The city of Flint recently created a 9-member advisory task force to bridge gaps between the community and law enforcement. Flintside will be talking with each member of the task force in the coming weeks about their reasons for joining and what they hope to accomplish.
FLINT, Michigan -- Ralph Arellano, 84, has been an active member of the community in Flint since his years as a teacher at Northwestern High School in the 1960s. His passion for social justice burns just as strongly today as it ever has.
Arellano joined the Flint Police Department Task Force to be a voice for the Latinx community and to continue his life long work of being a social justice leader in Flint.
When Arellano heard that Mayor Sheldon Neely wanted community members on the Task Force, he began strongly encouraging other local Hispanic residents to apply to be part of the team.
“When I heard the announcement for this I tried to get someone from the Latino community,” Arellano said. “And while it sounded interesting, nobody really acted on it. So I just threw my name in.”
Arellano has served in multiple community-oriented organizations. He was a former member of the Civil Service Commission, Flint’s Board of Education, the Human Rights Commission in Flint, and the Flint City Council. He also served as the director of the Hispanic Technology and Community Center in Flint.
Arellano understands the deep, fundamental necessity for understanding diverse voices in a community. When he was a teacher at Northwestern, in 1973 he advocated for and negotiated into the teaching contract more Black history, Black literature, and minority literature and history into the curriculum.
So far, the task force members have been aligning on goals and hopes for future impact.
“The first four weeks we were deciding what we wanted to do, our mission and the bylaws. Getting all of that together,” he said. “Deciding what is our direction, what do we actually really want to do? The idea of a task force is good because a task force is temporary. So you have a task force that gets something done and then it moves on.”
With a plan to connect with the community, the taskforce plans to get feedback and advise the police what the community is looking for.
“One of the major problems we face is that our police force is small,” Arellano said. “My home has been broken into three times over the last 12 years. So there’s that kind of thing still going on pretty regularly and there are other matters. The community has a responsibility as well. So how can we help the police force and what do we tell them that the community needs?”
In regards to the Latinx community in Flint, the language barrier that often presents itself when people who don’t speak English need to communicate with the police. That is an issue that Arellano wants to be brought to light.
“We want folks to be involved. I have always been aware of having diversity. I grew up with diversity. It is a part of who I am,” he said.
Arellano is also collaborating with the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation program in Flint as part of his role on the task force.
“It is a real way to get people together to start talking on a real level,” he said.
Arellano is glad to add his expertise and long history in the city to the task force, but also has a message for young people in the city.
“It's your generation’s time to take it over,” he said. “I'm glad to participate, but I'm not leading anything. It’s time for our young folks. It’s not my future. It’s yours.