Community servant honored for work
By JANET MILLER
NEWS SPECIAL WRITER
Blondeen Munson has done a lot of fighting.
She’s fought city hall. She’s fought against homelessness and hunger. She’s fought for medical care for the poor. She’s fought for political awareness and against political ignorance.
For her fights, the Church of the Good Shepherd will honor her Sunday with its “Award for Servant Leadership in Building a Beloved Just Community (in the Way of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.).
The lifelong Ann Arbor resident, mother of one and grandmother of two is the third person to receive the honor, given close to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. She joins the late Rev. John A. Woods, pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church, and Rev. Dr. Charles E. Cobb, executive director Emeritus of the Commission for Racial Justice of the United Church of Christ.
“I’m really overwhelmed,” said Munson.
But she hasn’t let the odds overwhelm her as she’s worked to keep people in their homes while eviction is knocking at their door, finding food and clothing for those who are without, organizing workshops to help the elderly learn how to be free of eviction threats and sung in the choir at Bethel A.M.E. Church.
For almost 12 years, Munson worked as a paralegal for Legal Services of Southeastern Michigan, which offers legal aid to those who can’t afford it. Budget cuts this fall saw Munson lose her job. “It’s bad for the clients. All of us can find other jobs. They won’t be able to find legal help.” Munson is now the receptionist for Legal Services.
She’s also helped to see tenants’ rights organizations form at all of Ann Arbor’s low-income public housing units. It started at the South Maple location, and with Munson’s legal and moral help, the tenants organizations — which try to safeguard their rights and advocate their needs — have been formed at all seven locations along with the two senior citizen units.
“Most low-income people can talk for themselves,” said Munson. “All they need is a little help organizing. The community has been telling them they’re nothing. They make them think they really are inferior. . They just happen to be poor... and really neglected.”
Tenants in the public housing units have to fight the everyday struggles, but also live with the fear that the “gentrification of Ann Arbor” may swallow their homes, said Munson. “Public housing sites may not be attractive to people right now,” said Munson. “But as rents (in Ann Arbor) escalate and they (the sites) begin to look better, who knows?
Ann Arbor blacks have already seen many of their neighbors go in the name of university progress or apartment development, she said.
Munson has helped many outside of her work with Legal Services. Through her church, she is the contact for people in need, helping to find security deposits or food and clothing. She also organizes the local election candidate forums at Bethel Church.
Munson has worked with Summit Medical Center and Peace Neighborhood Center. She is this year’s recipient of the award for her “work seeing that everyone has a home... for empowering tenant groups ... and for her work on behalf of the health of the African-American community at Summit Medical Center,” said Rev. Herbert R. Lowe, pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd.
While Munson has worked to stop evictions for nonpayment by finding social service money or private donations and stopped foreclosures for non-payment of taxes, she’s also seen people lose their homes: Homes that are paid for and lived in for decades, but lost because of a shortage of tax money. “The tax scavengers,” said Munson, “took a woman’s house because she owed $12,000 in taxes. She lost her house.”
Munson will speak during the 10:30 a.m. Sunday services at Church of the Good Shepherd. A reception honoring her will follow.
She's fought city hall, she's fought against homelessness and hunger... For her fights, the Church of the Good Shepherd will honor her with its 'Award for Servant Leadership in Building a Beloved Just Community.'
BLONDEEN MUNSON...honored for community service
Summit Medical Center
Peace Neighborhood Center
Legal Services of Southeastern Michigan
Commission for Racial Justice
Church of the Good Shepherd
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Black American Community
Ann Arbor News
John A. Woods
Charles E. Cobb
2145 Independence Blvd