Origins of “…And Justice For All” at MCC
In early 2015 when tensions between law enforcement and minorities were escalating in places like Ferguson, Cleveland and New York City, MCC took a proactive approach and launched its “…And Justice for All” series of community discussions.
“Now is as good a time as ever to engage our students in a larger societal issue that is worth talking and educating our students beyond the normal classroom discussions,” said MCC Vice President John Selmon in announcing the series. “Our students and others need helpful information about how to navigate the criminal justice system.”
- February 24, 2015 – “Rights, Race and the Police”
The inaugural event in Collegiate Hall brought together college and high schools students, community members, with faculty, local law enforcement and a Grand Rapids lawyer who had represented police officers sued for civil rights violations. The momentum created by that first discussion propelled MCC to coordinate five subsequent “…And Justice for All” events funded by the John G. Thompson College and Community Fund.
- April 23, 2015 – “After the Ferguson Report: A Dialogue on Race and Police”
Panelists included: D.J. Hilson, the Muskegon County Prosecutor; Lynne Gill, the Muskegon Heights Chief of Police; Darnell Blackburn, Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCLOES) District Field Representative; Jeffrey Lewis, the Director of Public Safety for the Muskegon Police Department; Nicholas Budimir, an MCC instructor; and Andy Wible, MCC Arts and Humanities Department Chair, the moderator.
- September 24, 2015 – “Explore Your Bias”
MCC faculty members Papa N’jai and Nicholas Budimir, along with Institute of Healing Racism Director Floyd R. Cook, led a discussion on various topics related to bias, such a structural racism, and engaged the audience with questions designed to provide greater insights into their perceptions and potential biases.
- November 30, 2015 – “Engaging Others: Race Class and Gender”
Participants viewed short videos and then randomly were divided into small groups, where MCC faculty and staff facilitated discussions about the complicated divisions of race, class and gender within society.
- February 23, 2016 – “Mass Incarceration: Balancing Justice and Public Safety”
With more than 2.2 million people incarcerated in U.S. jails or prisons in 2013 – a 400 percent increase since 1980 – a panel talked about criminals, rehabilitation and deterrence, the effectiveness of prisons and jails, and alternatives. Panelists included: Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler; Muskegon Correctional Facility Warden Sherry Burt; Muskegon Community College Psychologist Dr. Sherri Deboef Chandler; and former prisoner and rehabilitation expert Cliff Washington.
- April 20, 2016 – “Political Engagement: Influencing Change”
Academics, politicians and activists talked about opportunities and ideas for influencing change in the way police, courts, and prisons function. Increasing public awareness around criminal justice and policing allows the opportunity to discuss and debate new directions and ideas for reform.Panelists included State Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-92nd District), State Rep. Jon Bumstead (R-100th District), Muskegon County Equal Opportunity Employment Officer Tim Bracey, MCC Board of Trustees Treasurer Sean Mullally and MCC Instructor Kurt Troutman. MCC Social Sciences faculty members Papa N’Jai and Nicholas Budimir facilitated the discussion.
- September 20, 2016 – “Defamation: the Play”
MCC hosted the nationally acclaimed Todd Logan show, “Defamation: The Play,” a riveting courtroom drama that explores the highly charged issues of race, religion, gender, class and the law with a twist – the audience is the jury. More than a play, the show is a unique opportunity for the community to engage in civil discourse about the most pressing social issues of our day.
- November 3, 2017 – “the 13th Amendment: From Shackles to Prison Bars?”
An open discussion of the Netflix documentary “13th” by Ava DuVernay and the deleterious legacy of that Constitutional amendment upon African-Americans was held. Michelle Loyd-Paige, the Executive Associate to the President for Diversity and Inclusion at Calvin College, was the panelist and MCC faculty member Gretchen Cline served as the facilitator. The 13th constitutional amendment was ratified in 1865 and stated: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The film charts the explosive growth in America’s prison population; in 1970, there were about 200,000 prisoners; today, the prison population is more than 2 million. Although the U.S. has just 5% of the world’s population, it has about 25% of the world’s prisoners, and about one in three prisoners are black men. More than 60% of the people in U.S prisons are people of color.
