In December 1980, Episcopal Bishop H. Coleman McGehee Jr., Rabbi Richard Hertz, and Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton launched MCHR in response to growing divisive elements in religion and politics. Their goal was to create a forum to discuss and act on racism, unemployment, sexism, militarism, and economic justice. With other religious, labor, community and business leaders from Detroit and the suburbs, they inaugurated a movement that has had national and international effects.
During its formative years, MCHR led a grassroots anti-apartheid campaign, focused on divestment from South Africa and protests against sale of South Africa’s Krugerrand gold coins. In its second decade,MCHR sponsored Detroit’s first environmental justice gathering, which developed into the Coalition forEnvironmental Justice. An MCHR conference on Iraq led to the creation of Metro Detroit Against Sanctions,a leading national group challenging U.S. policy against Iraq.
Through the years MCHR has brought inspiring and enlightening speakers to Detroit audiences, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, Congressman Keith Ellison, attorney-activist Lani Guinier, and workers’ rights advocate Rev. Kim Bobo. We have presented eye-opening films and organized broad community-wide forums on such critical issues as public education, local democracy, and U.S. foreign policy. All of our work is guided by a belief that civil rights, human equality and economic justice are fundamental to the mission ofour city, our state, our nation and our world.
One of MCHR’s proudest achievements, beginning in 1989, was the “Freedom Tour” project, which educated metro Detroit youth about the civil rights movement by taking them on a two-week bus trip to major historic civil rights sites in the south. For five years, the tours taught young people about the history of racism, helped them develop leadership skills, and educated them about the power of non-violent direct action in struggle.
June 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech—which was first delivered in Detroit. In tribute to this historic milestone, MCHR organized a new Freedom Tour to educate and cultivate leadership among metro Detroit’s 21st century youth. Starting June 20, a busful of 34 high school students rediscovered the path of history. They visited sites of martyrdom, struggle and victory—places in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia where brutality was defeated by steadfast, unwavering courage.
We’re proud that MCHR has grown as a force for justice this year thanks to its dedicated and committed members and volunteers. We continue to increase our impact for social change and sustain MCHR’s core mission. We invite all of you who share our concern for the Common Good to join our efforts on behalf of human rights.