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If Grand Rapids really wanted to promote anti-racism and equity, then they would embrace Defund the GRPD

June 11, 2020

Grand Rapids has a population of 201,013 in 2020, based on current census data, with African Americans making up 19%, which is just under 40,000. 

So, what would it mean if 40,000 African Americans could decide what to do with the annual GRPD budget of $54 million? Now, that is completely up to those in the African American community. However, that doesn’t prevent us from looking at numbers, just to provide some idea of what kind of impact the current GRPD budget money could do to benefit the black community.

One could call this is a form of reparations to the black community or we could call it what the Vision for Black Lives calls a strategy of Divestment/Investment. Whatever, we call it, this amount of money, which is just one year of the current GRPD budget, would actually go a long way to creating racial justice and equity in a city that constantly claims   to promote racial and economic equity.

If we distributed $54 million equally amongst the black community, that would mean that every black person, of the 40,000 in Grand Rapids, would receive $1,350. What about housing. How many new homes could $54 million build? Ok, so lets say that a new house would cost $250,000, it would translate into 216 brand new homes for black families. How about $50,000 to every black family to use as a down payment for a home? This would allow 1,080 black families a chance to purchase a home.

What about food? $54 million could buy a lot of food, but it could also create opportunities for black people to create thriving fresh food dynamics in neighborhoods where Food Apartheid exists. This could mean dynamic community gardens, robust farmers markets, community based grocery stores or food co-ops, and it could mean creating community based kitchens, where food can be prepared collectively, shared collectively and preserved collectively.

Then there is the issue of re-directing funding from the GRPD that the black community could be used to start local businesses. $30,000 for a business start up is significant, and $54 million would provide 1,800 people will $30,000 to start their own business.

The City of Grand Rapids says they want to work with the business community to  increase summer job opportunities for youth.” This is a rather vague notion, but if the $54 million was redirected to create jobs for black you, that could mean providing summer jobs to black youth – at $20 an hour & 40 hours a week, for 12 weeks, which is $9,600. The annual GRPD budget of $54 million could provide 5,625 black youth summer jobs making $20 an hour.

Of course, these are just a few examples, based on looking at the numbers. Equally important would be how this amount of money could radical improve the lives of the black community – physically, emotionally and psychologically. If Grand Rapids is truly committed to racial and economic equity, then there doesn’t seem to be a strong argument for NOT Defunding the GRPD.

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