EMEAC lends voice to Grassroots Global Justice 2011 Congress in Raleigh

October 24, 2011

RALEIGH -- EMEAC holds space in several important collaborations and alliances committed to revealing and addressing injustices against poor and working people and the environment.  One such group is Grassroots for Global Justice [GGJ], which is an alliance of U.S.-based grassroots groups who are organizing to build an agenda for power for working and poor people.  In September, Development Coordinator Ife Kilimanjaro, represented EMEAC at GGJ's 2011 Congress in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Ife, along with over 250 members and supporters, helped to shape GGJ's focus over the next year by discussing and offering recommendations for revision of its proposal called  No War! No Warming! Build an Economy for the People and the Planet! These three issues were selected by GGJ staff and members of the Coordinating Committee for their overlap, the opportunity they offer to define and articulate alternatives to capitalism-in-crisis, and their impact on and implications for local, national and international organizing and movement building.  Congress participants debated each of the three areas in separate working groups over two days to recommend goals, objectives and actions for the upcoming year and presented them to the larger body on the last day. 

During the morning of day 2, representatives of international social movements - World March of Women (Brazil), FASE (Brazil), Hemispheric Social Alliance (Canada/Mexico), Anti Privatization Forum (South Africa), South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (South Africa), and Alternatives (Maghrib) - participated in person and via skype to discuss their organizations and recent victories, offer their perspectives on GGJ's proposal, share their views on the state of social movements at the international level and how they've dealt with the challenge  of alliances in their work. 

In the afternoon, Congress participants engaged in a rally in support of working people and the poor at the Republican party headquarters.  This action was picked up by the local news station and can also be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/user/ggjalliance#p/u/7/coIF1nzNoyg .

On the last day of the Congress, members voted on 3 resolutions: offering support for Mexican Trade Unions by condemning the attacks on the independent trade union movement and freedom of association in Mexico; affirming several food sovereignty statements that support the people's democratic control of the food system, culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and people's right to define their own food and agricultural systems; and supporting the Hemispheric Social Alliance's statement on unity to stop the economic crisis and build a different economy.  Support for each was unanimous.

Videos of presentations and interviews can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/user/ggjalliance . 

Peoples Kitchen Detroit holds skill share on tomato canning

DETROIT – The preservation of good food choices and the sharing of good relationships are all at heart of what the Cass Corridor Community Commons (CCCC) is all about. Throughout the upcoming months – if not years – friends of the Peoples Kitchen Detroit (PKD) can get a taste of both thanks to a special tomato canning skill share held recently at PKD inside the CCCC space of the First Unitarian Universalist Church.

“Our tomato canning skill share was a great success,” said PKD’s Angela Newsom “We had a wonderful turnout, everyone had a great time and walked away with jars of delicious locally grown tomatoes to enjoy throughout the winter in soups or sauce.”

A skill share is a no-to-low cost way to share time, skills and resources with others in a community. People with varying degrees of knowledge on a particular subject - in this case, canning tomatoes - come together to work on a project. This provides an opportunity for those with no or little knowledge to learn a new skill and ask questions of seasoned veterans. It also allows for those who know the skill to expand their knowledge with new techniques or ideas. Relationships are built and communities are strengthened through working together and sharing resources.

The diverse group attending the tomato canning skill share were EMEAC Associate Director Lottie Spady, who is also an administrator of the Detroit Food Justice Taskforce, Candice  Coleman and Kanezia Smith of Creative Community Pathways, Blair Nosan of Suddenly Sauer, Natali Perkins, Priscilla Dziebek of EMEAC’s Greener Schools Program, Carolyn Leadley of Rising Pheasant Farms, Ana Howrani Heeres and Sarah Sidelko of the CCCC’s Fender Bender.

The group set up to process the tomatoes like an assembly line after all the tomatoes were chopped and cooked down in a large pot. The tomatoes were funneled into jars, wiped, lids put on, and placed into a hot water bath. Labels were made including the date, which is very important. The newly transformed tomatoes were then cooled the next day.

Newsom says the event blends well into the work of the CCCC and Detroit Food Justice Taskforce of which PKD is also a founding member.

