5E, Nsoroma take home top honors at 2011 Green Screen Youth Film Festival

December 1, 2011

Representatives of Nsoroma Institute, Five Elements
Gallery and the Ruth Ellis Center receive their awards
following Green Screen V

DETROIT -- Approximately 200 community members turned out to attend EMEAC’s Fifth Annual Green Screen Youth Environmental Film Festival on November 17 inside the General Motors Theater of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. “The Launch of the Detroit Youth Food Justice Taskforce” presented by The Five Elements Gallery took home top honors while “The Defenders,” presented by the Ashante Moja Class of Nsoroma Institute, about community members waging a legal campaign against the Detroit Incinerator took home second place honors. 

“We had a record number of supporters for this year's Green Screen and for that we are extremely grateful,” said EMEAC Associate Director Lottie Spady. “This was a very exciting Green Screen as we were celebrating its 5th anniversary which is a milestone of sorts! The decision to hold it at the Charles H Wright Museum of African American History reflected our commitment to supporting Detroit and was exciting for the young people to have their work showcased in such an elegant setting. From the responses I got, Green Screen V was a hit for youth and adults alike.”

EMEAC's Lottie Spady, left, and Piper Carter address
the Green Screen audience
Also winning awards during Green Screen V were the Ruth Ellis Center for “Not Alone and Our Shoes” in the Best Environmental Justice Documentary Media category about anti-bullying efforts on behalf of Lesbian Bi-sexual Gay Trans-gender and Queer youth. EMEAC’s Young Educators Alliance won the Innovative Media EJ Media Award for “The Liquor Store and the Green Pepper” about access to quality food outlets in Detroit. The Most Creative Food Justice Music Video went to The Heru Organization and Five Elements Gallery featuring the Gardening Activism Media and Education Summer Camp for “Bootleg Food.” The Inter-Generational Media Award went to the Palmer Park Academy Environmental Lab for their oral histories project featuring the Gardening Angels of Hannan House. 

Detroit Summer’s LAMP Project won the Innovative Environmental Solutions Category for “Another Detroit is Happening.” The Innovative Food Justice Media category was won by The Lathrup Village Children's Garden 4H and Video Club  for “Green Fridays” on the subject of healthy eating choices. Project Achieve’s “Green Screen Project” on relandscaping Southwest Detroit won for Best Innovative Environmental Justice Media. The Innovative Environmental Media Solutions and Best Youth Artistic Approach to EJ Media went to Nosroma Institute for “The Pollution Haters,” “The Pollution King,” “From the Present to the Past,” and “Stop Polluting My Earth!” The Nsoroma MC’s also won the Best Environmental Justice Video for “Pollution! Solution! Revolution!” which was also themed around the Detroit Incinerator. 
The Defenders

“I know the group Zero Waste Detroit was very excited to see so much youth media around the incinerator and it was very encouraging to see the work being undertaken by Project Achieve to build awareness around environmental justice issues in River Rouge,” Spady said. The Lathrup Village Children's Garden 4H and Video Club never disappoints, and their entry, Green Fridays, which ‘turned over a new leaf’ for school lunches was well received. 

“It was very exciting to see how our young people express themselves through music and song and the music video category was rocking with all hands in the air to Bootleg Food and Pollution! Solution! Revolution! But what I feel is one of the key evolutions of Green Screen is the definition of ‘environment’ and recognizing that it is all of the elements that comprise where you live, work, play, and learn and your ability to be safe, happy, and healthy there. The entries from Ruth Ellis Center reflecting the challenges LGBTQ youth face around bullying really shared a timely and sensitive look at safety as environment.”

Sponsors for the 2011 Green Screen V event were Alldrink, Allied Media Projects, Avalon Bakery, Barnes & Noble College WSU Campus, Boggs Center, Building A Movement, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Detroit Food Policy Council, Detroit Future Youth Network, Earthworks Urban Farms and Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Great Lakes Bioneers, Gregg Newsome, Detroit City Council Member Kenneth Cockrel Jr and the Detroit City Council Green Task Force, Hugh McDiarmid, IHM Sisters of Monroe Michigan, John King Used and Rare Books, Kathryn Lynch Underwood, Laura Lein, Lou Novak, Marwil Bookstore, Inc, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Mike Spencer, Motor City Brewery, People's Community Kitchen Detroit, Project South, Robinson Oil Company, Inc, Starbucks, Sugar Law Center, WSU Blimpie, WSU La Pita Mediterranean and Zero Waste Detroit. Together these individuals, organizations and businesses donated over $2,400 to support EMEAC’s environmental justice work in Southeastern Michigan. 

The Nsoroma MC's Michael, Antonio and Sean
in Pollution Solution Revolution!
Having established Green Screen as a Detroit-based event, EMEAC plans to host next year’s youth film festival inside the David Blair Grassroots Community Theater at EMEAC’s new home inside the Cass Corridor Community Commons, formerly the First Unitarian Universalist Church, at the corner of Forest and Cass Avenue. The facility is currently being refurbished under the direction of long-time Detroit cultural arts organizer Oya Amakisi, who has organized the annual Detroit Women of Color Film Festival and run the Detroit Grassroots Community Arts Theater. 

“By Green Screen VI, we will be housed in the David Blair Grassroots Community Theater in the Cass Corridor Commons. Green Screen will have landed so to speak,”  Spady said. “I see that leading to more community screenings throughout the year as well. Our media production workshops keep growing in reach so, I look forward to having at least one entry for each of our collaborative partner workshops next year!”

Peoples Water Board concerned about possibility that Cox decision opens door to water privatization

DETROIT -- Despite a long history of legal decisions to the contrary, specific language handed down in the November 4 federal consent decree by Federal Circuit Judge Sean Cox could lead to the eventual privatization of all the assets of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) according to members of the Detroit Peoples Water Board Coalition. 

On page eight of Cox’s ruling, the following sentence that is found on the root cause committee letter adopted by Judge Cox. 

“As a by-product of this decision, it is also clear that DWSD cannot be expected to fully comply with the Charter provisions related to Privatization (Charter Section 6-307)."

“That is very scary. That is unconstitutional. That destroys the Home Rule Charter Provision. It also effectively renders the voice of the people null and void,” said Peoples Water Board Commissioner at large Charity Hicks. “He’s effectively taken the door off the hinges to privatization the Detroit Water and Sewage Department’s Municipal Agency.”

The DWSD Home Rule Charter has very clear and direct language that says that the assets of the municipal authority of the peoples of the city of Detroit shall not be sold or transferred without the people’s consent directly. The charter also states that the DWSD, which provides water at discounted rates to much of the greater Detroit metropolitan area,  must operate on a non-profit basis. Since the early part of the last century, special interests outside of the city have unsuccessfully sought to wrest control of the water system from the city. 

Cox’s decision appears to be a clear departure from existing case law. 

“What he’s effectively doing is creating a pathway to strike off and sale pieces of the system or the whole system in tact to private industry,” Hicks said. “What he’s doing is vacating the charter and that provision of the charter that says you can’t transfer or dispose of the people’s assets without the people’s permission.”

Cox’s decision was based off recommendations made by a root cause committee set up to look into the city’s compliance with a federal consent decree handed down in 1977 over the city’s violations of the Clean Water Act. PWB members say that instead of addressing pollution concerns, the judge along with city council members Charles Pugh and Gary Brown, who comprised the root cause committee, rendered a letter undermining the charter and attacking public unions.

Members of the Detroit Peoples Water Board
protest earlier this year
This is nothing but a back room deal between Mayor (Dave) Bing and two City Councilpersons [Charles Pugh and Gary Brown], approved in secret by a Federal Judge,” AFSCME Local 207’s attorney, George Washington told the Michigan Citizen. “It has nothing to do with ending pollution and everything to do with busting unions under the authority of a Federal Court order.”

Hicks agreed. 

“The City of Detroit’s Water and Sewage Department  has been under a federal consent decree since 1977. That’s over 30 years of federal over sight. On Friday the fourth of November, the federal judge who is over seeing the case gave an opinion based upon a committee that he selected,” Hicks said. “Who’s on it is Chris Brown representing the mayor. The president of the Detroit City council, Charles Pugh. The president pro tem Gary Brown and James Fausone, representing Wayne County on the Board of Water Commissioners. Those four people met over a 60 to 90 day period and crafted together this memo supposedly underlying the root causes of the federal consent decree.

