GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Several organizations are working together this week to help those with a criminal past clear their records.
The Black and Brown Cannabis Guild is a group of people passionate about justice and social equity. For Michigan Expungement Week, the BBCG is holding a series of fairs. One took place Saturday in Grand Rapids, and another is scheduled for Wednesday in Benton Harbor.
The fairs are not just about expunging cannabis charges — all types of convictions are eligible. Michigan residents with criminal records can talk with attorneys who will pull their history and work toward expunging their record.
“When they say a war on drugs or a war on poverty, sometimes it will feel like these are just things that the government is tackling,” BBCG Founder and Executive Director Denavvia Mojet said. “We forget that there are people and families behind these policies that are negatively impacted.”
The BBCG’s goal is to help repair and heal the harms of the war on drugs and to carve out opportunities.
The fairs are designed to be a one-stop shop.
“We try to pay for as many of the elements as possible so that people actually file it and get the results that they need, which is removing barriers to opportunities for folks,” Mojet said.
Attorney Kamau Sandiford said people will need to bring an ID and any court documents.
“It’s estimated that roughly 2 million people in Michigan have criminal convictions on their record, so you’re not the only person,” Sandiford said. “It’s just a matter of putting yourself out there and speaking with an attorney.”
The Benton Harbor expungement fair will take place at the Consortium for Community Development. It’ll be co-hosted by Present Pillars, an organization that supports fathers and families in Benton Harbor.
According to organizers, pre-registration is encouraged but not required.
“Pre-registration is the best way to go about this,” said James Gunter, executive director of Present Pillars. “You can still show up and register the day of.”
Gunter said Black men in particular have “fallen victim to mass incarceration and the war on drugs,” but expungement events can start people on a new path without a criminal record.
“It opens them up to a wealth of opportunities, housing opportunities, and just more opportunities to be the dad they want to be,” he said.
Families are welcome at the fair, and day care will be provided.
“We will have child care options for people,” Mojet said. “We’ve learned that’s a huge part of making people feel safe and confident when they speak with an attorney.”
The fair will have food trucks, a live DJ and community resources to help the expungement process go more smoothly.
“Folks can really move through the tents, check in, enjoy themselves while they wait to meet with the attorney and find out whether or not they are eligible for expungement,” Mojet said.
Benton Harbor’s fair will run from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday. The pre-registration form can be found here.