“These skill-shares fit into the work of both People’s Kitchen Detroit and the Food Justice Task Force in many ways,” she said. “One of the foundations of a community kitchen, like PKD, is the intention to bring people together around food. In addition to this, these skill-shares usually are connected to excess food from farms and gardens around the city, so we’re helping farmers and gardeners move some of their produce.  Through the preservation of this excess food we’re also taking a resource that typically has a short shelf life and preserving it so that it is available during the winter months or when we need it sometime in the future.
“These classes also provide us the opportunity to work together differently and to explore small examples of alternate or new economic models. By pooling our community resources, excess tomatoes, jars and lids, kitchen space and equipment, chopping, cutting and washing dishes, to create an environment where everyone walks away with some food and the know-how to do it again, we inspire new ways of thinking and living that open up new possibilities.”

Of course, sharing with friends is always an occasion for heart felt thanks.

“We are so thankful to everyone who came out to the event and who have supported our work over the last five years,” Newsom said. “We’d also like to thank the 1st UU congregation for the donation of the buildings to the Commons and for welcoming PKD with excitement and open hearts.”

Fender Bender a key cog to what the CCCC is all about

October 22, 2011

DETROIT -- As the reality of the Cass Corridor Community Commons builds around the framework of social justice in Detroit in the halls of the First Universalist Unitarian Church where EMEAC’s offices are now housed, it’s only fitting that there be an organization like Fender Bender which is dedicated to bending society’s the rules while mending what’s broken be squarely in the mix.

So it is that the group of female bicycle mechanics founded by Sarah Sidelko ride into the fray on their mission of promoting gender equity, environmental
sustainability and healthy lifestyles all around the love of cycling.

Fender Bender's Sarah Sidelko talks with EMEAC youth
during a tour of the Motor City Brewery during the
Gardening Activism Media and Education summer camp
“When you are not given access to do things, you don’t even know how much you might love it and how that can actually transform your life later,” Sidelko said. “For me, getting involved in building bicycles gave me a sense of confidence. It gave me a sense of power and ableness in my life to go out and do things. It made me feel like I was strong and that I could carry things at home on my own. It’s really simple and basic things that other people may not think of as a challenge or obstacle every day in being a woman.”

Sidelko has taken that sense of empowerment and become only one of a handful of licensed female brewers in all of the United States. When she’s not plying her trade at the Motor City Brewry just around the corner from the CCCC, she and her fellow Fender Benders are busy giving bicycle repair and maintenance workshops, group rides or educating others on the virtues of cycling with a special outreach to the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer (LGBTQ) community.

“Fender Bender is a group of female bicycle mechanics who currently do bicycle mechanic training currently with people from the LGBQT community,” Sidelko said. “We do have programming that is accessible to everyone during events and bike rides.

“We’ve been asked to do bicycle trainings around workshops, but we like to do trainings around women and the LGBQT community so that they can have a safe and nurturing space where we can have a space to work on bikes and learn mechanic skills and just engage with things such as tools and mechanics where as women we might not necessarily feel we were able or allowed because of these stereo typical set of rules we are kind of born into.”

Fender Bender’s mission of empowerment does extend to the broader Detroit community around the principle of social justice. The group has worked with EMEAC in the past around quality of life and environmental justice issues during EMEAC’s initial Gardening Activism Media and Education summer camp where young people got a tour of the Motor City Brewery to learn how beer is made and a demonstration of the group’s smoothie bike to demonstrate the conjunction of healthy eating and healthy living.

“We want to promote projects and activities that are about the uplifting and the empowerment of Detroit and its residents,” Sidelko said. “We like things that are about the engagement of people on a face-to-face one-to-one level. We like activities that promote exercising our bodies and going on rides, and things that help us really connect with one another every day. We also want to get at some of the racial things that go on underneath because even in something like cycling where everybody has a common ground that all people can connect on, we sometimes have all these other barriers that prevent us from connecting in our lives.

