"We’re trying to build capacity and skills but also trying to build fellowship.”

Detroit Equity Action Lab (DEAL), an initiative of the Wayne State Law School’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, received a three-year $2.4 million grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. The funds will be used to finance Phase II of the program.

According to their website, DEAL “brings together 60 nonprofit organizations working in the many dimensions of racial equity, including arts and media, community development, education, environment, food security, healthcare and housing, to address issues of structural racism in Detroit.”

The purpose of DEAL is to “try to advance racial equity in the Detroit metropolitan area,” said Peter Hammer, director of the Keith Center. “It does that by training cohorts of people working for organizations advancing racial equity. We’re trying to build capacity and skills but also trying to build fellowship.”

DEAL takes a group of about 25 to 30 individuals each year to undergo a nine-month training program on building fellowship.

The three pillars of DEAL are knowledge, network and narrative. The grant gives DEAL the chance to expand on the knowledge component by providing the funds to hire a research fellow.

“The new grant permits us to hire a research fellow, and the research fellow will be working in collaboration with the DEAL members to try to identify the types of projects and issue to take on and then be able to produce reports and articles and analyses that will be helpful for understanding the issues in Detroit,” Hammer said.

DEAL has had other fellows in the past, such as a racial equity media fellow, but this will be the first time they will have a research fellow.

The grant will benefit the work of DEAL as a whole, but having the research component to complement the narrative and network components is important, said Hammer.

The research fellowship is for those who have spent time in this line of work.

“It’s important that every member of the DEAL have a demonstrated commitment to racial equity, so it [the research fellowship] is not for beginners,” he said. “It is for people who have spent a lot of time thinking and working and struggling with notions of race and racism.”

The research fellow will be joining the DEAL team by June 2018.

“We have a deadline of accepting applications [for the fellowship] of April 15, we’d like to have the person up and running by June 1,” said Hammer. “We’ll hire one person starting June 1, we could hire them or renew them starting June 1 [of 2019], then for the last year we’ll hire an additional person to go from December [to]January. That said, we’re looking for the best person.”

Hammer said the fellow can come from any professional field, “it doesn’t have to be a lawyer or a law [graduate],” he said. “At the end of the day, you’re trying to find the best person and someone who can work effectively with members of the community.”

WSU students can get involved with DEAL by attending one of their many free events. DEAL’s upcoming event, Detroiters Speak: From “Two Societies” to a New Society, will be on March 27 at the Cass Corridor Commons at 7 p.m.

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