I am working with Voices for Earth Justice this summer, and they’re located in Brightmoor, a neighborhood on the northwest border of Detroit. Their mission is to reach those in the community, regardless of faith or race, and bring people together over environmental justice issues.
VEJ only has one actual staff employee, who is part-time. And a contracted staff member, who is also part-time (and my work supervisor). I didn’t know how small the organization was until I got here. While VEJ has been operating since 2002, the programs they have are all relatively new. There’s been a lot of change in structure and programming within the organization, and part of my job this summer is to help solidify and advertise these programs to reach the community. My summer research project will be focused on finding out what other urban farms/gardens are doing and how we can learn from their processes to better our urban garden, and also give them knowledge from our garden that they might not know about. The purpose is to learn and build the community together, and not think about VEJ from an individualistic perspective.
My first week in Detroit has simultaneously flown by and crawled by at the same time. It feels like I’ve already been here a month, but also like I still have so much to see and learn. It’s definitely weird living in Midtown and being so close to Downtown, and seeing all the redevelopment and money that has been poured into these areas. And then working in Brightmoor, where people used to refer to this neighborhood as “Blightmoor.” It’s easy to read about this massive wave of gentrification happening in Detroit in “How to Kill a City”, but then seeing it in real life is a whole other story. Part of me feels guilty to be an outsider coming into the city and into this neighborhood. There’s a lot of processing that I feel like I need to do still. And a lot to learn.