“The Detroit Waste Water Treatment Plant was violating the Clean Water Act. That’s how we entered into the federal consent decree that’s lasted over 30 years. But what happens is rather than talking about the abatement of pollution, they went straight for the jugular of the waste water treatment plant and the water system itself by talking governance, control and authority.”

In addition, the ruling literally destroyed all the collective bargaining agreements of all the employees of the water board by saying they will have to separately negotiate with the administrator according to Local 207 Secretary Treasurer Michael Mulholland

“They didn’t mention pollution at all,” Hicks said. “They didn’t mention any strategies to come into
 compliance with the Clean Water Act. They didn’t mention green or gray infrastructure. They didn’t mention any plan afoot to help strengthen the water department’s ability to buffer run off and comply with the Clean Water Act. It was all about blame the charter. Blame collective bargaining, as if that was the cause of the pollution.

“Those things have nothing to do with the pollution. We are polluting because we are not doing the system’s work to stop the pollution. But rather than deal with how we operate and look at why we are polluting, they just are out to destroy the city’s governance.

Hicks said the Peoples Water Board is seeking community support from all of Southeast Michigan to oppose any privatization of the city’s water system. 

“We would like the community to help us keep the municipal enterprise agency that serves 120 communities,” she said. “Two to three million people receive their tap water from this source which is held in the commons and free from privatization.

“We want the water system that impacts our lives. We brush our teeth. We wash clothes. We all inhabit this region and the water should be held in the public trust. It should be free from privatization. That’s just point blank. Private concerns are private concerns, but because the water is a public concern, it should be publicly held. Nobody has the right to privatize such an important resource as water. Nobody.”
“What’s really interesting is we are are gearing up for a battle to maintain DWSD as the municipal enterprise agency that is run for the benefit of the public and not for the benefit of private interests. The Peoples Water Board is still working on access and affordability. We are still working on pollution and conservation, but right here the battle is about water being held in the public trust. There is this belief being propagated by private interest that the public is inefficient. There’s this belief that the public is corrupt. There’s this belief that the public is inept. All of that is false. Just because because a municipal authority that is not for profit controls an asset does not make it inefficient, corrupt or inept. Some things should be held in the public trust.”

Youth Food Justice Taskforce launches at North End Garden

Ms. Sheila Johnson, Anthony Grimmett, Roger Boy
and EugeneMoore talk with community members
at the launch of the Youth Food Justice Taskforce
DETROIT -- The Detroit Youth Food Justice Taskforce officially launched on November 6 with a special work day event at the Moore Community Garden in Detroit’s North End neighborhood. Youth Food Justice Taskforce members were joined by the garden’s founder, Eugene Moore, other community members  and youth from the Five Elements Gallery in hopes of revitalizing a neglected community resource. 

“Of course we are just getting started,” said North End resident and co-founder of the Youth Food Justice Taskforce Anthony Grimmett.  “This is a time for learning before we actually go out and start making moves in terms of food justice. I’m really excited to get out and to do as much as I possibly can.”

Grimmett, EMEAC Volunteer of the Quarter Roger Boyd and DeRaina Stinson are spearheading EMEAC’s foray into developing youth leadership in the city’s food justice work. All three are on EMEAC’s Young Educators Alliance (YEA) Team and will be working on upcoming events like the YEA Team’s Feed One/Teach One event focusing on organizing a community response to the recently enacted public assistance cut offs. The group has also worked to put together a series of Family Dinner Night events with local schools like Palmer Park Academy and Nsoroma Institute. 

Eugene Moore of the Moore Community Garden
“They are really eager to take the lead and getting other young people to be a part of this organization,” said Sanaa Nia-Joy of EMEAC’s Greener Schools Program. “EMEAC is building up the foundation for the youth food justice taskforce. Once we have the foundational principles together and start deconstructing the Farm Bill, we’ll focus on developing a logo and trying to establish an online presence. Then, I think we will get more people in.”

