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Friday, June 22, was a bit miserable because of a persistent, freezing cold rain, but that wasn’t enough to keep dogged protesters away from an Immigrant Solidarity Rally. The event took place on the Bagley Pedestrian Bridge.
Brianna Dee Kingsley, organizer of the event and activist working with Metro Detroit Political Action Network, explained why she felt moved to make this gesture.
“It was just time to make a stand,” she said. “I know people who are directly affected by the horrific tactics of the devious administration we are stuck with. They are scared to speak.”
In addition to her work as an organizer, Kingsley is an executive with 10 years of experience in business as well as the founder of Great Lakes Equity, LLC. An organization that is dedicated to “educate, advocate and influence and foster understanding and community.” Kingsley, who read a poem written by an anonymous refugee, has dedicated her experience with privilege to lending her voice to those who are afraid to raise their own.
Among the protesters who showed up were Larry and Geri Biggs, both of whom are retired social workers. The two are no strangers to the activist scene and they said they have invested much of their time in protesting the actions of the Trump Administration. “Primarily we’re just looking to support anything that is equality and justice for all people, regardless of where they are from and who they love,” said Larry Biggs.
“Things we took for granted before … we can’t do it anymore,” explained Geri Biggs. “Things we thought were moving in the right direction are going backwards.”
A young woman in a hijab also attended the rally. Her name is Rezwana Ahmed and was invited by Kingsley. She said she believes strongly in supporting refugees and immigrants.
“I don’t know anyone personally [who has been deported], but a lot of people in my neighborhood have been affected,” Ahmed said. “Even students on visa have had that taken away.”
New efforts by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency under Trump have caused significant peril for refugees and immigrants, including those who have entered the country legally and broken no laws. Even immigrants who already have citizenship could be in danger of deportation. And, according to organizers, this is particularly concerning for Metro Detroit and its surrounding areas which are heavily populated by immigrants from many origins.
For example, nearly 7 percent of Michigan residents are immigrants according to the American Immigration Council, and nearly one in 12 residents are the children of at least one immigrant parent. According to the last census in 2010, 6.2 percent of the population in Metro Detroit are Latino, which makes the rally’s location near Mexicantown in Detroit particularly impactful, considering the disproportionate amount of Latino citizens and immigrants who are targeted by ICE.
Bearing statistics like that in mind, Kingsley emphasized another reason why she is encouraging others to stand up in support of immigrants.
“A basic principle of Islam that is widely propagated by respected scholars and imams is that once you become aware, you cannot become unaware,” said Kingsley, who has attended lessons and services at local mosques.
Kingsley is using this principle as a fueling factor in her advocacy work, and is working with multiple organizations to maintain momentum to these rallies. Currently, she is working with Equality Michigan, Equality MI Pride PAC and Great Lakes Equity to continue fighting for the rights of not only LGBTQ people, but other marginalized communities as well. There are plans for another such rally on the first Sunday of July, at 2 p.m.