A diverse group of attendees, politicians and non-profit leaders joined U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D –12th District) on Aug. 29 to “Take on Hate” at a rally on the campus of the University of Michigan–Dearborn.
Dingell said that for her, the event was not partisan.
“We are not Democrats, we are not Republicans, we are Americans,” Dingell said. “Many forget that Reverend King wrote that speech at Solidarity House, right here in Michigan.”
Dingell said that after the attacks of 9/11, southeast Michigan was not going to let communities be pitted against each other.
“The Jewish community, the Muslim community, the African American community, the Hispanic community, all the groups that were here, the interfaith community, came together and stood in solidarity and stood up to hate,” she said. “The fundamental pillars of our constitution are freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and they are all under attack.”
Dingell said as a Catholic girl, the nuns taught her at an early age that we are one, there is no difference, that we are part of a community and that she must always fight for that community.
“We have to stop having people pit us against each other,” Dingell said. “I was at our Dearborn Homecoming, and a little girl said to me, at the ACCESS tent, ‘Why do people hate me?’
“That is not who America is. We are one. United we stand, divided we fall. We stand up to hate and leave here with the message we will fight those who hurt our neighbor no matter who they are.”
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D–13th District) said the energy at the rally was a powerful force.
“It fuels me to work even harder to outwork the hate that we are seeing every single day,” Tlaib said. “We have to connect. When we do, that is how we take on hate, and that is how we can take on love.”
Tlaib encouraged those attending to remind others that they belong.
“As a child of immigrant parents, who struggled, who got to see their daughter become a U.S. Congresswoman, what an incredible show of love and unity,” she said. “What I love is who got me into politics, to run for office, who gave me the courage, but my brother, my Jewish brother, Steve Tobocman, who said, ‘Why not run?’ That is an incredible American story that keeps continuing to be left behind, because we are not connecting from a place of love.”
Tlaib acknowledged how “incredibly painful” things are right now.
“I see it in your faces when you come up to me,” she said. “I know you are scared. It is so easy to function from a point of fear, but don’t do it. Believe in the higher being of love or whatever you believe in, because I promise you, we will prevail. There is more of us than them.”
Tlaib urged attendees to speak up when the forces of hate try to dehumanize people and attack our neighbors. She said whether it is the black or LGBT community, they will continue to fight for rights together.
“We are going to speak up, and fight back together,” Tlaib said. “So please know this: There are more of us than them. You all so much belong here. I love the sign back there that says, ‘Make racism wrong again.’”
Tlaib said racism has always been wrong, and she encouraged the attendees to continue to speak up.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Tlaib said. “This is a human issue. We have to start working together.”
University of Michigan–Dearborn Provost and Vice Chancellor Kenneth Kettenbeil said he was pleased to host Dingell’s “Take on Hate” rally.
“Our campus prides itself on being a welcoming and inclusive community to everybody,” Kettenbeil said.
University of Michigan Regent Jordan Acker, who is a Jewish American, said the event sent the important message that hate is not welcome on the campus, in our communities and in our country.
Vocalist Patrick Yee of Troy sang the national anthem, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, which was led by students from Eastern Michigan University Upward Bound, a pre-college academic program for Ypsilanti Community High School students.
Members of the faith community who offered prayers and words of wisdom included Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Kehillat Etz Chayim of Oak Park, the Rev. Kenneth James Flowers of New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, Imam Mohammad Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom of Dearborn Heights and Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk, president of the Islamic Organization of North America.
Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said the destructive words from Washington, D.C., brings out the hatred in people. Hatred is learned and it poisons minds, he said, but love is a conscious choice.
“What I see through the lens of my children is that hate and racism and bigotry are learned behaviors,” Gilchrist said. “Nobody’s kid is born like that. So, what we as adults, what we tolerate, what we allow to happen in our presence poisons the
minds of the future.
“The dangerous and destructive words and deeds that have come from Washington arms and emboldens and pulls out that hatred from other people. The only way that we can fight against it, that we can protect our communities, is if we decide to stand tall and take on that hate.”
Other speakers included Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, who said the answer to fear and exclusion is always courage and inclusion, and Dave Garcia, executive director of Affirmations of Ferndale, a non-profit serving the LGBT population, who said they are not alone in being a target of hate, and who spoke about how religion is being used as a weapon.
Carolyn Normandin, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Michigan, said hate cannot be a political issue, and it is not a partisan one. Hate is hate and we do ourselves no service by characterizing it with one group or another, and there is no place for it in our communities, she said.
Western Wayne County NAACP branch President Gina Wilson Steward said “our diversity is our power,” and that there’s much work to be done, while American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan Deputy Director Rana Elmir said “fear is not intended to impede our progress – fear illuminates the obstacles in our way, and together we pave that path forward.”
U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Township) called for people to “love the stranger as yourself” and said “we need to celebrate our differences” and to “let the hate make you stronger.”
Other politicians in attendance included Michigan Democratic House Leader Christine Grieg (D–Farmington Hills), state House Reps. Laurie Pohutsky (D–Livonia), Matt Koleszar (D–Plymouth), Tyrone Carter (D–Detroit) and Cynthia A. Johnson (D–Detroit), and Michigan state Sen. Marshall Bullock (D–Detroit), and Dearborn City Council members Leslie Herrick and Erin Byrnes, and Dearborn City Council President Susan Dabaja.
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