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The Michigan Civil Rights Commission Celebrates 60th Anniversary in Lansing Ceremony
December 14, 2023
LANSING, MI—The Michigan Civil Rights Commission commemorated the 60th anniversary of the body in a breakfast reception and award ceremony in Lansing on December 13, 2023. At the event, the Commission celebrated their unique history and honored four individuals and one organization for their commitment to civil rights.
“We owe it to every person who has marched or struggled over the last 60 years to continue the fight,” said Commission Chair Portia Roberson. “In this time when it is sometimes controversial to even accurately portray historical events, it is all the more critical that we come together to acknowledge this anniversary.”
Michigan was the first state in the nation to include civil rights protections in its constitution. Article 5, Section 29 of the Michigan Constitution calls on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to “... investigate alleged discrimination against any person because of race, religion, color or national origin in the enjoyment of the civil rights guaranteed by law…” The Michigan Department of Civil Rights was established to carry out the work of the Commission. Passage of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act further clarified the specific protections guaranteed under Michigan law.
At the ceremony, the Commission recognized the following individuals and one organization for their contributions to civil rights in Michigan.
2023 John Feikens Award for Organizational Civil Rights Leadership: Detroit Branch NAACP
From courtroom lawsuits to boardroom negotiations, from picket lines to economic boycotts, from schoolrooms to factory floors, the Detroit Branch NAACP has demanded justice and civil rights.
2023 Damon J. Keith Award for Individual Civil Rights Leadership: Duncan Wyeth, Disability Rights Advocate
Duncan Wyeth has been an advocate for disability rights for more than thirty years, including serving as the Executive Director of the Michigan Commission on Disability Concerns.
2023 Burton I. Gordin Award for Civil Rights Courage: Michelle P. Crockett, Miller Canfield
Michelle P. Crockett leads Miller Canfield's hiring of all attorneys; recruitment; diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives; mentoring; and professional development programs.
2023 Persons With Disabilities Civil Rights Act Advocacy Award: Jamie Junior, Disability Network of Wayne County
Jamie Junior is a dedicated disability rights advocate who serves as the Advocacy and Community Education Coordinator with the Disability Network Wayne County-Detroit.
2023 Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act Award for Public Service Leadership: Senator Sarah Anthony
Throughout her 20-year public service career, Senator Sarah Anthony has fought for equity and opportunity for all Michiganders, especially for Michigan’s most vulnerable residents.
History of the creation of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission
In 1961 and 1962, the Michigan Constitutional Convention, a bipartisan elected body, led an effort to revise the state’s governmental framework document. Its members were elected from state House and Senate districts. On December 5, 1961, Detroit delegates Lillian Hatcher, Daisy Elliott and Coleman A. Young submitted Proposal No. 1522 and 1523 to their convention colleagues. Proposal No.1522 provided for a Civil Rights Commission with “enforcement powers to eliminate discrimination and segregation based on race, religion, color, national origin or ancestry in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and other such rights, privileges or immunities as are guaranteed under this Constitution.” Proposal No.1523 prescribed how the Commission should be constituted and the procedures that it was to follow in exercising its authority. Both proposals were later adopted by the 144-member body, approved by state voters on April 1, 1963, and became a significant set of provisions included in the revised Michigan Constitution. The members of the first Michigan Civil Rights Commission began their work in 1964.
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is charged with investigating and resolving discrimination complaints and works to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. The Department also provides information and services to businesses on diversity initiatives and equal employment law. For more information on the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, go to www.michigan.gov/mdcr.
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