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EAST LANSING, Mich. — At its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24, the East Lansing City Council unanimously approved a resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis.
With the approval of the resolution, the City of East Lansing now joins a growing number of municipalities and organizations across the state and country that have made similar declarations. The resolution; which was drafted by East Lansing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Administrator Elaine Hardy in collaboration with East Lansing City Councilmember Dana Watson and the East Lansing Human Rights Commission; speaks to and acknowledges the negative impact of systemic racism and social inequality on Black and brown communities, specifically as it relates to health outcomes.
The resolution also outlines what the City of East Lansing will do to confront and address racism and promote equity moving forward. In addition to declaring racism as a public health crisis, these action items include, but are not limited to: working to progress as an equitable and anti-racist organization; working to identify specific activities to further enhance diversity and ensure anti-racism principles across the City’s leadership, staffing and contracting; promoting equity through all policies approved by the East Lansing City Council; enhancing educational efforts aimed at understanding, addressing and dismantling racism and how it affects the delivery of human services, economic development and public safety; and continuing to advocate locally and through various organizations for relevant policies that improve health in communities of color. The full resolution, including all action items, is available here: https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/DocumentCenter/View/10208/Resolution-Declaring-Racism-as-a-Public-Health-Crisis-PDF.
A statement from East Lansing City Councilmember Dana Watson on the resolution is provided below:
"East Lansing joins a growing list of communities with our resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis. As a City Councilperson, I worked with an intentional group of people to take this important stand as a community. Special thanks to our City Council; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Administrator; and the Human Rights Commission. To our community and allies, I commend the individual, group and organizational work being done in earnest efforts to understand and alter the negative impact of racism for Black and brown people. Until we finally erase racial hierarchies embedded into so many systems in this nation, this resolution will hold us accountable for years. I am Black, my pronouns are she/her and I am proud."
Approval of this resolution is a part of the City of East Lansing’s ongoing efforts to move forward with a racial equity and inclusion visioning strategy, with the goal of examining and implementing the steps that need to be taken to change the City’s overall organizational structure and create a more inclusive, accepting and welcoming community for all. Approval of the resolution was preceded by East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas’ statement in June 2020 denouncing racism, injustice and discrimination in all forms, and his appointment of Elaine Hardy to serve as the City’s first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Administrator. In her new role, Hardy has also helped facilitate an 18-month Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training for East Lansing City Council and all City staff. The training kicked off this fall, beginning with the training for City Councilmembers and City Manager George Lahanas.
Additionally, the East Lansing City Council has established a study committee that is in the process of researching and developing a framework for a Police Oversight Commission, and Council adopted Ordinance No. 1490 in August to amend the East Lansing City Code to prohibit biased crime reporting.
“This resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis is another step in our work toward racial equity and healing,” said East Lansing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Administrator Elaine Hardy. “I’m excited about the work that we have done, and I’m also looking forward to the important work that is yet to be done.”