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Commission Names Interim Director and Urges Economic Equity for Minority and Women-Owned Businesses

On Monday, May 24, 2021, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission convened their regular bi-monthly meeting virtually, in a session that proved consequential for the future of MDCR and provided Commissioners with an opportunity to hear from a diverse group of subject matter experts on the issues involved in achieving economic equity for minority and women-owned businesses in Michigan.

With the appointment of MDCR Director James E. White as interim Chief of the Detroit Police Department, the Commission voted 7-0 to name Attorney John E. Johnson, recently hired as the department's legislative liaison and advisor to the Commission, as interim MDCR Director beginning June 2, 2021. A personnel committee consisting of Chair Clayton, Vice Chair Elhasan and Commissioner Lara will make a recommendation to the full Commission on appointing a permanent Director.

Atty. Johnson interviewed for the director position twice previously and was amongst the top final candidates on both occasions.

In a release announcing the choice of Johnson to lead MDCR, Chair Clayton said, "The Department has made significant progress in the last 8 months under Director White, and we believe Attorney Johnson will help us advance the momentum and progress we have achieved during Director White's tenure."

Before he was hired by MDCR, Johnson served as Executive Director of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, a position he held for seven years. Prior to his position with the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, he held several leadership positions, including Corporation Counsel for the City of Detroit, General Counsel to the Detroit NAACP, Deputy Executive Director of Wayne County Neighborhood Legal Services, and Hearing Officer for the Michigan Tax Tribunal. He also is a former Management Consultant with Legal Services Corporation of Washington D.C. and previous owner of a private law practice. Johnson has a Bachelor of Arts from Howard University and a Juris Doctorate from Valparaiso University. He has been a member of the State Bar of Michigan for more than 41 years and has been involved with the Detroit NAACP since 1992.

With the decision to focus their renewed attention in the coming year on achieving greater equity for minority and women-owned businesses, the Commission invited a diverse panel of speakers to address the Commission, all with first-hand experience in either supporting the success of Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) or in running a DBE themselves, including:

  • Michelle Sourie Robinson, President and CEO of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council;
  • Guillermo Cisneros, Executive Director of The West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce;
  • Dr. Ken Harris, President and CEO of the National Business League, Inc.;
  • Kimberly Rustem, Director of the City of Detroit Department of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity; and
  • Carla Walker-Miller, Founder & CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services.

Commissioners also voted to approve three resolutions at the May 24 meeting:

The Commission will next meet on Monday, July 26, 2021.