April 15, 2017  |  Civic Engagement Detroit

Shoniqua Kemp

I believe in the people and that when properly equipped with knowledge, love, and a unified voice, minority actually becomes the majority. As the majority, we can be the change we need! I seek knowledge and experience to become a more well-rounded citizen.

Since becoming a member of FII in October of 2016, I have gained a new place for both my personal and community-changing goals. I have gained additional resources as a result of my membership with FII. It has introduced me to a new world of reflective accountability and avid success planning.

During one of our monthly meetings we were discussing what type of projects we wanted to do collectively, and my family liaison mentioned that I should think about applying for a chance to go to Citizen University in Seattle, WA. I was excited to think of traveling, but more than that, to learn more about what Citizen University was and if it would help me become a greater impact in my city and in those around me.

On the first day of Citizen University, I attended a session in which they spoke about some of the toughest incidents black people have experienced. My ears rang and my head swam with disbelief that this conversation was a public one! I felt naked and ashamed to be standing there! I was upset that they had the nerve and audacity to speak on such topics as if the wounds had never been there! But I continued to listen. My anger did not subside and I wanted it to stop but I listened! It brought back old memories and added many new ones.

The second day, with all the reluctance in the world, I went back to the conference. I attended the “Unity not Fear” workshop hosted by FII families. I learned that in diversity there could be unity. One of the fears we talked about was the assumptions and stereotypes we make about people based on the way they look or where they come from. I sat at a table where I forgot to stereotype anyone because stereotypes were removed and replaced with self-expressed facts. One woman said, “I am Muslim, and I am not a terrorist. I am from California.”

When I looked around the room I saw America! I saw no colors or religion — no history — just respect and understanding. I saw the chance for change and newness. People were talking, and listening, and understanding. No one was judging or profiling. There was no fear in the room, only a willingness to listen and unite.

Citizen University has inspired me to become more educated, and I am taking advocacy training class and policy training. Now, I often encourage others to become more involved in their communities, and we talk about the importance of working together and how it can be done.

“My experience with Citizen University is that there were some tough questions that need to be asked but that there are just as many wounds that need to heal first, and healing starts with those conversations.”

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