Detroit has always been known for its sound: from our classic cars to our classic songs. These sounds define a city and a generation. I still remember the first time I saw a Thunderbird and a Corvette driving down the street – and I still remember slow dancing in the basement listening to The Four Tops.
As a young man, me and so many in my generation learned that the most powerful sound was raising our voices together in the name of social and economic justice. Our communities faced tremendous challenges and we demanded action and results. Often we had to take our voices to the streets – marching in peaceful protest – in order to be heard, because society at the time too often silenced us.
As a State Supreme Court Justice and later as Mayor of Detroit, I was reminded time and time again that our most fundamental right – the right to vote – is the best means by which we secure all of our other civil rights. In other words, when our communities are faced with big problems, we solve them with more democracy – not less.
Unfortunately, this lesson is still not learned by many in Lansing. Michigan Republicans in the legislature are trying to make it more difficult to vote and their policies have unfairly disenfranchised some communities more than others. Whether it is the attempts to require proof of citizenship at the polls, or obstacles to voter registration – these actions make it harder for our voices to be heard.
Our community is now facing some unprecedented challenges and I am convinced that Detroit is poised for an outstanding turnaround, and we will then be remembered for a new classic sound – the sound of thousands upon thousands of voters registering and mobilizing to support candidates that support democracy as the means of healing our city and state.
Dennis Archer served as the Mayor of Detroit from 1994 until 2001. Archer was a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court from 1986 until 1990, and was the first person of color to be President of the State of Michigan and the American Bar Association.