During the launch the group worked on building a catch basin for the garden, putting the produce to bed for the winter and preparing the soil for the spring growing season. Their plan is to once again turn the garden into a valuable community resource by increasing the productivity of the garden and enlisting community members toparticipate in it’s upkeep. 

If all goes well, the group envisions the garden being a source of fresh produce for the local food pantry, The Storehouse of Hope. 

“The key thing was we focused on becoming more rooted to the Earth in that space where the garden is located,” Sanaa said. “We’ve put work into the community garden. We’ve put in a water catchment system, which is almost completed. We’ve put the garden to bed and we hope to expand the garden next spring to supply vegetables for the Storehouse of Hope. It’s just a few blocks from the garden.

Sanaa Nia Joy YFJTF EMEAC liason
“It went really well. I feel like it’s still in the process of jelling. We had the two young men that started this off with EMEAC and then the (Five Elements Gallery) came in with a couple of other youth. Our plan is to get the flyer out by December – especially to the Detroit Future Youth members that may be interested in participating. There were a lot of bright ideas that came out of the meeting with myself, Anthony and Roger. They are both artistic and they plan on creating somethings  for the Youth Food Justice Taskforce as an earned income strategy.”

“Maybe that’s something they can set up as a cooperative. They’ll have the pride of making money from something they would have created that takes food justice from an adult perspective to a youth perspective. That could really let them put their mark on it which is really what youth leadership development is about. We want to create an environment where young people can thrive by using their gifts and talents in a way that furthers the mission.”

DFY received at special Green Room event prior to Green Screen V

DETROIT -- With several of their member organizations submitting entries for the Fifth Annual Green Screen Youth Environmental Film Festival, Detroit Future Youth came together for their November gathering with a special Green Room reception to examine local environmental justice issues at the Plymouth United Church of Christ on November 17. Approximately 60 youth and community members representing the 12 organizations of the DFY Network came out to a special dinner prior to Green Screen and to take part in a series of EJ specific workshops.

I thought the event went very well,” said DFY Coordinator Alia Harvey-Quinn. “One of Detroit Future Youth's goals is to foster inter-sectional movement building across social, media and environmental justice issues. So, I am very pleased that Green Room activities were meant to introduce people to environmental justice and to the work of EMEAC. I hope organizations that don't explicitly do environmental justice work are now beginning to see how it is inherently relevant to their mission and incorporate environmental justice work into the work of their organizations.”

Green Room participants rotated between three workshop presentations given by EMEAC staff. The workshops were the Recycle Relay, which looked at the benefits of curbside recycling in the city; the Tap Water Challenge, which is a taste test questioning the belief that bottled water is superior to tap water; and the Flip Camera Shuffle, which focuses on empowering community members to make their own media and tell their own stories. 

“It’s always a great learning experience to work with DFY and it was energizing to host this event and give them a chance to get a closer look at the work we are doing here at EMEAC,” said EMEAC’s ReMedia Program Coordinator Patrick Geans-Ali. “The Green Room event kind of set the tone for what turned out to be our most successful Green Screen to date. The contributions to this year’s lineup by the Ruth Ellis Center, Detroit Summer, The Five Elements Gallery and The Heru played a big part in making it so.”

Both EMEAC and DFY are looking to build on their collaborations around youth media justice issues going forward. The opportunity to introduce EMEAC’s comprehensive approach to environmental justice, which includes all aspects of urban and rural environments as it relates to the human impact those environments have on people, allows for greater collaboration with all organizations concerned with social justice issues. 

“While there was definitely a significant DFY presence in the Green Screen lineup, I think many more DFY organizations could have entered,” Harvey-Quinn said. “Over half of the organizations in DFY create films with their youth. However, I don't think all of them felt like their films were 'green' enough to be in the film festival. 

“The fact is -- the vast majority of films created by DFY organizations deal with injustice, be it educational, economic or social, and many of these injustices would not exist if the setting was five miles north of Detroit. Even though we have explained the fact that that environmental justice work is broader than the physical work of bettering the natural environment, I think events like the Green Screen, which did feature environmental justice films that weren't solely about the physical environment, are now bringing that fact home for many people.”

The Green Room event closed with EMEAC Executive Director Diana Copeland and Associate Director Ahmina Maxey presenting a comprehensive look at EMEAC’s work in Southeast Michigan. Green Room also featured a live Twitter feed where attendees could tweet about the evenings events.

“I thought the event went really well.  The turnout was really great with lots of DFY organizations present,” Maxey said. “It was exciting to have the opportunity to share the work EMEAC does with so many Detroit youth, and also to hear their ideas and feedback as they learned about environmental justice.  In addition, I think having a live twitter feed during the event was a fun way to include social media in our work.  Using the website monitter.com we were able to send live feed tweets at hashtags #greenscreen and #D_FY during the workshop.  

“I would like to just thank Alia, Ilana (Weaver), Kim (Sherobi), Charity (Hicks), Diana, Sanaa (Nia-Joy), Patrick, Roger (Boyd), Siwatu (Salama-Ra), Alisha (Deen-Steindler), Paris (Smith), Raven (Roberts), Adrienne (Brown), and Angela (Newsom) for making the Green Room such a success!  But really, the Green Room is a great event that as an organization we can really use again.  The Recycle Relay, Tap Water Challenge, and Flip Camera Shuffle are great introductions to our three programs.”

Unitarians, EMEAC, MWRO strategize on standing up for families

Gilda Jacobs gives her keynote address during the
Standing Up for Families conference 
DETROIT -- With the recent government cut backs to cash assistance programs for poor families in the state of Michigan, the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Netowrk (MUUSJN) joined with the East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and other community groups in a series of workshops on November 20 to strategize about community responses at the Cass Corridor Community Commons or the First UU Church of Detroit. 

Unitarian Universalists from congregations in Detroit, Grosse Pointe, Birmingham and Ann Arbor were among those that came together to address how they can stand up for families in the wake of what appears to be a first wave of austerity measures being imposed through out the state. 

Gilda Jacobs, President of the Michigan League for Human Services, said, “Michigan has a crisis of conscience about the way it treats low income families." Jacobs, a former state representative, added that the state is cutting 25,000 families off public assistance during her keynote address. That is in addition to disabled persons who will now be cut from assistance after five years according to DHS Director Maura Corrigan.

Janet Peplin speaks during the Stand Up for Families
panel session as EMEAC's Charity Hicks, Kim Sherobi
 and others listen on
“The Standing Up for Families and Kids workshop, co-sponsored by EMEAC, the Michigan UU Social Justice Network and three UU congregations, provided an anti-dote to that crisis of conscience," said MUUSJN Director Randy Block, "Workshop participants were introduced to the tough realities. They identified strategies to assist low income families and to challenge harsh policies that oppress them."

EMEAC's Charity Hicks agrees. 

“None of the (politicians) really are confronted with the lived experience of people because they are cut off,” said Charity Hicks who also represented the Detroit Food Justice Taskforce and the Peoples Water Board Coalition during the workshops. “(Jacobs) talked about facts and how to measure the impact on people. She talked about how the average person affected by the cuts will be a seven-year-old child. That’s a second grader.”

UU discussion leader Raja Badran
Following Jacobs’ keynote, Janet Peplin of the Grosse Pointe UU Church spoke about their efforts to collect and distribute food to people in need. Hicks then spoke on the lived experience of local residents under going foreclosures and evictions. Hicks was followed by MWRO Co-Chair Marian Kramer on their efforts to organize a “Resurrection March” picket line each Thursday at noon outside the State of Michigan Building at 2044 West Grand Blvd. 

The 68 people in attendance then broke up into separate groups to brain storm around action strategies and priorities going forward. The groups focused on two main topics: advocacy and community service. 

“Afterwards, we talked about the need to be aware, to participate, to be present and to lift up the voice of people who are affected,” Hicks said. “We took questions on the end of wars. We talked about how mechanizations and computers have thrown people out of jobs. With those jobs not coming back, how do we restore community? People were interested in how to serve community. We had a question on some things that are currently working to promote the kind of values that we want to live.”