“I was organizing a biker auction and I thought (about the smoothie bike), ‘Wow what a cool way to use these interactive pieces. It’s a great way to introduce environmental issues, social issues and quality of life issues. In a lot of countries where people don’t have all these advanced technologies, people really do have to come up with some very practical ways of processing their foods. Whether it’s coffee grinders, corn huskers and water irrigation systems, there are all these different ways to use pedal power. It could be like your brake from gardening. There are no emissions. There are no waste. It’s powered by old bicycles and uses vegetables from your garden to replenish yourself with things that are actually nourishing.”

All in all, Sidelko’s Fender Bender mission and goals have put them on the path to be in alignment with the mission of the Cass Corridor Community Commons.

“We are honored and feel really grateful to be invited into a presence like that where people are able to work together for something sustainable and really have each other’s back,” she said. “It’s good to work around people that will help you get yourself back up again whether it’s emotionally or physically. It’s great to be able to work with other groups of people around those over arching principles of social justice.

“(EMEAC) is doing it on all these other different levels like food and gardening and we learn a lot from each other about how all these things come together. You realize that in many ways the work we do is not so separate.”

DFY to gather in Southwest Detroit’s Young Nation on Halloween Eve

DETROIT – On the eve of the annual Feast of All Saints celebrations, there will be a gathering of the Detroit Future Youth (DFY) Network as part of the second annual Angel’s Night event sponsored by Young Nation of Southwest Detroit.

Youth from all 12 member organizations of the DFY Network will gather from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 30 at The Alley Project (TAP) 9233 Avis Street where they will join youth and adult community members in Southwest Detroit for food and a series of interactive workshops on the decriminalization of youth and street art demonstrations.

“This is something (Young Nation) does as a response to the criminalization of youth on Angel’s night,” said DFY Coordinator Ilana Weaver. “They create a safe space for youth to gather and be able to have a good time without being harassed. We are bringing out the entire youth network in solidarity with the work they are doing in Southwest for this gathering. It’s all about countering the violence against and criminalization of youth in southwest Detroit.”

Young Nation is a community-based organization that seeks to empower youth from Southwest Detroit through positive forms of creative expression. Young Nation follows a program model that speaks to the community’s passions, facilitates interaction, raises awareness, and inspires action. The organization takes a unique approach to youth development by attempting to affect change by inspiring young minds through example and engagement. Implicit in this approach is that youth are involved in participatory processes where the principles of positive youth development are promoted with the goal of young people discovering where their passions intersect their community’s needs.

Young Nation Youth Coordinator Erik Howard
“This year’s expanded focus will be on offering street art education and experience to participants through a series of interactive workshop stations,” said Young Nation Youth Coordinator Erik Howard.  “At the end of the day attendees will be familiar with some history and techniques of street art as well as ways it can be used to support youth and community development.”

Angel’s Night came about as a way of providing constructive and positive examples of youth activities in the community during Halloween festivities. The event seeks to counter the narrative that youth activities on the holiday tend to be destructive and negative.

“The other part that sometimes gets left out of conversation but not out of the motivation of the young person is to vandalize, or do something they are ‘not supposed to,’ Howard said. “Without guidance and direction the youth’s testing and understanding of structure and boundaries may not evolve beyond mere participation in deviant behavior.  However, through positive relationships with peers and adults this exploration can be a healthy exploration of rules and limitations that results in an understanding of how to work within and outside of what is provided and toward innovation without the extreme legal or physical risk.

“We want to provide practical knowledge and experience in street art and its ability to be utilized as a tool for youth and community development to others in the network.”

DFY Coordinators Ilana Weaver and Alia Harvey-Quinn
Weaver agreed that criminalization of youth in the city remains a serious problem and that the Detroit Future Youth team was looking forward to examining these issues.
“This provides another perspective on youth activism in Detroit,” she said. “We hope to be adding to those perspectives with this gathering.
“Street art is criminalized although it’s basically a safe place for youth to express themselves creatively through graffiti and other arts. We are really going to be highlighting that as a tool of resistance as well as highlighting their website www.insidesouthwest.org. It’s an incredible outlet for the youth in southwest Detroit to talk about the issues that are pertinent to them and their communities.”

