6.3.20 “I can’t breathe”

We are facing an unprecedented period of uncertainty in our community and across the country. When I wrote to members last month, the pandemic felt like our country’s most urgent and anxiety-producing situation. 

As I write to you today, Minneapolis and other cities are burning. The cities of Kalamazoo and Portage are under curfew. People aren’t saying “I can’t breathe,” just because of the coronavirus. My heart breaks for George Floyd, his friends and family, and the constant state of terror that we put our black brothers and sisters in. My frustration, pain, and sadness pales in comparison. Black lives matter.

I asked our Diversity & Inclusion Committee to give us their thoughts–below.

In solidarity,

— Margy 

Margy Belchak, Chair, Kalamazoo County Democratic Party

(312) 848-0225 cell | kcdp-chair@kzoodems.com | kzoodems.com | facebook.com/kzoodems | secure.actblue.com/donate/donatekcdp

Once again America has witnessed yet another murder of an unarmed African-American person by a police officer. He had a name, and his name was George Floyd. Since Mr. Floyd’s death, America has again been forced to address its long and tortured history of oppression towards black, brown, and indigenous people. For the people of African diaspora, we have had to suffer countless abuses and indignities ever since the first European ship landed on the coast of Africa. 

In the past few days, many of us have participated in protests and demonstrations across the nation to show our desire to see an end to police brutality and centuries of systemic racism. But some of us have also remained silent and stayed on the sidelines. This kind of inaction during a time when our nation is in crisis is not acceptable. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” You can not call yourself a friend, an ally, or our brother or sister in the fight against racism if you choose to be silent during critical times like these. Now is the time to speak up and speak out. 

The Kalamazoo County Democratic Party’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee is calling on our elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels, regardless of their party affiliation, to speak up about the problems of police brutality, systemic racism, and social inequalities. 

The Democratic Party, in particular, needs to do a better job of addressing these issues all the time, not just during an election year. People of color have, since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, been the backbone of the Democratic Party. Even during election years when Democrats were losing in landslides, it was people of color who still showed up to the polls to support Democratic candidates. It was black voters in Alabama (especially black women) who gave Senator Doug Jones the votes he needed to win a close election there in 2017. So, when it comes to needing our votes this November, we hope you hear our voices today and act accordingly going forward.

— Cory King, Shardae Jones-Chambers, and Jacob Andrews
Diversity & Inclusion Committee, KCDP

KCDP endorses candidates in the primary

The KCDP’s County Committee decided last Thursday, May 28th, to vote to endorse candidates in this year’s primary who were either 1) unopposed in the primary, and wished to have the endorsement of the KCDP, 2) running for County Clerk, 3) running in County Commission District 1, or 4) running for office in Oshtemo Township. Candidates had to be nominated for endorsement at our previous meeting in April and be members of both the KCDP and the MDP. To receive the endorsement of the Kalamazoo County Democratic Party, candidates also had to receive 75% of the votes of present voting members of the County Committee. The KCDP is proud to endorse the following candidates at this time.

Jen Aniano, Kalamazoo County Commission – District 6       

Anthony Bates, Kalamazoo County Commission – District 7

Cheri Bell, Oshtemo Township Trustee         

Kizzy Bradford, Oshtemo Township Trustee 

Kristin Cole, Oshtemo Township Clerk          

Keshia Dickason, Kalamazoo County Commission – District 9          

Gloria Emmons, Comstock Township Trustee          

Dusty Farmer, Oshtemo Township Clerk      

Zak Ford, Oshtemo Township Trustee          

Rick Fuller, Kalamazoo County Sheriff           

Doreen Gardner, Kalamazoo County Clerk & Register of Deeds      

Tracy Hall, Kalamazoo County Commission – District 3         

Libby Heiny-Cogswell, Oshtemo Township Supervisor         

Francine Bruder-Melgar, Kalamazoo County Commission – District 11        

Christine Morse, State House of Representatives – District 61         

Bret Padgett, Comstock Township Treasurer

Meredith Place, Kalamazoo County Clerk & Register of Deeds        

Michael Quinn, Kalamazoo County Commission – District 10           

Tami Rey, Kalamazoo County Commission – District 1          

Grant Taylor, Oshtemo Township Treasurer 

Abigail Wheeler, State House of Representatives – District 66         

Thomas Whitener, Kalamazoo County Treasurer     

Add yourself to the permanent vote-by-mail list!

It’s easy to make sure you can vote by mail for every Michigan election:

Go to Michigan.gov/vote

Search for your voter registration by entering your name, birthdate and zip code

Click the green button to join the permanent list

Then, before every election, you’ll get an application for a mail-in ballot in the mail. Complete the form and return it to your township or city clerk to receive your ballot in the mail. Vote your ballot, sign it, and mail it in or take it to your clerk’s office.  

Very important! Your ballot must have arrived in the clerk’s office by election day to be counted! So mail it at least a week earlier, or drop it off. 

If you decide you’d rather vote at the polls for any future election, no problem! Just ignore the application that time around. 

The Michigan SoS office has announced it will mail applications to all Michigan voters who are not already on the permanent mail-in voter (also called absent voter) list. Applications for ballots will begin to go out this month. Ballots for the August primary will start going out June 19 – 22. 

If you have questions about mail-in voting, contact your local township or city clerk, or log onto Michigan.gov/vote. 