Maxey among 28 Michiganders presented with Voice of Justice Award by Sugar Law

Ahmina Maxey and Dr. Tom Stephens on a recent EJ panel

DETROIT -- EMEAC Associate Director Ahmina Maxey was one of 28 Michigan residents presented with the Maurice Sugar Voice for Justice Award by the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice on November 16 during a special "Essential Advocacy for Community Justice" reception at the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. Maxey and 27 other private citizens of the state were recognized for their roles as plaintiffs in a legal action challenging Michigan's controversial Emergency Manager Law. 

Joining Ahmina in receiving the award were Libby Brown of Jackson, Lori Christenson of Southfield, Jay Clancey of Negaunee, Betsy Coffia of Traverse City, Barbara Davenport of Pontiac, Barbara Ford of Detroit, Evelyn Foreman of Detroit, Dave Frederick of Montague, Hon. Juanita Henry of Benton Harbor, Dave Ivers of St. Clair Shores, Paul Jordan of Flint, Emma Kinnard of Benton Harbor, Maryion Lee of Flushing, Edith Lee-Payne of Detroit, Leslie Little of Detroit, Michelle Martinez of Southwest Detroit, Michael Merriweather of Ann Arbor, Pat O'Connor of Pontiac, Lisa Oliver-King of Grand Rapids, Tameka Ramsey of Pontiac, George and Brenda Reeber of Ludington, Sister Suzanne Sattler of Detroit, Marcia Sikora of Farmington Hills, Kym Spring of Grand Rapids, Jacquie Steingold of Detroit and Irene Wright of Pontiac. Their range of occupations include a Catholic nun, college professors, educators, psychologists, social workers, community organizers, wetlands biologists, college students, homemakers, business agents, a registered nurse, an anesthesia technician, an electrical contractor, an IT  professional and retirees. 

"They have all been phenomenal," said Sugar Law Executive Director Tova Perlmutter. "We have 28 people from all over the state. Some of them are from extremely beleaguered communities that already do have an emergency manager. Some of them are from communities that are at risk of having emergency managers. Some of them are from communities that probably won't have to cope with that because they are affluent, but every one of these individuals believe that this is an affront to their rights as a voter in the state of Michigan."

Also known as Public Act 4 or the "Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act", the Emergency Manager law stipulates that if the Governor designates a financial emergency for a city, he can appoint an Emergency Manager who has total control over the city’s operations—not just the finances.

When an Emergency Manager is in place, the governing body and chief administrative officer of the unit of local government are prohibited from exercising any of their powers of offices without written approval of the Emergency Manager, and their compensation and benefits are eliminated.

 Within 45 days of appointment, an Emergency Manager must develop a written financial and operating plan. 

In addition to other powers, an Emergency Manager may reject, modify, or terminate collective bargaining agreements, recommend consolidation or dissolution of units of local government.

Detroit, which has an 80 percent African American population by some estimates, is among the cities in the state under the threat of being imposed with an emergency manager. Benton Harbor, which has an over 90 percent African American population, is among those already under the measure's authority. 

"Although I did not grow up in Detroit, it has a place in my heart like nowhere else," Maxey is quoted as saying in the event's program. "I want to come back to my people, my culture and my family's home and am working hard to see Detroit rise up as a great city. However, I am fearful of living somewhere where I have no democratic rights as a citizen. This law squanders my rights as a citizen of Michigan, a resident of Ferndale and a potential Detroiter."

Sugar Law's challenge to the law is currently in litigation at the lower court level. However, Governor Rick Snyder is attempting to head off the challenge by having the case go directly before the state supreme court according to Perlmutter. 

"Right now we are in a kind of weird state because the governor has asked the Supreme Court to grab the law suit away from the lower court and to take and just go straight through to fast track it," she said. "They want to short circuit it at the supreme court level. They Supreme Court has not decided that they are going to do that.

"It’s kind of interesting because there was supposed to be this rush, rush demand, but it’s been three months since he even asked it. It’s going to be another month before the Supreme Court even gets answers to the briefs that they requested on whether they should take the case."

