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County's First Racial Equity Officer Hopes To Make Generational Shift Ending Racial Inequity

Sep 3, 2019

Washtenaw County has a new racial equity officer who's been on the job since late July.  89.1 WEMU's Lisa Barry talks with Alize Asberry Payne about her plans to address racial inequity impacting many different aspects of life for county residents.


Alize Asberry Payne has been involved in organizing social justice programs and other initiatives for over 20 years with her work in San Francisco and Detroit.  She’s worked in various grassroots and state efforts for restorative justice, education, workforce development, as well as solving health and education disparity issues.  “Social justice is my calling; my passion.  It’s where I feel I need to be doing work,” says Payne when she explains why social justice is so important to her.

Payne says that she is very impressed with Washtenaw County by how much its government and local non-profit communities recognize that they could be doing better to eliminate racial inequity and are willing to allocate resources to change that.  Payne also shares that she hasn’t seen much of that sort of initiative by community members in the near 20 years she has been working in the social justice realm.  She says she is happy that the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners and County Administrator Gregory Dill are behind this initiative and want to all work together to eliminate racial inequity from Washtenaw County.

During her first few weeks on the job, Payne has been going around Washtenaw County talking to community members and figuring out areas that the local community has been doing well in as well as what areas the county needs to work on in order to address racial inequity.  Payne’s main goal is to “usher in a generational shift so that 30 years from now any child that is born in the county will have the exact same opportunities as any other child born in the county regardless of their race or place.”  Payne says that change can be hard for those who feel that things don’t need to change but says she will work hard to implement the necessary changes moving forward in Washtenaw County.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu