Photo Credit: Jake May | MLive/The Flint Journal
June 2, 2020
Flint has throughout its history been a guiding force for our country. It is again.
As the world watches our peaceful protests, they are seeing the Flint we know and love. Flint is a city of champions, not because of the actions of any one of us — but because of the collective spirit we embody. We are descendants of innovators and great business minds, factory workers who sat down for what was right and single-handedly built the American Middle Class, the women who built tanks to lead us to victory in WWII, and the masses who selected a black man mayor in 1966 and by popular vote became the first city in the nation to adopt a fair housing ordinance.
We know when we protest that it is about the past and the future. We know that protest is about building, not tearing down.
We are devastated by the death of George Floyd. The gross injustice cuts to the core of this community that has long defined itself as social justice leaders.
When the people rightfully began gathering to protest in response to Mr. Floyd’s death, I too relied on those lessons I learned growing up in Flint: The only appropriate response to protesters is to listen and the only appropriate answer is action.
I personally met with protest organizers as did Flint Police Chief Phil Hart and other key members of my staff. Those discussions led to development of a six-point action plan for the City of Flint to start our work — including development of a Black Lives Matter Advisory Council to continue our work for the long term.
To elected leaders across the country, I say: As we continue to see violent protests in our state and in our country, I urge you to please just stop and listen. We have work that needs to be done.
Work with the protesters. Work with each other. Together, we will make this country a better place.
And, to the protesters, I say: Thank you.
A majority of us living in Flint today also are the descendants of slaves, the descendants of someone who survived shackles, the descendants of someone who despite all odds saw the country take its first somewhat reluctant steps toward equality. In your protests on the lawn at Flint City Hall and around the world, we have seen every shade of skin join in a universal fight for humanity. Thank you.
Thank you for fighting for justice. Thank you for sparking a national conversation. We need to keep talking — and to keep voting — until those in positions of power are willing to listen.
Together, let’s build the tomorrow we deserve today.
For the love of our community,
Sheldon A. Neeley
Mayor of the City of Flint