost unconscious at a very young age as slurs were yelled and teachers and aids came running to help. That memory still sends chills down my spine. I knew then that something had to change within our schools in regard to how our students treat one another. I knew then we had to build community within our schools! I know to remedy this kind of problem we must provide a lens of empathy and equity in everything we do. That starts by making sure bullying is intentionally taken [on]. In addition to our students knowing they are all seen, respected, heard and allowed to be who they authentically are.