The Annual John H. Burns Beloved Community Conference, a gathering that puts the searchlight on constitutional policing and other issues facing Black residents in the White suburban city of Farmington Hills, will be held on Saturday, Nov. 4., from 10am-1:30pm at Nardin Park United Methodist Church located on 29887 W. 11 Mile Rd.
The conference has become a progress report on policing and economic justice issues in metro Detroit and how the City of Farmington Hills, and its elected and public officials are responding to the needs of the African American community, who make up about 20 percent of that growing city’s population. Participants can register to attend the conference on Eventbrite.
Conference organizers, the Rev. Dr. Patricia Coleman Burns, the senior pastor of First AME Church of Farmington Hills, and Danielle Ware, the president of Community Equity Organization, have invited Bankole Thompson, the nationally renowned journalist, racial justice champion and the dean of The PuLSE Institute to lead the discussions on Saturday about the future of Black people in Farmington Hills.
Thompson, who is a twice-a-week opinion columnist at The Detroit News, where he writes about the presidency, public leadership, social and economic justice issues, will lead a panel of speakers that includes Congresswoman Haley Stevens under the theme: “The Respect You Give: Servicing v. Policing the Black Community.” Other speakers include City Councilwoman Jackie Boleware, mayoral candidate Theresa Rich and city council candidate Alex Meyers.
“On June 23, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about the souls of the ‘segregated’ and ‘segregator’ in his Detroit March to Freedom version of his “I Have a Dream” speech,” Rev. Burns said. “ Sixty years later, activists are still dealing with the ‘damaging effect’ of racism on the marginalized and ‘othered’ communities and the segregated communities that emerged. The conference theme, ‘The Respect You Give Conference: Servicing v. Policing looks at the history of relationships between law enforcement and Black and Brown bodies.”
She added, “The event is an opportunity to define what kind of society we want to live in through supporting those officials and candidates who reflect our values and hear our voices. We believe in an agenda that centers listening to Black voices and prioritizes building a “beloved community” that is multidimensional and mutually beneficial while healing the souls of all.”
For Ware, an advocate, the conference is to remind city officials and other stakeholders that Black people who live in the city want the same as their White counterparts.
“Farmington Hills, we live here. Our efforts including the work that we do is not just so that we can buy a home and sleep here, but also to create space for us to feel safe and to fully engage in the community experience and thrive.”
The conference is coming at a time when Farmington Hills has been dealing with some serious issues around policing of Black residents including revelation that its Police Department used images of Black men during their target practices. Also the city’s own statistics show that police pull over Black drivers more than Whites.
Thompson, who is set to moderate Saturday’s conference is a standard-bearer on racial and economic justice issues. He was recently named to the National Board of Directors of the historic Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the signature civil rights organization founded by Dr. King, and which led the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and the 1960s. The SLCL laid the foundation for the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He will sign copies of his latest book, Fiery Conscience, at the end of the forum.