Conversation: Welcoming Michigan

All photos are from the Welcoming Michigan Facebook album for the launch —

My wife and I had the pleasure of attending the recent launch of the Welcoming Michigan campaign, which aims to improve Michigan’s immigrant-friendliness (the story, Facebook). Speakers included Rep. Clarke Hansen, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Steve Tobocman of Global Detroit, all of whom shared the immigration story of their ancestry as well as the many ways that immigrants make Michigan and the United States stronger. Here is media coverage: CBS, The Detroit News, The Arab American News.

When photos from the event appeared on my wall, a friend struck up a conversation. This is how it went:

Friend: Well thank you Ford Foundation. I certainly hope the money donated by the Ford Foundation was not (1) earned, (2) managed by, (3) invested in or (4) derived from evil Wall Street….maybe next this group can launch an action that investigates the Ford Foundation!!!

Jeff: Do you disagree with the campaign or do you just not like the Ford Foundation?

Friend: man .. have you seen the salaries and facilities the Ford foundation boasts? I’m in the wrong line of work! I need to get on some of this ‘non-profit’ ‘service’ – look, y’all put in some good time, so I’m not going to convince anyone this was anything except the most important thing ever. so good luck! some banners were printed, a lot of like-minded people got together – and the coverage was predictably complimentary without asking as single quesion about quantifiable goals or success measures … but, if this helps another high-paid offcer or staff person at the Ford Foundatoin justify their office space and salary – then something will have come of it. Good luck and all – nothing wrong with positive dialogue and bridging communication gaps. But if rich foundation money were key to solving our social problems, we’d be living in paradise across this nation already. some things are hard to buy our way out of – and as far as I read, the ‘catalyst’ was Ford Foundation $$$$. But – good luck and god’s speed to everyone in on it – looks like their hearts are in the right place.

Jeff: Come live in Detroit and experience what immigrants bring to community revitalization. Come see why community leaders from both sides of the aisle are calling for this. Come see the community groups that have been active which made this launch possible. It’s not heaven on earth; never will be. But positive change is possible (for U.S. examples, see these three stories from Gary Haugen’s “The Good News about Injustice”–Sisters K & J and Brother E, ), and I’m glad to be a (very small) part of that.

My experience of community says this is important, and my Bible does too (Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:19). Now my Anabaptist seminary training reminds me that the center of history is the kingdom of God not the kingdoms of this world–my hope is in God not any political party or government structure–but I am also told to live faithfully by seeking the peace of the city where I am (Jer. 29:7). I am glad to support Christian, secular and inter-faith groups who are pursuing peace and justice (Ps. 34:14; Is. 56:1).

So I’m curious, what do you see as the “key to solving our social problems” and how are you pursuing that? That sounds constructive.

Friend: no response


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