2020 Midwest Spotlight Series
We are highlighting the dynamic work of 2020 BEA Fund grantees as part of a multimedia series that will include written features sent to our listserv, social media and here on the website.
Read about our BEA Fund Grantee Spotlight organizations below.
- Citizens’ Resistance at Fermi Two
Citizens’ Resistance at Fermi Two (CRAFT) is an organization that is based in ancestral regard for the earth and its original teachings based in Southeast Michigan. The last year has been tough for many but they were able to grow, expand and connect more than in years past. Community and Field organizer Jesse Deer In Water held down digital meeting space via zoom and in person regularly for 7 months, including weekly idea building sessions, steering committee, public, one on one, and personal meetings. With that came ideas for everything they have done and still to come as they continue to work and intervene where they are able.
CRAFT's community has grown, as well as their people's skills and their abilities to work together as an evolving team. They doubled the size of people regularly involved and who attend meetings, and their newsletter and their Facebook group have nearly doubled in numbers. CRAFT's outreach and interaction with groups is as far and as thick as it has ever been. They have other types of advocacy groups repeating our talking points and people asking for our input on dealings daily. Also, their folks who can only hop in every often has grown as well, for instance, before they might have been able to call on about 5-10 people at a time to help with an action and now it’s much more.
Like many people and groups, during the time of Covid, all of their plans and regular lives were completely thrown out of balance and folks were left with their communities, families and selves to get through. This is where they were able to shine, the kind of community they are building really showed up in how they supported each other and came together to build around old, current and new ideas. They have also spread our wings a bit more and have joined state and nationwide coalitions with intentions on strengthening networks but also for info and power sharing. “We continue to do this, even against DTE Energy, a billion dollar corporation with endless resources to throw around to keep their position secure in the same communities they continue to harm,” -Jessie Collins, elder. They will continue to work diligently in the efforts. They want the wider networks and public to tap into their monthly newsletter The CRAFT Times, here https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/FPMb2oR to stay up to date on everything Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), DTE, and FERMI 2 related events, violations, actions, policy etc. Land at the website to keep up with the work they are doing: CRAFT. For more real time info and information check our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/craftcitizensresistance.
- Dream of Wild Health
The mission of Dream of Wild Health is to restore health and well-being in the Native community by recovering knowledge of and access to healthy Indigenous foods, medicines and lifeways. Today, Dream of Wild Health owns its 30-acre farm in Hugo, Minnesota, and serves the Minneapolis-St. Paul Twin Cities Native community as an independent 501(c)3 entity. Each year, Dream of Wild Health teaches Native American youth about gardening, seed preservation, cooking, and Indigenous language and culture through their youth programs. Dream of Wild Health is working to create and restore an Indigenous relationship with the land and to offer access to healthy foods and lifestyles.
In March 2020, right after the stay at home order was issued in Minnesota, they closed on an additional 20 acres of land on the same street as their existing farm. Working with their partners in the Indigenous Food Network and their regional and national partners, they began planning for this space as an incubator site for Native farmers and chefs. This site will work to solve critical supply chain gaps for Indigenous food sovereignty in the area.
One of the biggest challenges for Dream of Wild Health was continuing to coordinate their networks in the face of the compounding crises of 2020. Since they are primarily based in Minneapolis, their staff, families, youth, and wider community were significantly impacted by the murder of George Floyd and the resulting uprising which led to widespread destruction and closing of many critical stores, on top of the pandemic. Since their organization has been in the community for 20 years and many of their staff are rooted in the community, they were able to draw on their relationships to meet the need, which has also served to deepen their relationship in community and across their network.
To learn more about Dream of Wild Health visit www.dreamofwildhealth.org or follow on social media.
Donate today at www.givemn.org/organization/Dreamofwildhealth to support their work and strengthen their impact in the community.
- East Michigan Environmental Action Council
East Michigan Environmental Action Council’s (EMEAC’s) mission is to “empower the Detroit community to protect, preserve and value the land, air and water.
We build community power through environmental justice education, youth development and collaborative relationship building.” EMEAC works across sectors and with multi-issue struggles because the families they work with are forced to take on multiple systems of oppression in their everyday lives. At the core of EMEAC is their resolve to follow the lead of the community.
Their street team has been recognized for its work canvassing door to door in the area of an incinerator that closed after 30 years of struggle in Detroit. The EMEAC street team of young folks contributed to this victory by actively talking to and hearing from folks in the community who had to live, smell and breathe this stinking poison pollution and helping folks talk publicly about it. EMEAC partnered with the Detroit People's Water Board to help inform residents of an area in need of water repairs so they could put pressure on the city to make the repairs.
EMEAC is facing the challenges of Covid-19 and all of the issues of injustice confronting their communities by going door to door. They inform people about what’s going on and ask them to rise up and fight for better, safer and healthier communities. EMEAC also shares information on emergency services available and helps build trust with the people they serve.
- Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) wants to share its story of resiliency. Since 1994, LVEJO has made tremendous impacts in the lives of low-income Latinx families in Little Village, Chicago. Without LVEJO, many low-income residents would not have a platform to voice out their concerns for environmental injustice.
