By Simon Albaugh
Hamtramck, Mich. – Back when US Ecology requested an expansion, local activists mobilized every effort to prevent the proposal from moving forward. They slowed the process, got the communities involved and when all else failed, they marched straight to the gates of US Ecology with their list of demands. Abraham Aiyash was there, right next to Rep. Isaac Robinson, to speak on all the frustration.
Not even a month ago, when people were watching Minneapolis burn from protests that went too far, it was still politically risky to align yourself with the cause against Police Brutality. Still, Aiyash spoke in front of the crowd of disenchanted people at one of the first marches in Detroit. Now, the country is watching as the Motor City becomes the model for change through consistent, righteous action.
Near the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic, beloved state representative Isaac Robinson passed away from suspected complications related to the Novel Coronavirus. News headlines across the country wrote on the collective mourning that Detroiters and Hamtramckans felt. Now, the seat is open for anyone who thinks they have a chance at filling the big role that Robinson left.
Abraham Aiyash is among the 14 candidates that will be campaigning to fill the spot left by Robinson. He’s running on a progressive democratic agenda, with policies like pushing for a Gun Reform and Medicare for All. It’s no surprise that he even garnered an endorsement from Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders.
What’s Aiyash Running For?
It’s not about just pushing for the progressive issues, Aiyash explains. “I think you have to go beyond claiming to be a progressive and fighting for the hot button issues. Those are important, but we have to go a step further. How are we localizing some of these issues and how are we showing progress in some of these issues that will directly impact and benefit people.”
His philosophy on public office is that it should not be a job that’s just filled, but a continuation of the work that someone’s already been doing. For Abraham, that goes back to a long biography of organizing.
“My first organizing stint in Hamtramck was when I was 13 [for the Barack Obama Campaign],” Aiyash said. “Well, I should say I probably started before that when I started organizing the Iftars at my local Mosque. When I was actually in the third grade, I got a bunch of kids to help me do the cleanup and set up for the Iftars at the Miller Mosque.”
Even while Aiyash attended Michigan State University, where he studied pre-medicine and political science, he created lasting change for the university’s culture. While studying, he helped create coalitions to combat anti-black racism and work toward a more inclusive East Lansing.
Aiyash speaks at a rally against the expansion of US Ecology (Photo by Simon Albaugh)
Hamtramck also became an important way Aiyash to isolate and critique what many would call the existing power structures that are reflected across the rest of America. Throughout the entirety of Aiyash’s work, there’s a central theme to his advocacy, activism and organizing that’s rooted in his childhood in Hamtramck.
There’s this idea that power belonged to a certain class of people, and everyone else didn’t have the right to speak up,” Aiyash said. “And I also saw that there was folks who didn’t feel like they had the right to speak up.
“And I quickly learned the power of having people actualize their agency and recognize that they too have power, they too have authority over their community. They just have to demand it. They have to take it and they have to engage it. And that quickly morphed my passion for building power in communities that largely are disempowered.”
Who is Aiyash is Running For?
In the election for State Representative of District 4, politicians will need to grapple with one of the most diverse constituencies in the State of Michigan. It’s not enough to activate one’s own community. Rather, a diverse and universally appealing campaign will be needed to establish a strong position as the election continues.
The area of District 4 encompasses Hamtramck and much of its surrounding neighborhoods in Detroit. It stretches as far as the Woodbridge and Midtown neighborhoods of Detroit. The border goes all the way to Connor and Gratiot as well. The dynamic of the District’s demographics have also vastly changed within the last ten years, making the task of understanding the constituency a little more difficult.
“It’s largely a community of poor working-class people,” Aiyash said. “But you’re also seeing in House District Four some of the disparities that we’ve heard about when we talk about new Detroit versus old Detroit. There’s a lot of investment in certain spaces of this district. And there’s a lot of neglect in certain spaces of this district. And that’s all encompassed in House District 4.”
The Yemeni American News will be continuing coverage for the local and national issues that will be decided in 2020. It’s our belief that everyone deserves clear and comprehensive information about who is running, what’s at stake, and how to everyone can be involved.
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