April 25th, 2017
Detroit Joins Hundred of Thousands to March for Climate Justice Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty Electablog
Three years ago, I was fortunate enough to join nearly 400,000 people in New York City for what has been called the “largest climate-change demonstration in history.” I was in NYC with water warrior, Monica Lewis Patrick of We the People of Detroit to attend the climate march and facilitate a workshop on water at the Church Center for the United Nations for International Day of Peace. We were also there to pay our respects to Ancestor Ruby Dee and attend her memorial on behalf of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, particularly her longtime friend Grace Lee Boggs. The memorial was fittingly a star-studded affair held at the historic Riverside Church in Manhattan. I don’t think I had a dry eye during the entire affair. I can only hope that I can do half the things Mama Ruby did to advance the cause for human rights.
The experience talking about environmental injustices and grassroots visionary resistance with organizers from Chile, Malaysia, and Appalachia at the UN convening was transformative. Monica was there to represent Detroit, and that she did. She made such an impression, that subsequent speakers referenced her in their presentations.
It was difficult for me to hold my composure as I listened to the stories of water injustices that spanned the globe. Part of my role was to listen with Water and Sanitation Expert Leanne Burney from UN DESA and to help synthesize what we heard to the public. There was also a moment where I was able to participate in role-play as Mother Earth. The events of that day forever changed how I view and interact with the earth.
By the time Monica and I made it to the People’s Climate March the following day we were emotionally full and a bit overwhelmed. As we headed towards the end of the enormous line of hundreds of thousands of people, organizers recognized our We The People of Detroit t-shirts and we were escorted respectfully to the head of the line. We were acknowledged as front line community members facing and struggling against tremendous environmental injustices. It was rewarding to see Detroit acknowledged in such a way.
When we arrived at the front of the line we were united with our comrades from the East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC), an organization consistently spearheading environmental justice organizing in Detroit. It was a tough time for all of us to be in New York, as EMEAC, Detroit and people all over the world had just lost our beloved Charity Hicks to a hit and run accident there a few months earlier. Charity was what I have lovingly called, the “Rosa Parks of water.” Seeing people from various cities and countries in tears at the mention of Charity’s name during Monica’s water demonstration at the UN a day earlier made clear her global impact. Chile even mentioned to us that they would be honoring her work.
It was soul growing to participate in the People’s Climate March and to share space with hundreds of thousands of people struggling for a better society and a healthier planet. So, when I was asked to join the organizing team for the Detroit People’s Climate March, I leaped at the opportunity. Detroiters have suffered significant health challenges because of a myriad of environmental injustices. The Detroit People’s Climate March provides an opportunity to shine a brighter light on those injustices, as well as to lift up the work of residents, organizers and environmental justice activists who have been on the frontlines of the struggle. The march also provides an opportunity for those Detroiters who cannot make the trek to DC for the People’s Climate March.
The Detroit People’s Climate March programming will begin in the auditorium of the Charles H. Wright Museum 315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit, MI 48201 at 12pm and will be followed by a march outside of the museum at 12:45pm.
Following the march, we will end with “The Future of Detroit is NOW” celebration at nearby Peck Park from 2-4pm.
There are also some exciting ways to support leading up to the march. You can join us for the 2nd Detroit People’s Climate Art Build on April 24, 2017 from 3pm at Cass Corridor Commons 4605 Cass Ave., Detroit, MI 48201. We are hoping to make two 5x3ft banners and 50 -100 signs. Donations of supplies are being accepted. Check out this video if you need a little more inspiration.
We hope to see you at the march on April 29th!
#DetroitClimateMarch #PeoplesClimateMarch #PeoplesClimate
Thinking for Ourselves
Water, Detroit and Earth Day
This year there was a renewed energy in the celebrations of Earth Day. Facing an administration that has shown little regard for evidence, climate protection, ecology, or funding for basic research, scientists and their friends called for a March for Science.
“This Earth Day, join the effort to defend the vital public service role science plays in our communities and our world. Science serves all of us.
It protects our air and water, preserves our planet, saves lives with medical treatments, creates new industries, puts food on our tables, educates the next generation, and safeguards our future.”
This is not the first time scientists have felt compelled to bring their skills and intellect to the discussion of public policies. After WWII scientists helped us understand the enormity of the dangers the world faced from nuclear weapons. Their voices were critical in advancing the global movement to reduce the madness of the nuclear arms race. Later they extended this understanding to nuclear power plants and waste.
In the 1990s it was science, especially here in Michigan, that demonstrated the link between environmental degradation and racism. The School of Natural Resources helped give birth to the Environmental Justice Movement by documenting the clear correlations of toxic dumping and communities of color across the country.
Globally more than 600 cities joined in the celebration of Earth Day to support science. Here in Michigan at least 15 cities participated, along with countless school, church and community events. People walked and ran for science, made art, visited zoos and parks. In Detroit thousands gathered at Hart Plaza, many emphasizing the importance of the Great Lakes.
Last month the Trump administration proposed eliminating the $300 million annually spent on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This effort has been critically important in improving water quality and restoring the vitality of the entire water system.
In the face of all of this activity encouraging us to think more deeply about our responsibilities to our earth and one another, Mayor Duggan announced another round of water shut offs. His appointee, Gary Brown said nearly 18,000 homes face shut offs. Emphasizing the inability of the Duggan administration to grasp the enormity of this decision, Brown emphasized that the number is less than it was a year ago. He misses the essential point that no human being should be denied water.
In response to the news of renewed shut offs, Wenonah Hauter, the director of Food and Water Watch said, “This is absolutely unacceptable.” She went on to say:
“Community groups have been working to establish a water affordability program for over a decade, as water rates have steadily climbed over the past several years—partially to compensate for much-needed infrastructure upgrades. But nearly 40 percent of Detroit households live below the poverty line, and it is not fair to expect them to make up for the dwindling federal support for their water system. “While the city has implemented a payment assistance plan, shutoffs increased from 2015 to 2016, indicating that the plan is not working. Moreover, many of the recommendations issued by the United Nations when it investigated the shutoffs in 2014 were never implemented.”
Mayor Duggan refuses to face reality. His approach to our water crisis is based on the same willful ignorance as that of Donald Trump. He has refused to look at the science behind a water affordability plan, he has refused to look at our ecological responsibility to encourage conservation, and he has refused to explore the real public health costs to a city denying many of its most vulnerable citizens access to water.
As we approach the People’s Climate March on April 29th at the Charles H Wright Museum in Detroit at 12pm, they Mayor can be sure we will continue to demand no more shut offs. Adopt an affordability plan. There is no other path to the future.