Statement from Michigan College Access Network Executive Director Ryan Fewins-Bliss and Board Chair Patrick O'Connor: 

To our Friends and Partners, 

Institutional racism and oppression continue to exist in every structure of our country – and that most certainly includes higher education. It shouldn’t be surprising to us that students of color struggle to be successful in this system when it was created for just that purpose – to keep them out. Higher education is a key construct of our democratic formation, yet we continue to promulgate a disconnect between our American ideals and the reality in our communities. 

The students we care so much about and work so hard on behalf of are the same people who fill the streets today – protesters, survivors, leaders and everyday people seeking a better world. To discredit their activism is to deny we have a problem.

According to the ACLU, 1.7 million students attend a school with police presence but no school counselors. Students of color are disproportionately suspended and expelled. College enrollment rates are embarrassingly worse for these students as well, and when they are enrolled, they are often placed in non-credit-bearing remedial courses that act as quicksand, preventing students from graduating. This leads to the school-to-prison-pipeline that continues to perpetuate stereotypes and break up families.

Equity has been at the heart of MCAN’s mission and strategy from day one. We continue to strive to help bring equitable outcomes, specifically to students and communities of color in Michigan. Earlier this year, we took another step forward in making those beliefs louder – by rebranding the organization and strengthening our language to match our equity focus. New colors and pretty font designs, however, are not going to change society. We have to be an anti-racist organization in deed as much as in word.

We invite students, school counselors, community leaders, higher education institutions and everyone else to inform our work – which is your work. Together, we can identify and implement solutions. Let’s make joint investments. Let’s drive systemic change. Let’s hold each other accountable for these actions. Let’s start now.

Black Lives Matter. Black Education Matters. Black Employment Matters. Black Wealth Matters. This is what we’ll keep working on. If these are your ideals, join us in this fight. If these are not your ideals, get out of our way.