EMEAC, Nsoroma and Sierra Club team up for EJ Tour of Detroit

June 13, 2011

Nsoroma students on the EJ Tour in Southwest Detroit
Almost 50 students from Nsoroma Institute got a first hand look at some of the major features on Detroit’s environmental justice landscape during an Environmental Justice Tour coordinated last month by EMEAC and the local Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice Office. The fifth and sixth grade Nsoroma students who went on the EJ Tour were participants in environmental classes put on via EMEAC’s Stand Up Speak Out and Greener Schools Programs.
“This is about disseminating information to the kids,” said EMEAC Associate Director and SUSO Director Ahmina Maxey. “It’s about letting them be the people to share what’s happening in the city around environmental justice. I don’t have to be the spokesperson. Rhonda (Anderson) doesn’t. We don’t need to be. This should be common knowledge. Hopefully, it will not only be common knowledge but common knowledge for change.”
At various points on the tour, Maxey teamed with Rhonda Anderson and Michelle Martinez of the Sierra Club to give presentations on a range environmental issues facing the city’s future. The tour spanned a diverse cross sections of the city beginning with the Midtown/Downtown area where students learned about curbside recycling, the Detroit Incinerator and two controversial landmarks owned by billionaire mogul Manuel Moroun in the old Detroit Train Station and the Ambassador Bridge.
The tour continued through Southwest Detroit where students toured the city’s industrial corridor. There students got a sometimes nose jarring perspective of the environmentally challenged industries there such as steele plants (Great Lakes Steel and Russian owned Severstal Steele), salt mines, the city’s Waste Water Treatment facilities and a controversial tar sands oil refinery (Marathon Oil).
Students later stopped for lunch at Belanger Park before traveling to East Detroit where they visited Dr. Tyree Guyton’s Hiedelberg Project, which is a world renowned outdoor urban art museum.
Maxey praised the work of SUSO Youth Team Leader and Nsoroma alumn Siwatu Salama-Ra for the impetus to put the EJ Tour together.
“Siwatu actually got the idea for the environmental justice tour because a lot of the students in the class for Stand Up Speak Out are learning about environmental justice,” Maxey said. “They had talked about some of the facilities we saw on the tour but they actually hadn’t gone there yet.
“It was really about not only talking about environmental justice and telling them that in our city we have environmental racism and environmental pollution that is happened to people of color. Showing it to them and taking them to Southwest where they can see that right next to Marathon there is a community center. Right where there is a park there are two refineries. It really shows them what we’ve been talking about.”
The 20-year-old Salama-Ra said she believes the foundational learning students get at Nsoroma along with the hands on learning delivered by EMEAC will continue to develop a core of young leaders for the future such as herself.
““I think the tour was very beneficial to the students,” she said. “These Nsoroma students are on their game. I’m proud of them. They are going to be leaders. They already are leaders. They are asking wonderful questions. They are coming up with wonderful ideas. They are having some fun while being educated at the same time.
“This was a very good day for them to be engaged in. I think they got the full range of  understanding of the emotional impact they should have based on the environmental impact that people in the city suffer from.”