Claire Metzgar knows that taking a deep dive into the lives of individuals she connects with at Calhoun County’s Public Defenders Office will not keep them from being incarcerated for the criminal activity that brought them to her. Instead, her main focus as the office’s Social Work Coordinator is to keep those she works with from having any further interactions with the criminal justice system after they have served their time and are released.

This story was originally published by MLive and is part of the Mental Wellness Project, a solutions-oriented journalism initiative covering mental health issues in southwest Michigan, created by the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative. SWMJC is a group of 13 regional organizations (including Watershed Voice) dedicated to strengthening local journalism. For more info, visit swmichjournalism.com.

The Latinx LGBTQ+ community in Michigan often faces the struggles of two communities at the same time. In the Latinx community, they find themselves ostracized and their identities a taboo, while in the LGBT community they find themselves underrepresented in organizations geared primarily toward white community members. Despite these struggles, several LGBT Latinx people have struggled to make their voices heard and their issues known, defying systemic bias and cultural taboos alike to be who they are.

At the top of this week’s episode Alek and Doug address Monday’s troubling news that teachers within the Three Rivers Community Schools system were asked to remove Pride flags in their classrooms in response to an “external challenge” by an unidentified party.   

The hosts of Keep Your Voice Down are also joined by Sarah Lee, Director of Marketing Communications at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. The trio discusses Sarah’s role at KZCF, her upbringing in Malaysia and how she became deeply rooted in Kalamazoo, the importance of being “equity-minded” when addressing matters of social and racial injustice, the foundation’s efforts to support local journalism, and the story behind the formation of the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative.