After Outcry from Activists, Redistricting Commissioner Works to Create More Representative Map for Detroit

Detroiter Brittni Kellom, one of two Black women on the commission, has almost singlehandedly taken up the task of drawing districts that include a majority-minority — creating districts where Black people make up more than 50% of the population. 

As the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission continues to draw new legislative and congressional district maps, tensions are still high over what to do with Detroit.  

Ahead of a redistricting meeting in Detroit, there was a call by the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus to draw lines that made majority-minority districts in the city. And two weeks later, according to State Rep. Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit), it’s the same conversation. 

“It’s so unfortunate that we’re having this conversation right now — again,” Whitsett says. 

Russ McNamara/WDET
Russ McNamara/WDET

The earlier message didn’t take right away with the full commission. But it appears — after considerable outcry by activists and politicians — that the commission is trying to heed calls to create minority-majority districts in Detroit, with one commissioner pushing for the creation of drawing more representative districts.   

The group has been cognizant of partisan fairness and trying to keep communities of interest together but there’s concern that without at least 50% of the district population being Black, Detroit wouldn’t receive true representation.    

Detroiter Brittni Kellom is one of two Black women on the board. She’s almost singlehandedly taken up the task of drawing districts that include a majority-minority — creating districts where Black people make up more than 50% of the population. She’s also still working her job as the head of a trauma counseling outreach group.   

Kellom has been trying to get her fellow commissioners to agree to some changes. On Monday, Kellom expressed her frustration at the lack of support she was receiving from her fellow commissioners. That led to a testy exchange, with Commission Chair Rebecca Szetela telling her to “just stop.”  

State Rep. Helena Scott (D-Detroit) says that wrong needs to be addressed as well. “The expectation is that she be respected and her voice be heard.”  

“We’re looking forward to seeing some fair maps that are not just fair district maps but also inclusive of Black and brown representation.” –Detroit Caucus Chair and State Rep. Tenisha Yancey (D-Harper Woods)

Detroit Caucus Chair and State Rep. Tenisha Yancey (D-Harper Woods) agrees. “I’ve always been taught that if you humiliate someone in public then you need to make sure that you rectify that in public because she needs a public apology.”  

Yancey has been critical of the group but is happy they’re listening.  

“We are absolutely thrilled that [commissioners] are open to suggestions and we’re looking forward to seeing some fair maps that are not just fair district maps but also inclusive of Black and brown representation,” she says.  

Kellom is having some impact: The commission put her House district map forward for the 45-day comment period.   

Overall, the redistricting commission has advanced three congressional, one state Senate, and now two state House maps.   

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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.
  • Dorothy Hernandez
    Dorothy Hernandez is Digital Editor for 101.9 WDET, creating digital editorial content. Her love of radio began when she had a radio show in college when she and her roommate played '80s music in the middle of the night.