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.”
We at the Food Justice Task Force have now completed the first cycle of Cook Eat Talk community events in Detroit, and they were incredible.
The Task Force was sparked a couple of years ago when a national organization was looking to collaborate with food oriented activists in Detroit. A body of growers, farmers, distributors, educators and community activists came together and developed principles of alignment. It soon became clear that the partnership with the national group wasn’t the path for Detroit, so the group respectfully started working together to birth something that was 100% Detroit in people and practice. The result has been mindblowing.
Doing the six Cook Eat Talk community events wasn’t the original idea. The Task Force put a grant proposal in to the Kresge Foundation that included a workshop series that would spark networks in four parts of the city. But as the Task Force met, got to know each other and developed shared values around Detroit being a city full of unseen resources, our plans shifted.
First, we developed a shared vision. we wanted to do two things – connect Detroit to healthy local food resources, and help develop an economy of small local businesses providing this healthy local food to the city, so that Detroit’s dollars flow back into the city.
Second, we examined shared principles around Food Justice and Food Sovereignty. We wanted to uplift the Detroit we know, love and are inspired by – not approach it as a city full of victims or abandoned space.
Third, we realized that we needed a committed group to move this work through a first phase so we could learn what was possible. We settled on our membership – ten organizations that range from urban agricultural groups, to Do-It-Yourself maker/creators, to environmental organizations. We settled on these members in order to ensure that we could build clear relationships and practice accountability with each other and the community, which is hard to do when there isn’t a basic promise to stay at the table and execute the work together. We committed.
Finally, we started thinking about how to come into community. The context of this political moment in Detroit is that city keeps looking beyond our city borders for solutions to our apparent scarcity, instead of looking into the soil and people of Detroit to see the true abundance. At this time, we came across an idea – ‘invisible capital’, which spoke to the unseen skills, networks and relationships that can exist and make the difference between success and failure in the business world, and in life. We looked at each other with excitement, and curiosity – what would it look like to map the unseen food justice skills, networks and relationships in Detroit? How much invisible capital does this city have?
That was the foundation for Cook Eat Talk. Rather than come into communities with cookie cutter trainings on food justice, which many of our members could offer in their sleep, we wanted to come in as midwives for food justice networks. We believed that there are people growing food in Detroit, feeding each other, learning how to be healthy without a lot of resources, interested and investing in the local food economy. We just wanted to lift that network up into the light, so more and more Detroiters could access and celebrate it.
Each event would be fairly simple in structure, in our vision. We would get folks together to cook and eat, because that is a building block for any community process. Then we would talk – about the myths and assumptions we hold around food, about the food heroes and heroines in our neighborhoods, and about our visions for a healthy Detroit.
We identified a set of neighborhoods by zipcode, looking at where we knew there was some food based community, where the Task Force partners were doing work and had relationships, and where folks were inviting us to come. We set out to find four places, and ended up with six because folks were so excited by the idea, so ready to have these conversations. The events emerged and grew with time as well.
The work of the Task Force was to coordinate the logistics of the event, develop flyers, anything to support community members. The community members were only responsible for reaching out to their own communities, and bringing folks to the table, welcoming folks into the space, and holding us accountable to doing an event that really worked for their space and people.
In terms of outreach, it‘s been interesting. As soon as folks heard what we were doing, we started getting inquiries from all over the city, not to mention around the country and the world. People from all over Detroit wanted events, and wanted to attend the ones we had scheduled. We saw this as a good problem – Detroit is hungry for food justice.
We made the hard call not to promote the events beyond what community partners were doing, because we saw immediately that the magic of the events was in the community bonding, the pride people felt in a room filled with their neighbors, talking about the most special aspects of their neighborhood. This decision on our parts wasn’t about exclusion, but about allowing the work to root deeply with lifelong Detroiters in the most impacted zipcodes in the city, let the network deepen before it started to spread wide.
