YEA! Youth program up and running for SUSO

June 13, 2011

YEA youth leader Donovin Murray at Cass Park cleanup
EMEAC’s  new Youth Environmental Alliance (YEA) kicked off it’s initial summer activities by cleaning up Cass Park on June 4th. Approximately a dozen Detroit youth along with some parents joined members of EMEAC’s Stand Up! Speak Out! Youth Leadership Team to host the event which was followed by a barbeque.

We decided to beautify and improve one of our city parks,” said SUSO Youth Program Coordinator William Copeland. “YEA is a group of young Detroiters who are passionate about recognizing environmental issues and working towards quality of life in our city. Our group is mostly made up of high school students and young adults who are developing their leadership skills and excited about making a difference in Detroit.”

YEA started up in late April under Copeland and SUSO Youth Team Leader Siwatu Salaama Ra. YEA students have been meeting twice a week since the program began to discuss environmental justice issues and other environmental advocacy projects for the future. The group will also be partaking in the inaugural EMEAC Gardening Advocacy Media and Education (GAME) Summer Camp which begins June 20 and will include sponsorship to the 2011 Allied Media Conference. One of the main goals of the program is to develop environmental consciousness among Detroit youth.

SUSO Director Ahmina Maxey says she is excited about the future of the youth program.

“YEA! is important within SUSO because it encourages the involvement of youth in their community,” she said.  “Through hands-on activity and an education in environmental justice YEA! youth engage in  changing their community for the better.”

Copeland said big part of the vision of YEA comes out of the US Social Forum organizing. He noticed some gaps in the network of Detroit organizing when it comes to teenagers and young adults, and hopes YEA plays the important role of serving as a ‘pipeline to activism’ to nurture young leaders.

Copeland also hopes that the work of the program’s young environmental leaders like Donovin Murray  of Detroit Institute of Technology, Elayne Elliot of Cass Tech High School and Roger Boyd of Clintondale High School will result in greater community building in the city. In the process, YEA plans to partner with existing community groups like the Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice Office, Hush House, D-Town Farms, Michigan Welfare Rights and others to help them get a better understanding of the environmental activism landscape of the city.

“It is going great,” Copeland added. “There are some dedicated youth who are participating.   We have built relationships with other youth groups such as City Wide Agents (an amazing group of Detroit poets) and Build On Detroit.  By cleaning up Cass Park, we hope that this kicks off a long term relationship with the Park and its neighbors.

“We hope the program develops and nurtures the leadership of young folks in Detroit over the coming years. I can see the collaborations with City Wide Agents and Detroit Build On getting deeper.  We are discussing ideas such as a larger youth service project in Detroit and incorporating spoken word in political campaigning.  I hope that DMEC brings more collaborations as well.”