GM Theatre inside C.H. Wright Museum to host 2011 Green Screen Youth Film Festival

EMEAC Associate Director Lottie Spady, second from right,
stands with (from left), Leah Spady, Sabrin Salaam and
Maria Ryen outside the Charles H. Wright Museum
of African American History
DETROIT – The General Motors Theatre inside the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History will serve as the venue for the fifth annual Green Screen Youth Film Festival sponsored by the East Michigan Environmental Action Council on November 17 in Detroit. Green Screen 2011 is scheduled to get underway at 7 p.m. and will be preceded at for 4 p.m. by a special Green Room youth gathering for Green Screen filmmakers, actors and participants along with young people from the 12 organizations of the Detroit Future Youth Network inside the nearby Plymouth United Church of Christ.

“We really wanted this year to mark the fifth anniversary of Green Screen with a gala event at a location that really reflected our commitment to Detroit and its history,” said EMEAC Associate Director Lottie Spady. “The young people have always got really excited to see their name up on the marquee. I think they’ll be even more excited to know that their work is going to be featured at the GM Theatre. We think we have a venue that’s fitting of the event.”

Green Screen provides a forum where students from across southeast Michigan and beyond showcase short films with environmental themes. These films allow young filmmakers to express what they think is most crucial to their health and to the natural environment. Some films also focus on making the world, their school or neighborhood environmentally healthier.

November 1 is the entry deadline for Green Screen 2011, which celebrates youth voices and emerging environmentalism.  The three-to-five-minute short films, created entirely by young artists and aspiring young activists, span a range of environmental and social issues. 

The films are judged for cinematic merit, relevance to Southeastern Michigan, and creative messaging.  The panel of judges will consist of independent directors, environmental activists, youth activists, and a journalist.  Now in its fifth year, EMEAC gets statewide inquiries about this exciting event, as well as requests for film making workshops and demonstrations through out the year.

“This is also the fifth year for the Green Screen and it’s exciting that it has lasted for five years,” Spady said. “It’s special that it is still well received and it is looked forward to. It keeps growing in number and in size with the amount of media entries with the scope of topics that are covered. That was of the atmosphere and vibe that the event is to us. It’s all about the young people that are in it as part of the community.”

Until this year, Green Screen had been held each year at the Main Arts Theater in Royal Oak. Organizers expressed gratitude for the hospitality and support received at the former venue and thanked them for helping to build Green Screen into a sustainable community event.

“We really were happy and appreciative of them having us host the event there for the last four years,” Spady said. “With EMEAC’s focus on the work in South East Michigan and in particular Detroit with Detroit’s environmental justice issues, we really felt that it was time for the venue for this event to reflect that commitment to Detroit.”

Those sentiments were naturally extended to the young film makers and environmental activists themselves. In cooperation with the Detroit Future Youth Network, the special pre-event green room activities will be put together to provide youth with a forum to learn about and discuss environmental issues concerning them and dialogue with each other.

“In the past, we have always had some hour durves where all the young people, their parents and their teachers would all have something to eat, then go in and see the films,” Spady said. “But, they really didn’t have a chance to interact with one another.
“Through our partnership and work with the Detroit Future Youth Network, each month the organizations in the network get to get together and exchange ideas and express what’s special about their organization. They also talk about ways to collaborate, so we decided to tie that monthly event to the front end of Green Screen so that they would have a chance to see all of the people who were involved in the media making.”

Anyone interested entering a film for Green Screen 2011, sponsoring a film, volunteering or making a donation of support should call 313 559-7498 or visit www.emeac.org. Guidelines for Green Screen are as follows.
  1. Films may be up to 5 minutes in length.
  2. Film must be about an environmental issue facing your community, city or county.
  3. Topics may include but not limited to;
    1. Environmental health
    2. Alternative energy
    3. School bus emissions
    4. Urban sprawl
    5. Brownfields
    6. Recycling
    7. Climate change
    8. Stream and wetland protection
    9. Trash/ recycling
  4. Film must be suitable and appropriate for an audience of all ages. Films that promote violence will not be accepted.
  5. There are no restrictions on the art form of your film. Films may be live action, animation, claymation, still photography or any combination.
  6. Entry must be in Mini DV or Quick Time movie file on a DVD (other formats or VHS may be accepted but you need to call the EMEAC office in advanced and submit project 2 weeks before deadline).
  7. Entry must be labeled with film, title, filmmaker's name, e-mail and phone number.
  8. Participants must fill out and return an application form.

