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The Woodrow Stanley Black Leaders Forum relaunched in north Flint

Featured photo: Pictured are Jasmine McKenney, Reta Stanley and Heather Stanley

Written by Tanya Terry, with photos by Tanya Terry

The Woodrow Stanley Black Leaders Forum recently held an exciting relaunch event at the New McCree Theatre. The theme for the relaunch was “Connecting the Voice of the Community.” Reta Stanley wife of the late Woodrow Stanley, talked to the Courier about why the forum is so needed and what forum participants hope to accomplish.

“There was an interest in relaunching because of some needs and gaps in the community,” said Stanley.

Stanley stated the progress of the Black community is dependent on Black leadership to ensure there is equity in employment and representation. One concern Stanley stated specifically is the lack of representation on the Mott College Board of Trustees.

“Here in this community, you hear a lot of people voice concerns about where investments are,” said Stanley. “You look at the north side of town and see people have to travel for services: groceries, gas-just basic services. I think Black leaders who have the pulse of the community are critical to the uplifting of Black people, making sure our kids are educated and that people have the services they need like transportation. You see the health disparities and the importance of having your Black physicians, nurses and preventionists. It’s like to have a level playing field in all areas, Black leadership is needed.”

The Black Leaders Forum existed for approximately 20 years and has taken on many forms. However, it shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the recent death of the late Woodrow Stanley, there was no one that was there to bring it back immediately.

There was a summit in which a plan was put together to move forward and strengthen the community and increase voter turnout. The plan was facilitated by a consultant when Woodrow Stanley was a state representative.

Many of those who had been part of the forum in the past recently pulled together a program, restating the forum’s purpose. Once a month, the group will meet and get updates on things going on in schools, government, the business sector and other areas where collaboration may be needed.

Jasmine McKenney, daughter of the late Woodrow Stanley, speaks about the purpose of the forum and its relaunch.

The faith community and courts, as well as nonprofit organizations also came together to give updates during the forum in the past.

Jasmine McKenney, County Commissioner Charles Winfrey, Aonie Gilcreast, Dr. Karen Weaver, DeWaun E. Robinson, Bishop Bernadel Jefferson, Pastor Alfred Harris, Councilperson Jerri Winfrey-Carter, Inez Brown and Cloyce Dickerson were all involved in the relaunch. The group decided to name the forum, formerly known the Black Leaders Forum, The Woodrow Stanley Black Leaders Forum.

Along with Woodrow Stanley, there were other leaders that were involved.

DeWaun E. Robinson, Black Lives Matter-Flint president, was invited to the forum by the late Woodrow Stanley and had attended meetings previously. He was also a panelist at the March 23 forum. Robinson’s message centered around education and economics.

“My goal is to have everybody who is in position, everybody who is in the community doing phenomenal work, all the agencies and organizations that are doing great things in the neighborhood, to come together and be strategic about how we want to set up Flint for the next 100 years,” Robinson said.

DeWaun E. Robinson, Black Lives Matter-Flint president

Robinson feels a sense of togetherness has been lost and a lot of people don’t know what’s going on. He said he hopes the meetings create the synergy that helps build structures and leave legacies. He feels that although elders tend to support the forum, he is trying to get more young people involved.

Other panelists who spoke included Frances Gilcreast, president of the Flint NAACP; Eileen Hayes, executive director of Michigan Faith in Action (MFA); Chair of the Genesee County Democratic Black Caucus Royce Stephens. Aonie Gilcreast acted as the forum’s master of ceremonies. Rev. Allen C. Overton offered a prayer. Jasmine McKenney, daughter of the late Woodrow Stanley, spoke about the purpose of the meeting. Rev. Alfred Harris led the group in song and prayer. County Commissioner Charles Winfrey also spoke at the forum.

Community Member Carolyn Schannon said it’s time for the Black community to create its own history in case it’s not taught in schools. She advocated for street name changes to honor Black leaders.

Community Member Carolyn Schannon

City Councilman Eric Mays, Rev. Latrelle Holmes and Former Member of the Flint Board of Education Carol McIntosh also spoke on behalf of the Flint or Mt. Morris communities.

Monthly meetings will be held at the New McCree Theatre. To RSVP, call 810-239-7981.

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