Our Power Detroit is the locally based JUST TRANSITION work in the city of Detroit and anchored by EMEAC. Last summer EMEAC hosting an Our Power Gathering at our Cass Corridor Commons center. The Our Power Detroit gathering began with Directors Diana Copeland and Ife Kilimanjaro, joined by the Young Educators Alliance (YEA), setting the tone with a profound opening ceremony. Over 130 people participated in Our Power Detroit Gathering–this doesn’t even count the Detroiters who came only to roll up their sleeves for the Water Is Life Community Action! We had about 60 people from all over the country join us representing CJA member organizations and other environmental justice allies.
The weekend was full of workshops, discussions, activities and conversation. Saturday Night saw a concert headlined by the YEA, celebrating their new mixtape “Liberation Day.” The closing day, Sunday, brought everyone together for a discussion on Just Transition.
Participants began to get a taste of Detroit’s Just Transition which includes: fighting extreme energy (marathon oil refinery, tar sands expansion, pet coke piles along Detroit river, incinerator), advocating against privatization and protecting the public commons (water crisis, transportation, public financing of private corporations, emergency management and electoral democracy) while building community resilience (1000+ urban farms and gardens, youth leadership from front line communities, solar powered street lights, bike collectives, food hubs, markets and co-ops).
One of our objectives was to host a significant gathering of youth activists in the climate justice and environmental justice movements that would help build relationships and deepen a generational analysis of organizing. We are happy to announce thatover 2/3 of gathering participants were 25 and younger. Khafre Sims-Bey of YEA remarked, “I have a feeling that I will be seeing them over and over again”.
The Water Is Life Community Action was a demonstration on Our Power in effect. We worked with the People’s Water Board, We The People of Detroit, Detroit 2014: Building a National Network and other local change agents to help bring the city’s first Relief Station to life.
This action was inspired and spirited by Charity Hicks who transitioned after the gathering on July 8th, 2014. May her spirit live on through OUR POWER.
We cleaned and replenished the Dexter-Elmhurst Community Center and canvassed throughout the surrounding neighborhoods to let people know where they could get water supplies. Now, this building is not only home to the city’s first People Relief Station, but also to vital neighborhood programs such as Children’s Free Lunch, Senior Activities, a Swap / Re-Sale store, exercise classes, and youth recreation.
Dexter-Elmhurst Community Board President Helen Moore sends her thanks to all participants:
Dear Fellow Warriors,
I would like you to share this with the team that volunteered to clean-up and help repair our center. I have not ever seen that many youth and adult leaders work in conjunction with each other to get the job done. You did not know this, but I was at my wits end and was concerned that we would not get the job done. You inspired me and made me see that “All things are possible with God” You are my guardian angels. I cannot say enough about all the serious, dedicated young people who gave their time and effort so that the community and other young people could return to the center. We are proud of you. We are so happy to be a part of this worthwhile endeavor to be able to be the first Water Station in our city. We believe that we will be able to save lives and draw attention to the demonic deeds of those who have no regard for our families lives. May God Bless each and every one of you. Please know that you have a special place in my heart and the Dexter Community will always be grateful for your service.
Peace and Love, Mama Helen
Our Power Detroit received helpful positive feedback from its participants’ evaluations:
97% of participants felt they have a better understanding of how their work in the community connects with others to build a broader climate justice movement.
91% of participants felt that their voice was heard and valued during the break-out sessions.
88% of participants felt their was a good balance between plenary, panels, skill-building, networking, organizing, and direct action activities.
OPD got its highest evaluation marks in Sharing Strategies, Improving Understanding of Our Power Campaign, and Demonstrating Our Power.
Positive Feedback from Our Power Detroit Participants:
“I shared what me and my organization does and I learned how other organizations from all across the world are fighting for the same thing”
“Performed for the first time to kill self doubt and do the most radical thing we can do – love ourselves”
“Almost all activities required total group input/involvement. Well done!”
“I stepped back as an adult ally (and felt supported in doing that)”
“It was great learning experience for me as being new to EJ. I would have liked to have more small group discussions & more on youth involvement. It was very inspiring being here & learning from others. The Detroit youth are HELLA Dope!”
“I still learned a lot of skills that I know will carry on with me that will help me when I go back home and find out the issues in my community & join in the movement in my community”