Initiative aimed at combatting 'hate' incidents

Wayne State University Law School and its Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights have joined to create the Michigan Allies Project, an effort aimed at collecting data and report on “hate” incidents that target individuals based on their race, religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

Incidents will be displayed by location via a map of the state at

Jocelyn Benson, Wayne Law professor and associate director of the Keith Center, has spearheaded the effort.

“The project aims to raise awareness about bias incidents that negatively target Michigan residents based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religion, particularly in the educational setting,” said Benson, who also serves as the founder and CEO of the Michigan Center for Election Law and ran as the 2010 Democratic nominee for Michigan secretary of state.

“Our true Michigan spirit of working to overcome obstacles is threatened when we have bullying in our schools or intimidation in our neighborhoods,” she said. “The Allies Project will create a network of ‘allies’ in Michigan — citizens, scholars, students, educators, non-profit organizations, law enforcement officials and others — to collectively provide resources and support to those negatively affected by bias incidents in Michigan.”

Once fully developed, she said,  the project will employ a three-pronged strategy for addressing hate incidents in Michigan: tracking and reporting hate incidents and the activities of hate groups in Michigan; launching innovative lawsuits and other forms of advocacy to seek justice for victims of bigotry and discrimination; and  providing media, scholars, educators, non-profit organizations and law enforcement agents with resources and support to aid broader communities and individuals who are affected or targeted by hate incidents or groups.

Wayne Law students will track incidents and develop the project’s monthly reports to the legal community.  

“The Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights aspires to be a hub for projects that develop creative methods to further the ongoing pursuit of equal justice under the law,” said Peter Hammer, Wayne Law professor and Keith Center director.

He said the project “is yet another opportunity for students to work with faculty and community members to raise awareness about important civil rights issues and advance new strategies to address them.

Melanie McElroy serves as deputy director of the Allies Project, which is supported by an advisory board made up of notable area attorneys, state representatives, and civil rights and non-profit organization leaders.

For more information, visit