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New Detroit, leaders urge 'relentless' war on racism

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

A civil rights nonprofit has declared "war on racism" and the organization wants Metro Detroiters to join the effort. 

New Detroit Inc., a coalition founded by city and state officials to promote racial equality in the wake of the city's 1967 uprising, announced the campaign at a Monday press conference. 

Standing at the "United We Stand" sculpture at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, New Detroit officials and other leaders outlined actions that the Metro Detroit community can take to help abolish systemic racism. 

New Detroit Inc. president and CEO Michael Rafferty speaks at a press conference on Monday, July 6, at Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to announce a war on racism effort with leaders from across Detroit and Michigan.

"We in this country have seen a war on terrorism, a war on poverty, we've seen a war on drugs ... you see things change through those processes," said Michael Rafferty, president and CEO of New Detroit. "So asking people to sign on is essentially not asking them to grab a gun ... but it means we have to be relentless."

The declaration touts action items such as changing policies and investing in diverse talent that individuals and organizations can commit to online at NewDetroit.org.

Part of the declaration urges those who experience "white privilege" to pledge to change their "perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors toward racially oppressed people, institutions, and communities."

The pledge commits individuals to personally dismantling racism by consulting with and investing in organizations such as New Detroit and Black Family Development, an organization that provides aid to families in Detroit. 

"Detroit has worked tirelessly year-in and year-out and there remains work to be done," said Detroit deputy mayor Conrad Mallett Jr. "The mayor of the city of Detroit asked me on behalf of all of the people that he represents ... we will do everything we can to wipe out the systemic racism."

The declaration also promises to engage in law enforcement reform by urging local police departments to train members in appropriate use of force and establish consequences for any officers who abuse their power. 

"This declaration is not just words on paper," said Rachel Stewart, chairwoman of New Detroit's board of directors and president of Gardner-White Furniture. "This is a cry of action. We need to mobilize now to remove all barriers to racial equity."

Leaders from across the state made appearances as New Detroit's board members. Among them: Wayne State University president M. Roy Wilson; Michigan Welfare Rights chairwoman Maureen Taylor; Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's legislative and external affairs senior adviser, Thomas Stallworth III; Alice G. Thompson, CEO of Black Family Development Inc., a family counseling nonprofit; Hassan Jaber, executive director of ACCESS, a social services nonprofit; and Eva Garza Dewaelsche, president and CEO of SER-Metro Detroit, a job-training organization.

New Detroit was founded by former Gov. George Romney, former Detroit mayor Jerome Cavanagh and Hudson Department Store founder Joseph L. Hudson Jr. to identify and implement change for racial equality in the city.