Dennis Martin

He was hooked when…

In late February I stopped in to the office and signed up to be a volunteer. Then I attended Neighborhood Captain training and began making some door-to-door calls in my neighborhood. I have really enjoyed meeting my neighbors. Due to the virus we switched to phone calls. It is easy and rewarding. Many times I leave a message but sometimes I get to talk to people in the community and they want to make a change in the current political climate.

Why volunteer?

Now that I am retired I want to volunteer and give back to our community. I felt compelled to step up my participation in the Democratic Party and make sure we had positive changes in our representation at the state and national level. I’ve met some wonderful volunteers who are enthusiastic and motivated.

Something you may not know about Dennis

Here’s something about me of which I am quite proud. For the past 12 years I’ve performed with a band called Smallmouth. We have played for dozens of area non-profit fundraisers and recorded a CD of songs from our Great Lakes-area history.

Wear BLUE for Do Dah on August 15!

Here’s a chance to show your Democratic colors in a big way: wear all BLUE for the 2020 Do- Dah Parade!  We’re walking as the “KCDP Blu-man, Hu-man Group,” a tribute to the Blue Man Group performers that honors two Do-Dah traditions: parody and family fun!   

Let’s come together to make a HUGE Blue Wave through downtown! Drummers, signs, and props will make it easy for you to “just show up” dressed all in BLUE. 

Who:  All Kalamazoo County Dems

When:  Saturday morning, August 15 (Save the date NOW!)

Where:  Downtown Kalamazoo 

Watch for details in July!  

Mask-sewers needed!

We are looking for one or two volunteers willing to sew a total of 20 masks for KCDP parade participants. Materials will be provided. Interested? Contact Mary Hess-Quinones at maryhq1@gmail.com or 269-501-6819.  

Have questions? Want to march? Contact Sue Kovats-Bell, KCDP Visibility and Outreach Coordinator at outreach@kzoodems.com  or 269-271-2424.  

Legal challenges to Proposal 2 drag on

By Lee Kirk

In November 2018, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved Proposal 2, which effectively ended gerrymandering in Michigan by establishing an independent citizens’ redistricting commission to draw the lines for Michigan’s congressional and state legislative districts.  

Proposal 2 faced well-financed legal challenges from the Michigan Republican Party and others both before and after its passage, but the courts have repeatedly rejected the Plaintiff’s claims.
The losers are now asking that the federal appeals court appoint an 11-judge panel to review the original decision. 

The legal standards for even getting a rehearing are very high. Most of these petitions are turned down, in which case Plaintiffs’ only recourse would be to ask the US Supreme Court to hear the case. Almost all such requests are turned down. 

Though the legal fight is not quite over, it looks increasingly likely that the Citizens Redistricting Commission will redraw Michigan’s legislative districts in 2021. This is good news for the voters of Michigan. 

To learn more

The Brennan Law Center at NYU has a great website that tracks state and federal court cases as well as legislation related to voting rights: https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/court-cases/daunt-v-benson

Additionally, here’s a short article that explains the process in everyday English:

Local Dems feed Borgess nurses!

The KCDP “Crock-pot Brigade,” led by Barb Hammon and Betsy Rice, has donated and delivered dozens of meals to nurses at Ascension Borgess Hospital. We thank everyone who generously donated time, culinary talent and financial resources to this effort (and apologize for any omissions or errors in this list)! 

Barb, a Borgess nurse herself, says, “It has been so nice not to have to worry about bringing food to work during night shift. It really warms our hearts and lifts us up to know that people were behind us during this difficult time.”

Many of Barb’s co-workers have written to say thank you. Just a few:  

“Thank you so much! from the bottom of my heart to the top of my surgical hat!!  In a time of such uncertainty, I have felt so loved and nurtured.” ~Jamie C.

“All the food has been delicious!  Words cannot express how appreciative we are. Thank you and God bless.” ~ Anita

“Your meals…allowed the nurses to take one thing off of our plate. Every one of us will never forget the contributions every one of you made during this difficult time.” ~Jamie B. 

Nurses pay it forward 

And that’s not all the good news! Borgess nurses are “paying it forward” by donating money to Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes. Listen to Barb’s recent interview on WMUK

If you would like to donate a meal, please contact Barb at barbarashamon@gmail.com or  Betsy at stonewood7@gmail.com.

Seeking leaders: Membership and Volunteers

KCDP is looking for energetic volunteers to help grow local party membership and coordinate volunteer efforts. Contact Margy Belchak at kcdp-chair@kzoodems.com and 312-848-0225 for information about these roles.

We thank outgoing leaders Pam Gilchrist (Volunteer Committee Chair) and Jan Mazei (Membership Committee Chair) for their dedication and contributions!  

Introducing Terra Bielby

The MDP has hired Terra as a Kalamazoo field organizer for the One Campaign for Michigan, MDP’s coordinated campaign. She graduated from Grand Valley State University in April with a degree in Political Science and Philosophy. A Kalamazoo native, Terra is excited to be working in the community she loves. She is providing weekly phone bank training for anyone interested from 1 – 4 pm on Thursdays and at your convenience on Saturdays. Since we will not be knocking doors anytime soon, calling voters is the best way to reach them. We need lots of volunteers to do just that! 

For details, contact Terra at (269) 532-4831 or terrabielby@gmail.com

Ann Kilkuskie

“Civil rights…civil liberties…climate change…gun control…fair housing…immigration reform…voting rights…health care reform…prison reform…food insecurity…income inequality…Sounds like a rap, or maybe a rant, but this is just a short list of issues that are important to me. I am a Democrat because the party best represents my personal values and perspectives on these critical issues.”