We’ve also gone on an arc of learning over the course of the events, learning key aspects of successful events such as:
▪the community host beginning and ending the event, really granting permission to the organizers and the participants to be present with each other without doubt or skepticism
▪being transparent about where the Task Force is coming from, our vision, and our commitment to keep this work moving
▪having a variety of activities for people of all ages and abilities to engage in, so that every person feels truly welcomed in and involved in the process. This included surveys where people wrote and drew their visions for Detroit, related to the People’s Movement Assembly work; surveys on grocery stores that teach people how to look out for expired food, dirty shelves or other signs of unsafe food environments, related to the Good Food Good Jobs campaign; hands on sessions in the kitchen of each space, where folks got to learn how to make their own salad dressings and salads, learn about genetically modified foods and local produce options; open conversations about what is special in each neighborhood, what is special about the food in each zip code; and more.
▪documenting the events in a way that people could participate in. Young people especially loved being given a camera and told to document their communities at these events.
▪having whole families at each event, so that people were learning about food justice together and could go home and practice together.
▪listening more than we talked. We asked questions, but the community was all the content.
We’ve also confirmed that there are thousands of people in Detroit who are taking matters into their own hands, feeding their neighbors, organizing rides to grocery stores, joining emergency food kitchens, community gardens, holding liquor stores accountable for the food they sell. Detroit knows how to feed itself, and many Detroiters understand that there is a potential for economic rebirth that really feeds Detroit, instead of economic growth that displaces and disempowers the city residents.
The next step is developing a plan to implement all the ideas that emerged from these community sessions. Folks want to create business plans, want workshops on media, want to ground truth their neighborhoods, mapping out the healthy and toxic zones in their areas, want to do art projects to uplift and educate their communities, and so much more.
What ties all these exciting ideas together is the shared goal to Just Feed Detroit.
Over three dozen commitments and resolutions focusing on grassroots solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing the city of Detroit were agreed upon at the Detroit People’s Movement Assembly (PMA) held April 28 at Sacred Heart Church. A coalition of approximately 250 concerned citizens and local activists formed groups to focus on alternative solutions with regards to Health and Healing, Media, Environmental Quality, Food Sovereignty, Neighborhood Stability and Quality Education.
The Detroit PMA has been meeting around Mayor Dave Bing’s proposed Detroit Works Project and discussing alternative visions for land use. They came together around the shared principles of Environmental Justice, the United Nation’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Earth Charter for guidance. The PMA pledged their best effort to solve Detroit’s most significant problems of the day.
"The significance of the Detroit PMA is to lift up voice, promote, collective actions, and scale up a grassroots awareness campaign on how we can help support the work," said Detroit community activist Charity Hicks who was one of the main speakers at the PMA. "It's a part of a process to develop consensus on grassroots issues and plan to improve the quality of life of community members.
"The community can build upon the existing network of organizations and individuals doing work in Detroit and take up the resolutions as commitments for actions. We are nearthing all of the work that is going on on various fronts. Promoting awareness of how all these issues are related to democracy, and board based interests of everyday people."
Below is a list of resolutions, and commitments from the Detroit PMA.
Health and Healing Justice:
What we will build:
Reframing health and healing as a human right, not as a privilege.
Healthcare belongs in the commons not the "corporate/private" sector.
Engage Future City web class in helping us build a community resource database. It will include health and healing resources, information, and education. We hope to eventually include the intersection of the other six PMA topics.
We can't only house information on-line. Therefore, create a monthly flyer distribution network, to get resources and information into the neighborhoods.
Participate in building the Midwest PMA health and healing justice network.
·We demand media that comes from and centers those actually affected, empowering folks to create our own media, lift up what we have, and move from message to action.
·We will be a people's media network, scaled to the level of change we want, to harness our power and hold the city accountable. We will prioritize low and high tech media, analyze and influence the local and national discourse, and model transparency.
