Our first stop is Michigan, where deep listening animates the immigration work of Michigan United, a People’s Action affiliate. George visits with Ryan Bates, director of Michigan United, and Caitlin Homrich-Kneilen, a native of The Thumb, and the leader of Michigan United’s Hometown Voices program. Caitlin organizes volunteers and staff to go door to door, meeting constituents -- many of them older and white -- where they’re at, and fostering conversations with radical empathy.
Just as Caitlin herself has discovered, deep listening helps us rediscover the dignity of everyone’s experience, and helps us rediscover ourselves, as well.
The founding director of Michigan United, the statewide coalition of 100 organizations working together for economic and racial justice. Previously, Ryan worked with Reform Immigration For America, where he led organizing across the Midwest for comprehensive immigration reform. With the Michigan House Democrats, Ryan oversaw 4 successful top-tier races for State House.
Ryan has also been an organizer for the Michigan Raise the Wage Coalition, Environment Michigan, and the Gamaliel Foundation.
He is a native of the Detroit-area and a graduate of the University of Michigan.
Learn more: National Partnership for New Americans
Caitlin is a community organizer who runs the Hearts and Minds canvass at Michigan United. Trained in anthropology, Caitlin received her BA from Central Michigan University and her MA from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Since she joined Michigan United, she has organized allies in the Rranxburgaj Family Sanctuary Campaign, led a volunteer canvass that flipped state house district 19, and started the Michigan Hometown Voices rural & small town listening campaign to expand the organization's membership to rural communities.
Learn more: NIIC New American Dreams
MariaElena is a second-generation immigrant on their father’s German side, living in Detroit. They were born in Puerto Rico and moved to the mainland as a child. They are a radical activist, and self-identifies as Antifa in their personal life. After navigating a difficult relationship with a white supremacist roommate in college, they were “bewildered” by people’s openness in rural areas when they were participating in the deep canvas — which gave them incredible hope.
Eloise is a Liberian immigrant living in Detroit. Now a leader within Michigan United, she has been instrumental in rolling out the deep canvas conversations, despite being apprehensive at first at canvassing in rural areas. She was and is an activist in Liberia and has found that people are very open to meeting their “first” immigrant–her!