Power of the word

Sit-in against racism set for Saturday at state Capitol

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THURSDAY, June 25 — Tamilikia Foster, a nurse at McLaren Greater Lansing, since 2005, has been bitterly stung by racism and police brutality, but she still believes in the healing power of the word.

Foster, a poet and organizer of this Saturday’s Silent Sit-In Against Racism at the State Capitol, had very personal reasons to assemble a series of inspirational speakers and performers to create a “visually and verbally stimulating” event Saturday.

“I deal with racism a lot in my job,” she said. “You’d be surprised at the abuse we get from patients. I take my role seriously and other black nurses take their role seriously, but we’re not being recognized for who we are.”

One patient got angry when Foster touched her child.

“He said he’d rather the child die,” Foster  said. “That’s the kind of abuse we deal with.”

Foster organized moments of silence at both McLaren campuses in memory of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked a national outcry over police brutality and systemic racism.

“It was beautiful,” she said. “It let people come out to show their support and I loved the response.”

Foster has personally dealt with police brutality more than once.

“I have not had a knee to my neck, but I have had a gun to my face,” she said.

The first time, she was pregnant with my daughter, who is now 27.

“I had my head slammed onto the hood of a car while I was pregnant, and almost miscarried,” she said.

A few years ago, she was pulled over by police after a break-in was reported in the area where she was driving. She said the officer called her “a B” and “the N word.”

“All of a sudden there’s a gun right in my face,” Foster said. “He saw my nurse’s badge and calmed down. Had he not seen that, I think I would have gotten shot.”

In May, Foster coordinated a drive to support hospital workers in non-front-line jobs such as housekeeping, shipping, labs and other areas. Operation Gratitude sent hundreds of boxes to McLaren with more than $22,000 worth of assorted goodies and supplies from coffee and cookies to liquid IVs.

She has hosted poetry shows at Lasing Community College and MSU and other venues around town for many years, but Saturday’s event is the biggest she has ever put together.

“I want a little bit of Martin Luther King with some Malcolm X in it,” she said.

Attendees are asked to wear white clothing, to pay respect to “the souls that have passed,” Foster said.

Event leaders will wear yellow, symbolizing ideas for a brighter future.

Foster chose the speakers for their inspirational skills and experience in mentoring and education.

Foster will also address the gathering. She is a lifelong student of iconic Black poets Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni and Phyliss Wheatley.

“Verbally, I’m bringing fire,” she said.  “I’ve always been a writer since I was a little girl. I’m a word person. If I can change the world with one word, that will be wonderful.”

Also scheduled to speak at the sit-in are Bishop David Maxwell, Lansing’s director of community and faith-based initiatives; Dan Ross, a Lansing resident, activist and candidate for Lansing City Council; Hakim Crampton, a specialist in youth violence prevention, poet, mentor, and activist; Jackson-based artist and educator Jojo Perkin; and Shanell Henry, a Lansing native, holy hip-hop artist and community organizer for One Love Global.

“I’m doing this because I want people to judge me on my character, not my color,” Foster said. “Not only am I a nurse, I’m a mom. I’m there to help you and I don’t care about the color of your skin or if you have insurance. I just want you to be healthy and go home safe.”

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