·We will build a reality where communications is a human right, build media education for youth and others that teaches us to consume critically, support strategically and create with vision, and build free hot mesh wireless!
Environment as a Human Right:
We collectively support the 48217 community efforts to address the environmental injustice they face.
We need a culture shift that sees environment as a human right
We see the value of creating a public education campaign that: calls for all of us to love the environment, establishes a pollution hotline, retells the story of the environment, set up awareness and solutions in context
We want to foster a positive spirit, nurture diversity in relationships as well as healthy connections to each other and mother earth
We want to host community listening sessions
We will consider gathering at least annually to better communicate environmental concerns in our community
We believe that we need to create new models and be the change we want to see: an eco-village in Detroit, new systems of waste management, phylo and bio-remediation, green commons, green walkways, rain barrels
We want to advocate policy changes, bombard city and state officials to become environmental justice advocates. "We will connect with, develop, and leverage funding resources across our campaigns and work to really live our environmental awareness."
We commit to create an education campaign around healthy foods
We commit to collectively creating and supporting alternative distribution networks including worker-owned cooperative models and scaling up existing local food producers to get healthy and affordable food to people
We commit to supporting policy change on local and national levels
We commit to demanding a moratorium on new fast food chains and will work towards a full boycott of fast food chains in the city
We support value-based local businesses
We will host our own Food Justice PMA in Detroit and we invite all to attend
We commit to asking our own communities what their needs are and creating citizen governance
We commit to look for the common analysis by polling our neighborhoods and adopting neighborhoods to create stronger communities
We demand businesses and factories in the city hire local residents and use grassroots community based research methods
We commit to create a Sanctuary City – for safe stable neighborhoods
DISINVESTMENT FROM DETROIT WORKS
We commit to create and develop an alternative plan.
We commit to oppose government take over
We commit to build intercontinental social movements.
We commit to regionalize
We commit to strengthen/engage existing processes and existing plan.
We commit to build community home first
We commit to create regional support
We commit to find someone who can do a city audit
We commit to use alternative media strategies to uplift existing community work
We commit to utilize the DWP summit meetings to voice concern, use sign-in sheet to get commitment today’s Action Steps
·We commit to coming together after the PMA to Formulate Strategic planning group for community empowerment regarding education and moratorium on all school and library closures
·1st meeting May 6th 1264 Meldrum – Earthworks open to youth, parents, teachers, community
·We will commit to show up to rallies that support Catherine Ferguson Academy (a school dedicated to educating teen mothers and their children).
·We commit to connecting school and community (churches, non-profits, etc)
·We commit to investigating and discussing community charters as a strategy to Explore alternative plan to closings i.e. community charters
·We will commit to sharing resources and ideas in alternative media, so that people are informed on political happenings and can learn from successful models implemented locally and beyond. Specifically publication in Critical Moment’s education section
·We commit to fighting for libraries to remain open and including public libraries in discussions about the future of Detroit’s education
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.”
EMEAC staff erect banner at new office in First UU Church
Youth ages 13-18 are invited to attend EMEAC’s first annual Gardening Advocacy Media and Education (GAME) Youth Summer Camp starting with phase one of the camp June 20-30.
All three EMEAC programs will contribute to the two-phase camp. The program will include workshops on environmental justice, media strategies and urban gardening along with sponsorship to attend the 2011 Allied Media Conference June 23-26.
“I'm excited for this year's summer camp because we'll be able to expose Detroit's youth to the work EMEAC's doing in our three programs: Stand Up Speak Out, Remedia, and Greener Schools,” said EMEAC Associate Director Ahmina Maxey. “They'll be able to engage in fun, hands-on activities while also learning about environmental justice and actions they can take to improve the city.”
Camp will begin with Environmental Justice training at the new EMEAC offices inside the First Unitarian Universalist Church Complex located at the corner of Cass and Forest. After three days of fun and engaging popular education exercises on environmental justice, EMEAC will sponsor campers to attend the Allied Media Conference inside McGregor Hall on the WSU campus.