In the meantime, Sugar Law plans to pursue the action on behalf of the citizens of Michigan. 

"In the meantime, the trial court judge is moving ahead with it," Perlmutter said. "We’ve introduced requests for discovery. The state has said, ‘We don’t have to provide any information about how we run the state.’ We said, ‘Yeah you should,’ and we won on that issue.

"Obviously, that’s just the first procedural issue in a long complicated set of facts. Basically, the governor wants it to go straight to the supreme court because that’s how you eliminate the fact finding part of the operation. It’s just saying, ‘Let’s not make an actual decision based on the way it’s affecting people’s lives. Let’s just do what we want.’"

Whether or not the legal challenge falls on deaf ears to the state's judicial or political systems, Sugar Law, a national non-profit organization dedicated to defending the rights of working people and their communities since 1991, is hopeful that their challenge to the EM law will at least raise awareness in the court of public opinion around what many believe to be an affront to the basic principles of democracy on which our society is founded. 

"We went into this as a lawsuit, but also as a public education campaign," Perlmutter said. "It's part of how we operate because we truly believe at the Sugar Law Center that we don't just take on cases for a victory. We take on cases to work with the people in the community to try and work on issues that matter to them. 

"We have tried from the beginning to explain to the press and to the public that this is an emergency. It's an emergency for Democracy. Fiscal issues are not an emergency. The emergency for people is around their own lives. I think our legal director, John Philo captured it best when he said, 'This law is about the belief that the only people who should have voting rights are the people with wealth.'If you don't have money, Democracy is a luxury that you can't afford.'

"We don't believe that and we don't believe the people of this state believe that. We need help in getting the word out and that's part of the reason why we are doing the case. (The plaintiffs) have all given their time and their energy. They are spreading the word about this and putting lots of energy into defeating this outrage."

Peoples Water Board addresses water concerns at 2011 Great Lakes Healing Our Waters Conference

Melissa Damaschke of the Sierra Club and Lila Cabil
of the Rosa Parks Institute

DETROIT -- The Detroit Peoples Water Board presented their concerns around water access, affordability and quality to a national audience on behalf of Southeast Michigan at the Seventh Annual Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Restoration Conference which was held October 12-14 at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel.

A panel of five speakers representing the nine-organization coalition held the “Organizing for Clean and Affordable Water” Workshop in the Woodward Ballroom on October 13. The speakers were Melissa Damaschke 

Priscilla Dziubek
(Detroit Sierra Club - Great Lakes), Lila Cabbil (Raymond & Rosa Parks Institute), Priscilla Dziubek (East Michigan Environmental Action Council), Gwen Gaines (Michigan Welfare Rights Organization), Erma Leaphart (Sierra Club) and Lynna Kaucheck (Food & Water Watch).

“We’ve had some discussions about how we can come together and make a difference,” Cabbil said during her opening presentation. “The importance of these organizations is that they represent different perspectives in the community. By having a very diverse coalition, we’ve had some really excellent ideas. Our intention is to very much become a grassroots organization with some non-traditional leadership.”

The People’s Water Board is a coalition of labor, social justice, and environmental organizations
based in Detroit. They work together to confront the devastating lack of access to water faced by tens of thousands of low-income people who have had their water shut off; water pollution due to aging wastewater infrastructure; and the effort of corporate interests to gain control of Detroit’s water system. You can listen to the  panel discussion from the Healing Our Waters Conference at http://conference.healthylakes.org/conference-updates/watch-live-great-lakes-now-live-stream/.

“I thought the conference went really well,” Dziubek said. “There were actually three events about water all held simultaneously here in Detroit during Great Lakes Week - Healing Our Waters Conference, International Joint Commission Biennial Meeting, and U.S. Areas of Concern Annual Meeting. Pretty much every group working on water issues in the Great Lakes Basin was represented."
“During our workshop, response to our presentation was very positive and a lot of good questions came from the audience. We also heard the audience tell their own local stories about water issues in their own communities. One main theme that was generally agreed on was about holding water as a public commons so that it’s available for everyone – especially for future generations.”

The Peoples Water Board meets the second Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the Michigan Center for High Technology 2727 Second Avenue.