Last month, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice partnered with EcoWorks to facilitate a workshop and lead a discussion at the Power Shift Midwest conference. Power Shift is a youth-led national event that holds regional conferences for local environmental organizations to come together and discuss climate justice with young organizer and activists. This year, Power Shift’s Midwest conference was hosted in the Student Center at Wayne State University. Over 100 young activists from all around the midwest attended the conference to discuss energy efficiency and climate justice initiatives taking place in the midwest.
Bryan Lewis, from EcoWorks discussed what it means to genuinely empower youth, and offered some tools for organizers to take home with them and create more effective youth programs, and Leila Mekias from DWEJ discussed organizing the Detroit Youth Climate Summit taking place for its third year this fall. Additionally, Kimberly Hill Knott introduced policy and research projects DWEJ is planning to release this fall like the Detroit Environmental Agenda (DEA) and the Climate Action Plan (CAP) through the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative (DCAC), a DWEJ initiative.
DWEJ employees Kimberly Hill Knott and Leila Mekias explained the importance of DCAC’s work by describing impacts of climate change and environmental issues specific to Detroit, and the unique work DWEJ is doing to tackle these issues by centering the needs of Detroit communities while working with the city government and other big players in Detroit like local universities and businesses to find agreements around climate issues that are right for everyone. Knott and Mekias explained how DWEJ is doing this through creating the CAP and DEA with its partners. One of many goals for these projects is to begin shifting environmental conversations to prioritize communities who need this attention the most.
After the event, Mekias commented, “Climate change threatens the quality-of-life for future generations. We are already seeing the changes, here in Detroit and around the world. It’s crucial to act now to protect and improve our environment for today’s and tomorrow’s youth. That’s why we believe in youth empowerment to act on climate change, and why it was such an honor to work with Power Shift towards our common goals.”
Apart from raising awareness around some of the flaws existing in many environmental and climate justice dialogues, DWEJ and EcoWorks were able to connect with youth dedicated to working for climate justice from around the midwest region and explore future collaborations with them, as well as get a better idea of what kinds of assistance others are looking to DWEJ to provide outside of Detroit and Michigan. Many of the attendees were interested in finding ways to incorporate DCAC’s research into their own efforts and implementing DWEJ’s work model at local organizations in their cities and states.
These conversations reminded us of the importance of our work not only in Detroit and in Michigan, but also in our nation. DWEJ is setting standards for environmental justice and advocacy work, inspiring others to do the same We are confident in the fact that what we bring to the table when collaborating with other key environmental justice organizations is unique, valuable, and necessary to accomplish our goal of achieving environmental justice for all residents of Detroit, while taking part in international conversations about climate change issues that affect everyone.
We had some wonderful folks come out to our most recent Detroit Climate Ambassador gathering on August 20th. Residents of many places in Detroit and its surrounding areas showed up to weigh in on important conversations around how to address climate issues affecting Detroit residents today and in the future.
During this month’s meet up, we were able to accomplish collectively writing a mission statement for the Detroit Climate Ambassador program. Wibke Heymach did an excellent job at facilitated a workshop which provided us with helpful guidelines and key points to highlight and focus on. We discussed creating a mission statement that is specific enough to the program, but that is also broad enough to include all the different types of projects the climate ambassadors are working on now, and will grow into in grow in the future. We split up into two groups, and each group wrote its own mission statement.
After they finished, each group shared their mission statement with the other, and we discussed how to merge our collective ideas. The final statement reads:
The Detroit Climate Ambassadors seek to build resilience to a changing climate by engaging Detroit area residents working collaboratively to center the voices and efforts of Detroit community members in their communities. We seek to connect, prepare, and take action through community-based climate action projects.
We were also able to discuss other relevant topics like the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative’s (DCAC)
Climate Stories project, and the needs and wants of some of our current climate ambassadors. The Climate Stories project, headed by DCAC and the University of Michigan Dearborn is a project that will tell the history of climate change and its impact on the city of Detroit through a documentary. The documentary will include narratives and personal interviews of some of Detroit’s residents. DCAC is looking to the climate ambassadors to share some of their climate-related stories in this project. To prepare resident story-tellers for this, the DCAC team is organizing story-telling workshops that will help people form their stories in a way that allows them to convey what they hope to and have the greatest impact possible on their audience in the time they will be given. The next workshop will be held on September 19th , 6pm at Coffee & ______ (14409 E. Jefferson Avenue). If you have a story to share about climate change and Detroit, come share your story with us, while learning some new skills!
Per the request of the climate ambassadors, we are planning to have information to both hand out and present at our next gathering on different terms used in discussing the effects of the climate change and how these effects are impacting Detroit specifically. By doing this, we will be able to work together more effectively, and we can start projects from here out with the same understanding of what we are up against.
If you’re interested in learning more about the impacting climate change, or want to know how you can be involved, join us at our next climate ambassador meeting Saturday, September 17th. Connect to us through email, or Facebook to stay tuned on further details like location and time for our next meet up, as well as new projects we’ll be working on!