During the conference, students will document their experiences at AMC. On the Monday following AMC, there will be a debriefing with the EMEAC staff and students will begin processing their video footage for a documentation piece under the guidance of the Remedia Program.
“I’m sure the students will get so much out of the Allied Media Conference and we’re looking forward to working with them on documenting their experiences,” said Remedia Coordinator Patrick Geans-Ali. “AMC is a great place to expose young people to some of the latest innovations in media technology, and it will be fun having them working with some of that technology to record their experience.”
Phase two of the summer camp will begin July 18 and continue through August 26. The second phase of GAME 2011 will include an environmental justice tour of Detroit hosted by the Environmental Justice Office of the local Sierra Club, helping lay the ground work for Remedia’s bio friendly mobile media lab, workshops by Sarah Sidewalk of Fender Bender, development in EMEAC’s North End urban garden and more.
Youth interested in participating in EMEAC’s GAME Youth Summer Camp should call 313 559-7498 for more information.
EMEAC’s Remedia Program will once again team with the Green Guerillas out of Ithaca, New York at the upcoming Allied Media Conference 2011 to coordinate three days of media making workshops June 24-26. For the second year in a row, Remedia and the Green Guerillas will come together to coordinate AMC’s Eco-Justice Media Track, which documents the exploration the environmental landscape of Detroit to the farthest reaches of a mind/body vision of space itself through holistic health.
“I am really excited about the evolution in holistic justice work that I see taking place as evidenced by the Allied Media Conference,” said EMEAC associate director Lottie Spady who also directs the Remedia Program. “Last year was the first time there was an Eco-Justice Media Track that specifically connected environmental justice to media and digital justice. It was also the first time I had the pleasure of working closely with the Green Guerillas and other youth environmental justice media makers. I was so geeked to know there were more of ‘us’ out there.”
The Eco-Media Track will begin on Friday, June 26 with an environmental justice tour of Detroit co-sponsored by the Detroit Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice Office. The theme of the three-hour, two-bus tour is “Neighborhood Stories of Healing and Change.” Tour guides for the tour will be Spady and Rhonda Anderson of the Sierra Club EJ Office.
Participants will travel beyond the four walls of the AMC to learn about, reflect upon, and co-create eco-media that connects their home communities with environmental justice issues facing poor and underserved residents in Detroit. The tour will highlight Southwest Detroit’s industrial corridor – the most polluted zip code in the state of Michigan, which is also home to Marathon Oil, the Detroit Waste Water Treatment Plant, and the fourth largest steelmaker in the United States. The tour will engage with the local community’s long history of organizing, and fighting for environmental protection. It will also invite participants to an interactive tour to discuss and learn about the critical role environmental justice media plays in the movement.
Day two of the Eco Media Track will consist of a two-part Food Justice and Eco-Media Field Trip. The theme for part one is “What’s for Dinner?” It will send out a call to all teens hungry for real food and sustainable change. It will help answer essential questions around food justice during this field trip to a nearby farm. Participants will team up with peers and elders to prepare a zero-waste local foods group meal. With support from the Detroit Food Justice Task Force, People’s Kitchen, and Red Mesa Cuisine, this community-cooking workshop will encourage all to embrace the radical notion that “we are what we eat.” Space is limited to 24 teens; RSVP by sending an email email@example.com, or by calling607-277-2122.
Part two of the Food Justice Eco-Media Field Trip will consist of a Farm Dinner and Open Mic session on Saturday evening at the Spaulding Court Living Community. Any young people feeling under-nourished by mainstream media’s promotion of fat, sugar, and fossil fuels are invited to join Remedia and the Green Guerillas for dinner and share their vision of food justice media. This community kitchen workshop and open lens/mic event will be powered by the Green Guerrillas’ solar-powered veggie diesel bus and will encourage us all to re-define corporate food narratives and embrace the radical notion that we are what we eat. Space is limited to 24 teens; RSVP by sending an email firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling607-277-2122.