YEA receives Spirit of Detroit Award for work at 2011 Detroit Green Economy Youth Summit


Members of EMEAC's Stand Up Speak Out Program
Young Educator's Alliance from left, Donovan Murray,
Paris Smith, Sabrin Salaam, Raven, Noel Frye and
Anthony Grimmett
DETROIT -- The EMEAC youth group, Young Educators Alliance (YEA), was recently awarded with the Spirit of Detroit Award at City Hall on October 11 for their work at the 2011 Detroit Green Economy Youth Summit in September. YEA team members Siwatu Salama-Ra, Roger Boyd, Paris Smith, Knydra Jefferson, Anthony Grimmett, Donovan Murray, Noel Frye, Elayne Elliot, Sabrin Salam, Malik Harris and Raven Roberts each received certificates in recognition of their volunteer efforts for the event.

“I’m really excited and I think it definitely shows that our work is appreciated and recognized as youth leaders,” said Salama-Ra, EMEAC’s Stand Up Speak Out Program Youth Leader. “I’m real proud of the Young Educators Alliance. It was hard work going to the planning meetings in addition to the actual summit itself. Even though we got in late on the planning, they had a lot of work still to do, so we took a lot of responsibility. We didn’t plan on it that way when we walked in, but we were up to it.”

In addition to their volunteer efforts on the planning committee, the YEA team helped in facilitating events, coordinating entertainment and publicizing the event via social network media. The group said they especially enjoyed bringing their very own flavor of positive energy to the event.

“As far as the summit itself, it was real cool,” Salama-Ra said. “I did some emcee work and I tried my best. We did a little dance thing to break the shells of people. We had the live twitter feed going on. We hash tagged it out and we were almost close to becoming a trending topic on twitter. We didn’t quite get there but that was cool because we had a lot of tweets going out to Detroit Future.”

The Spirit of Detroit Award can be requested from any city council member on behalf of person, event or organization for “outstanding achievement or service to the citizens of Detroit.” The certificates were signed by all nine city council members and awarded at Councilman Ken Cockrel’s office.

DeRaina Stinson and Ahmina
Maxey show their Spirit of
Detroit Awards
“This award shows the commitment of the YEA team to the City of Detroit,” said EMEAC Associate Director Ahmina Maxey who also directs SUSO. “It shows that they are committed to the betterment of their city, and that working through the lens of environmental and social justice, they are raising awareness and creating solutions.”

EMEAC was also presented the award as a sponsor of the summit. Maxey was also recognized for her work on the planning committee.

YEA has worked on several other events since their official formation in June. The YEA led a cleaning up Cass Park, facilitated a Cook Eat Talk community engagement session around food issues at Vanguard Community Development Corporation, held a community mediation session with the North Cass Community Garden around the negative affects of gentrification, and meets regularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to discuss upcoming events.

“They have not only raised their awareness around issues, they are also actively working to be involved,” Maxey said. “Up to this point YEA has gone through the process of learning about environmental, educational, food, and many other justice issues in Detroit.”

In addition to participating in the planning of the 2012 Detroit Green Economy Youth Summit, the YEA team has several other projects planned in the coming months. Upcoming events include a “Feed One Teach One” community meeting around the recent public assistance shut offs affecting numerous families with children in the city and across the state.

“We definitely want to take some actions around the welfare shut offs happening now,” Salama-Ra said. “A lot of us are affected by it. All of us have at least one person in our families who depend on their bridge cards for assistance from the city. We want to take action around that with our Feed One, Teach One event coming up in November.

“We are doing some outreach to community members because we are all one step away. So whether you are homeless, working class, middle class or whatever it may be, we hope people will come out and talk about strategies on how to meet our needs. Whether people needs clothes, shoes, food or whatever, we hope to have something that may help.”