- March 20, 2017 – “What to Do When Stopped by the Police”The presenters included Jeffrey Lewis, the director of public safety for the Muskegon Police Department; Sgt. Marvin Petty of the Muskegon Heights Police; and Charles Ayres, an assistant public defender and trial attorney for Muskegon County. MCC sociologist Nicholas Budimir facilitated the discussion. The two law enforcement officers shared insights and informative materials and conducted role-playing with students. They shared personal experiences to educate the audience on best practices and how the police are trained to approach routine stops. Ayres talked about the individual’s legal rights in those situations.
- April 20, 2017 – “Too Poor to Pay: Debtors Prison” The panelists addressed the consequences of bail, tickets, fines, and plea bargaining sentences on the poor in the American court system. MCC instructor Andy Wible moderated the panel discussion featuring the Hon. Raymond J. Kostrzewa, 60th District Court; D.J. Hilson, the Muskegon County Prosecutor; Heather Garretson, an experienced litigator and former law professor who researches and consults on the collateral consequences of a conviction; and Chad Catalino from the Muskegon County Public Defenders Office.
- September 19, 2017 – “Economic Injustice: The Empowerment Experiment” Margarita “Maggie” Anderson, the CEO and founder of the Illinois-based Empowerment Experiment Foundation and author of Our Black Year, led a discussion about her family’s much-publicized, year-long stand living exclusively off businesses, professionals, and products from the Black community. This real-life case study in self-help economics was called The Empowerment Experiment and led to a landmark study conducted by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business.
- November 7, 2017 – “Charlottesville: Race, Religion and Justice” A solution-focused panel of nationally respected scholars and practitioners provided their perspective on how we move forward after the increasing number of hate incidents around the nation. The panelists were: MCC President Dale K. President, Heather J. Garretson, a professor of law and a member of the State Bar of Michigan’s Criminal Issues Initiative, Erik Love, the author of Islamophobia and Racism in America and an assistant professor of sociology at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania; and Morris Jenkins, a professor of criminal justice and former dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Southeastern Missouri State University. Andy Wible, MCC instructor of philosophy, was the moderator.
- February 15, 2018 – Predatory Lending A discussion of the in-depth research conducted by MCC students into Muskegon area check cashing services, rent-to-own and pawn shop activities.
- April 17, 2018 – “After Parkland: A Student Discussion on Gun Control” In the wake of the mass shooting in Parkland, FL, the topic of gun control has received national media coverage. However, not all citizens agree on what gun control is or how restrictive it should be. Michelle L. Johnson, a MCC Sociology and Anthropology instructor, facilitated the discussion and MCC student Stephanie Carr, Secretary of the MCC Social Sciences Association, moderated the panel. Other MCC student panelists include: Vincent Alvesteffer, President of the MCC Social Sciences Association; Jeremy Wahr, editor of The Bay Window; and Alyssa Jakielek, a member of the MCC Social Sciences Association. Also participating on the panel were MCC History Instructor Samantha Warber and Reeths-Puffer High School student Eli Nichols, who organized Reeths-Puffer’s #ENOUGH Walkout.
- November 26, 2018 – “Life After Incarceration” More than 1,000 people annually are sentenced to incarceration into Muskegon County jail or prisons. The vast majority of these people will be released back into the community, some within a year, and others after many years behind bars. What does this community reentry mean for people formerly incarcerated, and for the community as a whole? Panelists included Nate Johnson, the reentry director for Fresh Coast Reentry (formerly 70×7 Muskegon), along with staff members and graduates of the program, MCC students, law enforcement officials, and victims’ advocacy representatives. MCC Instructor Nicholas Budimir moderated the discussion.
- April 11, 2019 – “From Big Data to Big Wisdom” Big Data and data mining promise to deliver exact profiles of any category for any purpose.Using ideas from ancient thought to amazing new technologies, Dr. Andrew Targowski, Professor Emeritus of Business Information Systems at Western Michigan University and a pioneer of applied information systems in his native Poland, discussed how this new information can be transformed into wisdom.