The final day of the Eco-Media Track will focus on making “Compostable Cosmic Connections: Closing Sessions for Survival and Sustainability.” On the final day of the 2011 AMC, EMEAC and the Green Guerillas will be calling all Earthy Enthusiasts as they wrap up a weekend’s worth of transformative actions. They will look at the environmental justice tour of Detroit, and a teen farm-to-fork dinner featuring local foods, kids cooking, and culinary-related multi-media arts. All are invited to partake in the last daily special on the eco-media menu: an open caucus exploring the unique connections between urban/local, land/community, (inter-galactic) universe/abundance, and composting toilets.
Finally, there will be a virtual “boxing match” where coordinators will tackle life’s contradictions while re-imagining sustainability by creating a new galaxy which balances collaboration and personal accountability; life-affirming actions and green privilege, and survival and wealth in the age of technology.
“Get.read to blast.off,” says Spady. “Last year, it was great to meet up with (the Green Guerillas) from across the nation and make something so needed and beautiful happen. From the collaboration of an environmental justice CD for fundraising to hosting a jam-packed EJ tour with on-the-spot media being made and shared, it was wonderful. This year will definitely be next level with the series of workshops that are planned. Everyone should be sure to check it out."
GIBRALTAR – Middle and high school students from Detroit Institute of Technology (DIT) and Detroit Community Schools went on a field trip last month to Humbug Marsh to take part in the rebirth, reclamation, and restoration of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. They planted trees, watched the birds, and hiked the trails of the newly restored refuge in Gibraltar, Michigan.
“The bus drove south on I-75, and as the skyline faded into the distance we passed industrial polluters like the Detroit Salt Mines, the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant, and Marathon Oil Refinery,” said Lizzy Baskerville, Coordinator for EMEAC’s Greener Schools Program which sponsored the trip. “As we approached the downriver towns of Wyandotte and Trenton, a student murmured ‘We sure aren’t in Detroit anymore.’
“Though we were definitely in new territory and 40 minutes from home, the post-industrial landscape was somewhat familiar to us. Off of busy Jefferson Ave in Gibraltar, the façade of Humbug Marsh was hardly distinguishable from its industrial neighbors- with a cyclone fence surrounding us, and a smokestack in the distance. But down a short road towards the river was the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and Humbug Marsh- the first of its kind in North America.”
Humbug Marsh is located at the intersection of the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways, so the area is important for migratory birds. Birds rely on the area’s marshes for resting and refueling, but if the river and marshes are polluted and habitat is destroyed. The birds have nowhere to stop.
“We learned that these restored habitats support 300 species of birds, including 30 species of waterfowl, 23 species of raptors, and 31 species of shorebirds, plus 117 kinds of fish, all within an urban area of six million people,” Baskerville said. “We kept trying to find the birds we heard in the trees, saw a couple toads bouncing along the trails, and stepped alongside deer and other animal tracks in the mud. It was beautiful and lush, and wet.”
“As some of these urban people visiting the refuge, we weren’t entirely prepared to hike through a muddy marsh while the rain was pouring down, but the youth were incredibly positive and eager to brave the wetness. We made our own boots and ponchos out of garbage bags and duct tape. As if signaling our dedication to Mother Nature, after an hour of withstanding the rain it stopped and the sun came out.”
With the guidance of the Humbug Marsh staff, students went on a nature hike. They planted hundreds of baby dogwood and willow “sticks” along a newly day-lighted pond. They learned about reclamation, habitat restoration, and the importance of the region’s wildlife through these activities. Most importantly, the sutdents had a lot of fun. One young woman who ventured into the middle of the pond to plant a sapling fell in, and emerged to giggles and mud caked all over her pants.
“I don’t care,” she said. “It doesn’t bother me. I’m having fun.”
For more information about Humbug Marsh visit: http://www.fws.gov/midwest