EMEAC volunteers and staff enjoy special volunteer night at CCCC

EMEAC Volunteer of the quarter Roger Boyd, left,
speaks at Volunteer Appreciation Night as EMEAC
Youth Leader Siwatu Salama-Ra listens on
DETROIT – In the course of doing environmental justice work in a city like Detroit, it is unfortunately a rare occasion when the staff of community organizations like EMEAC find casual time to share with the selfless people who dedicate their own free time to lend a hand in helping to improve the quality of life for their fellow citizens. Volunteers give freely of their free time to help community groups further their mission but it happens to be in the course of helping others. 

In recognition of that service and in honor of the volunteers themselves, approximately 60 volunteers and staff members came out on September 30 for EMEAC’s first Volunteer Appreciation Night gathering in McCollester Hall of the Cass Corridor Community Commons Space inside the First Universalist Unitarian Church. The event not only was a forum for staff members to express their appreciation for the efforts of volunteers, but it was also that special occasion when staff and volunteers could enjoy time in community with each other. 

“Volunteer night went very good,” said EMEAC Volunteer Coordinator Kim Sherobi. “People had a good time although it was a cold rainy night. I think that kept some people out and we didn’t get as many people as we expected, but overall I think it was good. Still the food was great and the company was great.”

Several volunteers were recognized for their exceptional work in helping the various EMEAC programs through out the year. Nineteen-year-old Roger Boyd was recognized as EMEAC’s volunteer of the quarter for his work over the summer with the Stand Up Speak Out Young Educators Alliance team, the Gardening Activism Media and Environmentalism (GAME) summer camp and the Youth Food Justice Taskforce.

“Roger came in and really stepped up for us this summer,” said EMEAC Communications Coordinator Patrick Geans-Ali. “He’s been the kind of young person that leads by example. He’s been one of the best youth leaders on our YEA team. He was a consistent presence through both phases of GAME Camp and he is taking a leading role in the development of the youth food justice taskforce.

“It’s a real credit to the city and the community in general to have young men like Roger representing Detroit. He not only has the kind of natural ability we see in so many of our young people but he’s also a very hard worker who is trying to put those gifts to use benefiting his community.”

EMEAC's Sanaa Nia Joy raffles off prizes
Other volunteers receiving special recognition were Talib Bexler of the Youth Build Program, DeRaina Stinson with ReMedia, Ms. Gligor of Detroit Institute of Technology, EMEAC’s Americorps Interns: Ashley Foresyk, Sharmin Salaam, Maria Rien and Madeline Smith and many others.

“It’s not that any one person does everything because we need the help of so many, but I want to give a shout out to Deraina,” Sherobi said. “She helped us put the video together. DeRaina spent a lot of time getting the piece together so we want to thank her, but everybody stepped up.

“I want to thank the volunteers themselves for coming out and helping to put the event together. I always think about for instance Ms. Gligor. She always steps up. As a teacher from DIT/Cody she brought at least one or two students who showed up. She’s very committed.”

Other activities at volunteer night included the raffling of over a dozen prizes, a slide show in honor of the volunteers and their work, a special presentation by M'lis Bartlette, a landscape architect student from the University of Michigan, who helped design and supervise the school landscaping under EMEAC’s Greener Schools Program and a special meal provided by CCCC partner People’s Kitchen Detroit.

“Talib volunteered several times at P3A and DIT and Nsoroma,” Sherobi added, “They’ve helped us get the gardens together, so I was glad he came out. He also won one of the prizes in the raffle. He really appreciated that and I had another volunteer tell me how much that was appreciated and of course, they are always appreciated in return.”

More than anything, EMEAC staff said it was good to be able to interact with their volunteers and get to know them on a personal level.

MSU's M'Lis Barlette gives a presentation on the
landscaping projects at DIT and P3A
“M’Lis has done a lot with the landscape design. She’s very committed. Her father helped in the landscape design. Her partner, who is a local farmer, he helped. He’s a really nice guy and of course M'Lis shows up and she just absolutely loves what she does,” Sherobi said. “Without her help, it couldn’t have happened and the wonderful thing about it was that I got a chance to even get to know her more personally. She got a chance to meet my partner, who also does urban gardening. We all got a chance to sit down at the table and talk farm talk. That was fun. It gave us all a chance to interact on a personal level.”