Speaking in black and white – Panelists discuss racial issues, unifying community


Jackson Police Chief Elmer Hitt exchanges pleasantries with Daveda Quinn, industrial pre-treatment program supervisor with the Jackson Department of Public Works, following the panel discussion titled “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” at the Michigan Theatre.

In Oct. 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder ordered the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards to undertake a study and produce a report on fostering public trust in law enforcement. It is due to the governor May 1, 2017.

“The report will offer practical steps that can be taken to strengthen police community relations and enhance the legitimacy of law enforcement in Michigan,” said Commission Chair Sheriff Jerry Clayton.

To contribute to the report, a short survey is now available online for residents to comment on how to advance police-community relations in their area. To take the survey online, visit The link will remain open until March 20, 2017.

By John Hummer  – Exponent staff writer

It’s your choice, America. “Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?” That was the question and title of a panel discussion held Feb. 2 at the Michigan Theatre hosted by Spring Arbor University.

“As you look at the national narrative and some of the stories around the country about police brutality and some of the issues going on in various communities like Ferguson, Missouri; the Carolinas, and other places and couple that with the post-election narrative as far as the issues with race and women, we have all this chaos happening,” said Eric Beda, director of the Office of Intercultural Relations at Spring Arbor University.

Beda, who coordinated the program, would like to bring about more “community” – one conversation at a time.

Glen Ashlock, a Caucasian man from Brooklyn, came to be part of the conversation.

“I think there’s a lot going on nationally and locally and the more we all know and understand what’s going on, maybe we can make things better,” he said.

Having pointed conversations about police practices and racial barriers and continuing dialogue among all the organizations present, along with community members, was the focus of the evening.

“The idea is to have all of the vested community leaders from the religious community, various civil groups, and law enforcement [come together] so if a situation were to happen, we can quickly disseminate factual information,” said Jackson County undersheriff Chris Kuhl, who was in the audience. “That’s one of the hindrances across the country. Factual information doesn’t get out or is too slow getting out and people make their own presumptions or judgments. That’s how civil unrest happens.”

Nancy Robidoux, a Caucasian woman from Jackson, came to hear what the panel had to say.


A panel discussion titled “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” at the Michigan Theatre last Thursday featured experts ranging from law enforcement officers to professors and a student. Panelists were Robert Hendrix, first lieutenant with the Michigan State Police; Luttrell Levingston, assistant U.S. attorney general in the Eastern District of Mich.; Eric Magnusson, director of the Masters in Spiritual Formation and Leadership program at Spring Arbor University; Xhercis Mendez, assistant professor in Philosophy and African American and African Studies at Michigan State University; Arianna Moore, a senior at Spring Arbor University and president of the student group “LOVE: Empowering Women of Diversity”; and Samuel Saldivar, community advocate and Chicano/Latino Studies expert who earned a dual Ph.D. in Chicano/Latino Studies and English from MSU in 2016.

“I really want to listen. It feels like the country has gone backwards when it comes to race relations. I want to understand. I don’t know what’s causing us to go wrong.”

Daveda Quinn, an African American woman from Jackson, was focused on making things better. Quinn is an industrial pre-treatment program supervisor with the Jackson Department of Public Works.

 “I wanted to see what the panelists had to say about how we can make our community better,” she said. “We need more time to talk about profiling, why some people are afraid of police, why citizens sometimes don’t cooperate when different things happen. I’m looking for more jobs for the young people so they don’t get into trouble all the time; what the schools have to offer the kids, and the trades – to keep the kids interested in all those things in Jackson. We just all have to work together as a community. It takes a village to raise a child. I definitely believe it takes all of us to help each other – the elderly, the children, and in between – it takes all of us to help one another in order to make it work.”

And that’s just what the event intended to do – bring “all of us” together, get key people to the table, and get ahead of the game in the Jackson area to avoid another Ferguson, Missouri.

Said Kevin Rod, MSP Jackson post commander and audience member, “We’re hoping to get ahead and have some discussions, get people to the table, and if there are issues and concerns, let’s talk about them. We don’t want any divisions; we want to all come together and work toward some common goals.”

One young man who came to take the evening in was Damarre Taylor, 22, an African American man from Jackson. Taylor is starting a new group called Artistic Exposure that involves both music and art.

“I’m just trying to do something positive for the community,” he said. He is also interested in becoming a police officer.

Taylor was in the right place at the right time as Robert Hendrix, first lieutenant and commander of the recruiting and selection section of the Michigan State Police was one of the panelists.

“It’s always my goal to get good qualified candidates from every race and gender in order to make our agency well rounded and reflect the communities that we serve,” he said.

Not only having safe – but strong and unified – communities was the message put forth by Spring Arbor University president Brent Ellis. “The whole idea of unity allows us to have stronger communities,” he said. “We can’t have unity if we don’t take time to get to know each other well. We don’t always have to have the same perspective and agree on every issue, but we can still treat people with respect and humility.”

On continuing the conversation on racial issues and working toward a more unified Jackson community, Ellis was confident more events like the one on Feb. 2 would take place.

“If we want to create substantive change, we have to stay with it and stay disciplined within it,” he said.

For more information and follow-up, contact Eric Beda, director of SAU’s office of Intercultural Relations, at or 517-750-6891, or visit


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