The WØRD — “Hope”

From the Chair

Michigan Democratic Party chair Lavora Barnes

Robert Kennedy famously said “Some men see things as they are, and say why. I dream of things that never were, and say why not.” Every era has its challenges, its turmoil and its potential. What gives me hope are the many thousands of people across Michigan who give of themselves, everyday people who are devoted to dream of things that never were, and say “why not?”

As we pause to celebrate the holidays, I think about them and give thanks:

  • The people who stand for local elective public office, jobs that combine endless hours of work, little recognition and low or no pay;
  • The people who become precinct delegates, the grass roots base for true democracy;
  • The thousands who gather petition signatures as a part of our direct democracy;
  • The journalists whose mission is to keep us informed of both the good and not-so-good in government;
  • And for me personally, the fabulous team who are your Michigan Democratic Party. I’m out front as your chair, but it’s our team that makes it work.

It isn’t always easy, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying. Dr. King may have said it best:
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

One of the newest victories for us that has been years in the making: a new state law which will provide some protections for victims of domestic violence. We’re joined this week by the sponsor of a package of laws taking deadly weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers, Detroit Senator Stephanie Chang.

Senator Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit)

Opportunity, access, equity, justice and service are the core values driving Senator Stephanie Chang, the first Asian American woman elected to the Michigan legislature. She worked as a community organizer in Detroit for nearly a decade before serving two terms in the Michigan House of Representatives and then as the Democratic Floor Leader for her first term in the Senate. She is currently serving her second term in the Michigan Senate and is the Senate Democratic Policy and Steering Chair.

In the state legislature, she has led on air quality and environmental justice, criminal justice reforms, affordable, safe drinking water, and immigrants’ rights issues. She has passed bipartisan legislation on a range of issues including sexual assault education and prevention, an address confidentiality program for survivors of domestic violence, the COVID-19 water shutoff moratorium, female genital mutilation, nitrous oxide “whip-its”, reentry services for wrongfully convicted individuals who were exonerated, improving Michigan’s maritime economy, support of community crisis response to mental health emergencies, and establishing Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution. She is proud to have helped secure a historic community benefits agreement for Southwest Detroit residents near the Gordie Howe International Bridge and is active in her district advocating for the community’s needs. She cofounded the Asian Pacific American Legislative Caucus in Michigan and served as the chair of the Progressive Women’s Caucus in 2017-18.

She served as state director for NextGen Climate Michigan, alumni engagement and evaluation coordinator for the Center for Progressive Leadership in Michigan, deputy director for the Campaign for Justice and as an organizer for Michigan United/One United Michigan. She also worked as a community engagement coordinator for the James and Grace Lee Boggs School and assistant to Grace Lee Boggs, an activist, writer, and speaker. The senator is a co-founder of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote-Michigan and Rising Voices; she also serves on the board of the Southwest Detroit Community Justice Center.

Chang earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degrees in public policy and social work from the University of Michigan. She lives in Detroit with her husband, Sean Gray, and two young daughters.

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