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Flint, MI– A $250,000 grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has allowed for the reestablishment of the City’s Human Relations Commission. Flint City Council voted unanimously Feb. 8 to approve the grant, and to appoint two people to the commission.
In the grant proposal to Ridgway White, Mayor Sheldon Neeley said the focus of the HRC is to assist in “the elimination of prejudice, hate and discrimination and promote equality in treatment of all residents of Flint regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, citizenship status, disability, sex, marital status, political orientation, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
The HRC ceased its operations after more than 50 years when Flint was under an emergency manager, according to the proposal. In 2019, a Flint resident filed a complaint against the city alleging many aspects of the city’s charter were not being implemented, including the establishment of the HRC.
“In recent months, national headlines remind us that the work of HRC is more important than ever,” Neeley said in the proposal.
In 1967, the HRC organized a ten-day sleep in on the lawn of Flint City Hall, which Neeley said was one of the peaceful protests that led to the enactment of fair housing ordinances in Flint. More recently, the HRC co-hosted a public forum on bullying with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights in 2012, and worked to spread awareness of children in poverty in 2009.
The proposal says the HRC will focus on promoting positive relationships, and ensuring fair treatment regarding employment, healthcare, education, housing, city planning, and public accommodation. The commission is also supposed to educate the public on city government operations and structure, as well as implement anti-racism programming and support residents who need to file complaints.
First-ward Councilman Eric Mays and Third-ward Councilman Santino Guerra appointed the two newest members to the commission.
Councilman Mays appointed Raynetta Speed, the community relations manager for the Genesee County Land Bank. Speed has also served on the Genesee County Board of Commissioners, the Parks and Recreation Commission, the County Community Mental Health Board of Directors, and the Metropolitan Planning Commission.
“I think she’s the right type of person…and she have a wealth of knowledge, and demeanor, and all of that, and I think she’ll bring the right type of intellect, to me, to this Human Relations Commission,” Mays said.
Speed said she was “eager to help out anytime it comes to anything with regards to social justice.” She said she also knows some of the people on the commission already, and is looking forward to getting started and working with them.
Councilman Guerra appointed Cha’Ris Lee, an army veteran and the current attorney-adviser of labor relations and legal services at the Michigan Association of School Boards. She’s also on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing, and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint, and is the vice chair of the Young Democrats of Genesee County, and the secretary of the Genesee County Black Caucus.
Guerra said she was “definitely one of the most qualified individuals” he’d seen.
Lee said she was grateful for the appointment, and that “any opportunity to serve Flint in any capacity is great.”
“I’ve been in some form of human resources or labor relations for the past 13 years,” Lee said. “So I think I bring a unique perspective when it comes to dealing with issues of discrimination and ways to remedy past discrimination which is part of our charge.”
The HRC will be made up of one representative for each ward, organized by the Office of the Ombudsperson. Each appointment is a two-year term, and members are not paid to serve on the commission.
Current members are Ron Luczak representing the 4th Ward, Jameca Patrick-Singleton from the 5th Ward, Gregory A. Eason from the 7th Ward, and Susan Steiner Bolhouse from the 8th Ward.