Meet Danny McQuarters Jr.: A catalyst for community change

The notion to “be the change you wish to see” is culturally significant enough to be immortalized as a proverb, and posted on classroom and office walls across the country. However cliché it may be, it is, at its core, profoundly true. Those who exemplify the proverb’s message resolve themselves as catalysts of their community, enacting growth and change within their spheres of influence. Danny McQuarters Jr. is one such catalyst.

Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, McQuarters came to Mt. Pleasant as the assistant debate coach for Central Michigan University (CMU), during which time he also received his master’s degree in communication from the university.

After nearly a decade of various roles and responsibilities at CMU, McQuarters finds himself at home in his current role as the assistant director of the university’s Office for Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). The roles and responsibilities he faces vary depending on outside factors, but in his own words, McQuarters prides himself as a “community organizer.” 

This is true of McQuarters both within the university and outside of it.

“[DEI] brings the community together in ways they have not been together before,” says McQuarters. “I think when people imagine DEI, they think, ‘Oh, he’s going to come talk about race,’ but it’s so much more than that—it’s every part of every person.” 

True to his philosophy, McQuarters has acted as a liaison between different demographics and individuals within the Mt. Pleasant community. He says of this, “I like to find spaces in need of improvement within the community and bridge those gaps.”

Being a man of action as well as conviction, McQuarters has brought forth many ideas and positive changes to Mt. Pleasant.

One of his initiatives is Club Create of Mid Michigan, a program that partners with Michigan Arts Access to provide opportunities for adults with disabilities to work creatively alongside professional artists.

McQuarters is also involved in the genesis and coordination of many community events, including starting Art Reach’s murder mystery fundraiser and helping with Mid-Michigan Industries’ summer concert series held in Island Park. 

In addition to planning these events, McQuarters volunteers with several nonprofits in Isabella County as well as serving on the Isabella County Human Rights Committee

To sustain a schedule such as McQuarters’, there exists a great demand for passion and a deep sense of purpose—neither of which McQuarters is lacking. 

“You have no room to complain if you’re not out trying to better the quality of life [in your community],” says McQuarters. 

A man of his word, McQuarters has made the betterment of his community his personal mission, using his knowledge and understanding of the benefits of diversity to promote cohesiveness.

“Jobs [like mine] are important,” he adds. “Because if there are not mechanisms to allow people to understand how to interact with other cultures, then that’s where people get into trouble down the line.”

The avoidance of the “trouble” that McQuarters speaks of does not predicate itself on the resolution of singularly divisive issues, but rather the awareness and acknowledgment of diversity as an innate and deeply necessary aspect of society. 

“Diversity is not just race—it is mindsets, it is your field of study, it is your hobbies,” he explains. 

McQuarters is focused not solely on the differences in individuals’ appearance, but on their life and experiences as a whole. 

“The way we are conditioned to think about people we interact with is so far from the truth; if you think about ten people from within the same demographic, they are all still radically different people,” he adds.

McQuarters’ aim is to ensure that interpersonal differences are a catalyst of change and growth for the students he works with and the community he resides in.

“My role is important because it helps students prepare for the future,” says McQuarters. “If you want to work at a Fortune 500 company or an international company, you’re going to have to understand how other people socialize and how they perceive you. I also think it’s important for the community overall—demographic shifts are real and some places are becoming more diverse.”

McQuarters seeks to actualize his aspirations for the community not through forced compliance or blind indifference, but instead through a realization of the power that can be found in diversity. 

To accomplish this, he says, “Something I think we can do as a community is to come together even more than what we already are … I would say for our community to embrace each other and know that we are more similar than the powers-that-be make us seem.”

As for who can help bring forth these opportunities to gather and learn from each other, McQuarters says, “We go through life sometimes like, ‘they need to do something about this,’ and it’s always this mysterious ‘they’—but reality is, you can be that ‘they.’”
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Read more articles by Owen Howard.

Owen Howard is an Isabella County native with a deep appreciation for all it has to offer, in both people and places. He is a current graduate student at Central Michigan University, with a bachelor's degree in biology. He was a collegiate cross country athlete for CMU and currently assists the team as a volunteer coach. In his free time, Owen could be described as 'chronically outdoors.' Owen has a passion for telling stories and for listening to other people tell theirs. He loves getting the chance to allow people to share their passions and stories with a larger audience.