This article is part of a special collaboration between Michigan in Color and Groundcover News. Read the rest of the joint issue here.
One might think that a community street newspaper like Groundcover News is entirely different from Michigan in Color at The Michigan Daily, the long-standing student-run newspaper of the University of Michigan. But these two publications that seem disparate from the outside have more in common than one might think.
Groundcover News was founded in 2010 with the purpose of empowering low- to no-income people of Washtenaw County to transition from “homeless to housed, and from jobless to employed.” Groundcover News is grounded in several principles, including the beliefs that “all people have the right to dignity,” “poverty is political—systemic change is necessary,” “building community is essential to social change” and “solutions to poverty must involve people who are directly affected.” As a street paper, Groundcover is sold by people experiencing poverty or homelessness as an immediate and dignified means of obtaining income — all while wielding journalism and advocacy to fight poverty from its roots.
Michigan in Color was founded by three women of Color in 2014 as a safe and brave space for people of Color at the University of Michigan to express themselves and their urgent needs. Since its founding, MiC has remained committed to its mission of liberation for people of Color, especially in intersection with other marginalized identities — liberation which necessitates an abolition of oppressive forces like imperialism, capitalism, colonialism, occupation, apartheid and white supremacy, which mutually reinforce one another.
Here at Groundcover News and Michigan in Color, we believe our missions are intertwined. The fight for abolition cannot be separated from the realities of racism and the stark “pileup of inequities” experienced by working class and oppressed peoples. We are committed to publishing work that challenges traditional ways of knowing — and no, that doesn’t just mean we identify as “alternative” media.
For these reasons, Groundcover and MiC stand in solidarity with each other and proudly present this special collaborative edition. Our intentions for this issue are twofold: first, we want to build connections between the U-M community and the unhoused community of Washtenaw County. Make no mistake: the University of Michigan is a wealthy institution attended by thousands of students of financially privileged backgrounds. The students and faculty of the U-M community hold social privilege that cannot be understated — but this truth can also muddle the simultaneous reality that there are many working class students who often struggle with feeling alone and invisible in their experiences, FGLI students who don’t enjoy the same privileges as their peers, students who have experienced homelessness themselves, students whose dire needs are seldom met by the University.
Our second intention is to raise awareness of the Washtenaw unhoused community’s circumstances, in their own words, and of the ethical responsibilities U-M students, from their positions of immeasurable relative privilege, then have to those unhoused around them — whether it be mutual aid, a Groundcover News purchase, a simple conversation or even just eye contact and a smile.
In 2020, 274 people in Washtenaw County were homeless on any given night. The Washtenaw Housing Alliance reports that same year, almost 2,800 people were literally homeless; among those literally homeless, 38% comprised families with young children and 20% experienced chronic homelessness: long-term homelessness in conjunction with a disability. Unfortunately, Washtenaw County numbers among the most expensive housing markets in Michigan. The standard monthly rate of a two-bedroom apartment in Washtenaw is more expensive than 98% of the state. The National Low-Income Housing Coalition reports that in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Washtenaw, a person earning minimum wage ($9.87/hour) would need to work approximately 98 hours per week, or more than two full-time positions.
The greater knowledge community members have of Groundcover News, the better their street paper model works. Groundcover vendors are up against the University’s population turnover constantly, especially because they are not allowed to sell on campus. Each year, relationships are made, people move away and are replaced by 7,000—10,000 new residents who have no clue what Groundcover News is — unless, perhaps, they come from another city with a street paper. In sharing print space with each other, we hope to expose future customers and readers to Groundcover News early, and amplify their support of its work, operations and mission.
We hope that this collaboration will inspire the U-M community to develop relationships with unhoused people, carry physical dollar bills on your persons to provide financial aid to those in need and to purchase — and read — Groundcover News as often as you can. We hope you will interact with Groundcover News vendors on the streets, because even when you lack the means to lend them help monetarily, a smile or a conversation can bring them comfort and emotional support. And we hope you will learn something about the topics covered in this collaboration — anti-homeless infrastructure, the Trotter Multicultural Center and the Ann Arbor public school system, to name a few — and think about them, and the lenses through which our staff views them.
Previous MiC Managing Editor Jessica Kwon can be reached at email@example.com. Groundcover News Managing Director Lindsay Calka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.