NAACP meets in Cleminson Hall, discusses racism in Grosse Pointe

Greg+Bowens%2C+President+of+the+Grosse+Pointe+-+Harper+Woods+Chapter+of+the+NAACP%2C+spoke+in+Cleminson+Hall+on+March+16.++He+touched+on+recent+incidents+of+racism+in+Grosse+Pointe+after+a+social+media+scandal+involving+racial+slurs.+

Greg Bowens, President of the Grosse Pointe – Harper Woods Chapter of the NAACP, spoke in Cleminson Hall on March 16. He touched on recent incidents of racism in Grosse Pointe after a social media scandal involving racial slurs.

By Erykah Benson ’17 | Page Editor

On Wed. March 16 at 3:30 p.m., members of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and the Grosse Pointe-Harper Woods chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) met in Cleminson Hall to address events that unfolded after a racially charged Instagram post sparked controversy earlier this week.

The first speaker, Greg Bowens, President of the Grosse Pointe-Harper Woods chapter of the NAACP, called the meeting a “unity press conference”.

“We thought it would be important to bring the adults in from the Grosse Pointe, Harper Woods community, to let you, our students, know that we really do appreciate the way that the Grosse Pointe student body has handled the situation, and the way that the administrators, Principal Mr. Hamka and the superintendent, Dr. Niehaus, have responded quickly to handle the situation as well,” Bowens said.

These types of situations can get easily inflamed, Bowens said, particularly amongst students who find it difficult to approach the issue of racism in their own school.

“We are very surprised and very pleased to find how students at Grosse Pointe South handled themselves, amongst themselves when dealing with this issue,” Bowens said.

Miracle Bailey ‘16, President of South’s Black Association for Student Diversity (BASE) said that this post needed to come to the surface because it served for a much needed discussion on the topic of race in South’s community, as well as the Grosse Pointe community.

“We can use this as a learning tool,” Bailey said. Not only for the parents and students, but for the Grosse Pointe community as a whole.”

Bailey met with other Black students, as well as the four students involved with the post, in efforts to create a discussion, to accept the mistakes made, and to talk about how the school can move on from this incident, Bailey said.

Kenneth Bailey, Miracle’s father, said he was appalled when he first heard of the Instagram post, but he appreciated Hamka’s leadership in trying to solve the tensions that came with the post.

“It’s a part of life, and you know, it goes on undercover,” Kenneth said. “But we have to stand strong, together, as parents and as children too, to eliminate racism in our lives.”

Looking at how his daughter has handled the situation as president of BASE, Kenneth said he is proud.

“(Miracle) showed great compassion to the students who did this,” Kenneth said. “Instead of being mean-spirited toward them, she said, ‘Well Dad, let’s forgive them,’ to show other students that this is not a behavior that we tolerate.”

David Smydra, former police officer in the Grosse Pointe community, and current member of the Grosse Pointe NAACP chapter, shared his perspective the gravity of words.

“We need to be careful about the words that we use,” Smydra said. “The word that was used in this particular incident is a word with nearly 500 years of history in America. And to use that word in any kind of manner is one that calls upon a long and bitter and hateful history that unfortunately exists in this country and in our society.”

Miracle said she hopes that this event will be less about portraying Grosse Pointe as a bigoted community, and more about tackling the pressing issue of improving race relations through dialogue.

“It may be true that we may not be able to regulate people’s attitudes, and we certainly can’t stop people from using their free speech,” Bowens said. “But we can, as a community and as a school system, that there be a standard set, and that we will not tolerate, as a community, anybody being prejudice against, or acting in a bigoted fashion, because it is disruptive to the school environment, it is disruptive to our community, and quite frankly, Grosse Pointe is better than that.”