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.