Unfortunately, Little Village bears the brunt of Chicago’s industrial past; it continues to be the dumping ground of pollution and environmental injustices. Over the years, LVEJO has transformed the voices of the community, organized them to bring cleaner air (shutting down Crawford coal power plant), more parks (establishing 22-acre La Villita public park), more community gardens (creating Seeds of Justice community garden), and more public transportation to the neighborhood (reinstating the 31st St public bus line in Little Village).
Since 2020, LVEJO continues to lead the fight to have a Just Transition for the former Crawford coal power plant. They do not want it turned into a multi-million dollar trucking warehouse and facility that would bring diesel truck pollution and minimum wage trucking jobs to the neighborhood. Low-income, Latinx families that live in Little Village also deserve clean air, clean water, green parks, and access to living-wage jobs and protection from the Covid-19 pandemic. LVEJO works tirelessly to make this a reality for the community.
This is not the Just Transition we fought for. Keep Target's polluting Warehouse out of Little Village.
Act now at sc.org/lvejo or text "LVEJO" to 69866
- Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition
Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition (MEJC) convened in 2011 to advance the implementation of the 2010 Environmental Justice Plan created by Gov. Granholm. During the tenure of Governor Snyder, Detroit continued to experience water shutoffs and bankruptcy, the Flint Water Crisis, fast tracking of air pollution and mining permits, fracking, and the condition of new and aging pipelines. In response, MEJC began growing its network and membership. Every two years MEJC hosts the Environmental Justice Summit. MEJC also has three research projects with the University of Michigan, does on the ground community education, and is meeting with federal, state and local governments to move the needle on EJ.
MEJC’s staff includes a lawyer, engineer, organizers, and policy analyst who indisputably commit to justice, policies that root out systemic oppression, and downward accountability. MEJC is on the precipice of moving major pieces in Michigan. What enabled MEJC to have this much influence is a commitment to grassroots, funders that are able to move money with faith that we can accomplish great things without a huge infrastructure, and strong relationships with power-building organizations like We the People-MI at the state level, and Climate Justice Alliance and Environmental Justice Community Partnership at the national level.
MEJC is pushing the limits on climate justice! They are working to ensure all people, no matter where they live or what they look like, have access to good jobs, clean air and water, and a place in the renewable energy economy.
- People for Community Recovery
People for Community Recovery’s (PCR’s) work to coordinate different networks across issue areas is based in identifying shared values as well as tangible opportunities to achieve material benefits for their communities. Their base building work is centered around providing consistent and beneficial opportunities to engage folks online as well as in-person work (Chicago). For example, PCR’s mutual aid drives to distribute clean drinking water and personal protective equipment provided an opportunity to connect with residents and share opportunities to get involved in broader organizing campaigns.
As an organization, PCR is proud that they’ve been able to support their staff during the pandemic, providing safe working conditions and extended leave for staff affected by Covid. In addition, their team stepped up to provide this mutual aid support as well as additional policy advocacy around health, housing and safety during the pandemic while also continuing to work on all of their regular programmatic, organizing and policy campaigns.
PCR believes the folks most impacted by an issue already have the solutions to address it. Environmental policy change must come from the communities on the frontlines of the climate and environmental justice crisis. PCR states “we are stronger when we work together as communities and allies in solidarity and mutuality. This takes longer, but ultimately helps us go farther.” Their progress this year with utility planning and accountability is a great example of how putting those values into action can produce real, tangible results.
- We Want Green, Too!
We Want Green, Too! prides itself on helping Veterans create and sustain a healthy and suitable lifestyle when returning home from war. Established in 2007, We Want Green, Too! started from an experimental energy efficient renovation for a home in Jackson, MI with four Veterans. After a successful renovation, the Veterans responded positively and voiced their desire to do more green building work. They returned to Detroit’s East Side to rebuild a blighted 2,200 square foot home with energy efficient retrofits to illustrate how to build homes that reduce the cost of utilities and increase health. Using green and recycled materials, and with the expertise from retired contractors and the courage of men who would not give up, they designed an affordable East Side home that has since been viewed by people around the country and world. Their goal was to present their community with a model for sustainable living built by employing its own members. What they achieved was not only this goal, but the ability to dream even bigger.
Since 2007, We Want Green, Too!’s programming has vastly expanded to include get-out-the-vote outreach, youth mentorships, crisis response and direct support for Veterans. They have also formed collaborative partnerships with local organizations such as The Villages Community Development Corporation, churches, and nonprofits, to meet and continue to understand community needs. In 2014, We Want Green, Too! joined the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition (MEJC) to focus on power-building and integrating environmental justice principles into their work. Currently, they do on-the-ground work that addresses energy justice, energy efficient housing, disinvestment, unemployment, and health in Detroit’s East Side. Upcoming events and projects include the groundbreaking of the deconstruction of blighted buildings to be rebuilt into the Motor Pool community center, and a new youth outreach initiative that will empower youth to participate in community education and organizing.
“Believe in your work, and have a laser-like focus on what it is that will be of service to your community for at least seven generations.” - We Want Green, Too!