Friday, was our youth led workshops day. We had breakfast in the campus dining hall and then made our way to the student center to partake in the student led workshops.
After workshops was lunch time and we had a really great bbq lunch then it was time for another panel. This panel was really amazing it was our Water Warrior Panel where a few people from the community and some youth & Travis from New Mexico talked about some of the water issues in both Detroit and New Mexico. It started off with Travis introducing the panel and then giving a little blessing by playing his flute. Matt and him then talks about the New Mexico acequia and how they work. Also about the Acequia Association He then has the Detroit folks talk about the issues that are going on in their communities. One lady named Valarie Jean who has five kids told us her story of when her water got turned off. Now if you don’t know in Detroit the water companies have been turning off 10s of thousands of people’s water due to lack of payment. Now these are people who literally can’t afford to pay to have their water on because it’s either having water on or paying your mortgage or your car note. Valarie tells us how one morning she wakes up and hears the water company truck outside her house getting ready to turn off her water valve. She runs outside and tells them to stop and thankfully they do but then she watches them go to each house on her block and turn off their water. She said that there were old ladies, a pregnant women, a women celebrating Ramadan and there all yelling at them to not turn off their water but sadly they don’t listen. She also talks about the times she did have her water turned off and how hard it really is to deal with having no running water. This also though brought her community together as people brought cases of water to her neighborhood and then community pots of soup and they even started having community meetings about this issue. Then we heard from Tawana a local poet and activist and she told us about the work she does as well the local activist Charity Hicks who last year July 8th, 2014 was hit by a car while at a conference fighting for the Detroit water rights. She was big on the Detroit scene fighting hard for the voices of the people who have had their water turned off. We then herd from Emma another New Mexico youth who did a research paper on this, talked about this toxic waste in one of their lakes that is near a military base. It’s been there since the ‘40s and the more it seeps into the water it can eventually turn the water coming out of their taps toxic. They ended the panel with a beautiful poem Tawana wrote called “Detroit” and then took pictures with the group.
Once the panel was done we went on to some art workshops like a poetry one led by Tawana, a music one led by Travis, and an art build/zine workshop led by me. So I led the zine/art build workshop and we had about 10 people in my workshop and the first part of it was me going over what a zine is and how you can make one and use in for activism. The rest of the time was used to make signs for our day of action on Saturday. The Youth Food Justice Zine which I helped to create was delivered on Thursday when we were at D-Town farm. So Beatriz who also helped with the Zine and I talked about the making of the zine and how we were able to afford it. Then we spent the rest of the time talking about direct action and making posters for the action. I had some great conversations with Damien a youth from Grub in Olympia, Washington about direct action and the black lives matter movement. Later once the workshops finished we had free time.
After dinner was done we made our way to the piano lounge room and had another panel with a women and her children who live in Flint, MI another town with water issues. The women talks about the terrible water that is coming out of her tap which is totally contaminated and the city is not doing anything about it. She showed some of us pictures of the crazy things that have happened to her and her family like hair loss, bad diseases, rashes, dietary restrictions and more. She said her water turns brown, green or even light blue which cause’s health issues. She said that many people have this issue with their water but are being told that it’s not harmful by the media because the government does not want to clean up this mess. This is why she runs this org called “Water You Fighting For?” which is for advocating for clean, safe, affordable water in Flint, MI. Next we all watched a documentary on Grace Lee Boggs who I talked about earlier. The documentary is on Netflix called American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs and it’s basically about her life in the civil rights moment and as a leader in this movement as an Asian-American. One quote I really liked that she said in the documentary is “Creative is the key to human liberation” also that there is no revolution without evolution.