Dr. Young described the panel as “the most important of all the events” this MLK Day, “because unlike so many of the events, this one is about coming to the community. Not Ann Arbor, but here [in Detroit].” It is important, he says, to visit “places that are closer to concerns and issues and questions” facing Detroiters. “That is what this session is all about.”

Answering a range of questions from both moderator Dr. Young and the audience, panelists shared their expertise on meaningful issues facing the city of Detroit and its inhabitants. U-M School of Public Health Associate Professor Kendrin Sonneville addressed public health concerns from discrimination in healthcare, to anti-fatness and its historic connection to racism as another method to exclude and oppress based on appearance. Dr. Sonneville explained that “the ‘default’ patient” in medical training “is white, thin, English-speaking,” and these assumptions lead to decreased standards of care for patients who don’t fit the “default.” The most significant problem Dr. Sonneville identified in the field of healthcare, thus, is bias in medical training. “If you’re studying a community,” she says, “then your job is to listen.”

Mark P. Fancher, staff attorney for the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU of Michigan, discussed the future of resistance movements and possibilities for future change and solutions for Detroiters. While many people are aware of the issues facing the city, he argues, it is difficult to develop momentum to address these because of existing power differentials between white and Black populations in Southeast Michigan. To effectively combat problems facing their community, he urges Black Detroiters to look beyond the local: “As long as Detroit sees itself only in local terms,” Fancher says, “then there isn’t much hope… The oppressed, wherever they are, have to see themselves as part of the global community of the oppressed,” and identify “potential allies'' across the world.

Mel Baggett, founder of Night Angels, a non-profit ministry to human trafficking victims in Detroit, urged listeners to go beyond awareness into action. “Slavery exists in Detroit today,” Baggett says, in the form of human trafficking. His group Night Angels has helped over 3,000 survivors of trafficking over the past eight years, in which Mr. Baggett has seen growth in awareness. But this awareness, he argues, is not enough to save the victims of human trafficking, who are predominantly people of color. The Night Angels are a faith-based Christian group, and Baggett believes that predominantly-white faith organizations have the power to change the landscape of the country if they would promote the true messages of Dr. King. “The church,” he says, “should rise up on social issues and take charge.”


Learn more about the panelists and listen to the full conversation on the Detroit Center’s YouTube channel: