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Washtenaw United: The Importance Of Building On Civic Engagement Beyond 2020 In Washtenaw County

Desirae Simmons
Desiraé Simmons

With the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice, and a highly volatile election season, 2020 has been a year of discontent.  Desiraé Simmons is co-director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice.  She says the good news is more people have become engaged and are working to take action, but it has to continue to grow.  Simmons joined WEMU's David Fair to discuss the growing importance of civic engagement in this week's "Washtenaw United."

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'


Desiraé Simmons is a Co-Director with the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice.  She also is a community organizer and advocate serving in multiple grassroots organizations and coalitions.  Currently she serves as the Vice Chair for the Michigan Democratic Party's Progressive Caucus and the Washtenaw County Democratic Party's Black Caucus.  She is also a founding member of Liberate! Don't Incarcerate, Rising for Economic Democracy in Ypsi, What's Left Ypsi, and Untold Stories of Liberation and Love, among other groups.  Simmons is a member of the Subcommittee on Housing Affordability and Accessibility through the City of Ypsilanti's Planning Commission and is a new member of the city’s Sustainability Commission. 


Ypsi Ballot 2020 Conversation


United Way of Washtenaw County believes that when we are civically engaged, united under one mission and using our voices, we can make a lasting impact.  It is for this reason we are featuring the voices and perspectives of a local advocate and changemaker-- Desirae Simmons-- for her point of view on why voting matters at this point in time. 

To build a strong, equitable community, we know that everyone must have a voice in their government. 

As a local United Way, we are using our platforms to promote registering to vote so every person in our community can make their voice heard, as well as providing polling and election information so all voters can make an informed decision. 

We believe that one of the best ways to defend the civil rights of all is to vote.  But, ensuring everyone can vote only gets us halfway there.  Everyone in our community has a responsibility to take advantage of that opportunity. 

In 2016, only 63 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot, and only 55 percent in 2018.  In fact, in the last 50 years, Michigan’s turnout has never been higher than 65 percent. 

Desirae, as a local community activist, knows well of the power and responsibility to actively take part in our democracy.  She also knows that, beyond who wins or loses, there is power, pride, and value in the act of voting itself. 

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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