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Michigan Civil Rights Commission Holds First Business Meeting of 2022, Elects Officers
On Monday, January 24, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission held their first business meeting of the year and elected new officers who will serve 1-year terms. Elected to serve as Chair of the Commission is Portia Roberson, Commission Vice Chair is Zenna Elhasan and Commission Secretary is Gloria Lara.
"It's an honor to serve as the new Chair of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission," said Chair Roberson. "I congratulate Commissioner Elhasan and Commissioner Lara on their elections as Vice Chair and Secretary, respectively. I look forward to working with Executive Director John Johnson, my fellow Commissioners and the Department."
At Monday's meeting, Commissioners also created subcommittees based on the four issue areas of focus the Commission voted to adopt in November to guide their work in the coming year. Commissioners identified to chair each committee are:
- Commissioner Anupama Kosaraju - Chair of the Voting Rights Committee.
- Commissioner Zenna Elhasan - Chair of the Committee on Safe and Equitable Learning Environments.
- Commissioner Gloria Lara - Chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.
- Chair of the Environmental Justice Committee will be determined at a future meeting of the Commission.
The Commission also established a Human Resources Committee that will be responsible for conducting Director Johnson’s performance evaluation. Commissioners Gloria Lara and Regina Gasco-Bentley will make up the HR Committee.
In other Commission action, Commissioners voted to move to quarterly meetings rather than the six meetings per year schedule of the recent past, with additional meetings of the newly established issue area committees held throughout the year.
Commissioners also expressed interest in continuing to livestream meetings and to alternate locations for in-person meetings to provide opportunities for people from different regions of the state to attend and provide public comment.
In a separate vote, Commissioners approved and adopted the Commission's 2020-2021 Biannual Report.
Newly elected Chair Portia Roberson is the Chief Executive Officer of Focus: HOPE, a Detroit-based non-profit organization providing education and training for underrepresented minorities and others. Previously, Roberson served as the Group Executive of the City of Detroit’s Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity Department and as Corporation Counsel for the City of Detroit. Prior to her work with the City of Detroit, she worked in the White House Domestic Policy Council as the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Lead, as well as Director of the Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison under U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Commissioner Zenna Elhasan, who will continue her service as Vice-Chair through 2022, is general counsel at The Kresge Foundation and serves as secretary for the foundation’s board of trustees. She is responsible for managing the overall legal affairs of the foundation, supports the development and enforcement of foundation policies and practices, supports the board on governance matters and manages outside counsel relationships. Previously, Elhasan served as corporation counsel for Wayne County. Prior to her work with the county, she served as judicial magistrate and director of probation for the 20th District Court in Dearborn Heights. She was also a partner at Allen Brothers, PLLC where she was assistant city attorney for the city of Hamtramck. She is an active member of the State Bar of Michigan, the Detroit Bar Association Foundation and the Michigan Muslim Bar Association.
Commissioner Gloria Lara, elected Commission Secretary for 2022, is Executive Director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, a Holland, MI based non-profit organization which works to build bridges between organizations and individuals throughout our communities and across the state, helping to educate and engage all of us in moving forward a vision of racial equity. Lara previously served as the chief executive officer of the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore. She also held executive-level positions at Chrysler Corporation as well as at major automotive suppliers. A native of Los Angeles, CA, Lara earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting from California State University, Fullerton, and a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard Business School.
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission was created by the Michigan Constitution to safeguard constitutional and legal guarantees against discrimination. The Commission is charged with investigating alleged discrimination against any person because of religion, race, color or national origin, genetic information, sex, age, marital status, height, weight, arrest record, and physical and mental disability. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights serves as the operational arm of the Commission.