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!