At the Ecology Center, preparations for the fall season have been underway. By identifying both logistical and ideological priorities for the upcoming semester of work, leaders of the organization have laid out the foundations for a season of trailblazing and meaningful environmental work that will inspire and protect the region.
Often, laying out the logistics for development at non-profit organizations seems monotonous to organize, and the planning seems to serve only as a breeder of unproductive meetings. The Ecology Center, however, has a development team composed of specialists from numerous schools of thought, and with a culmination of new voices in charge of spearheading changes in the department, engaging meetings and creative strategies arise. Recently, the development staff took a day-long retreat, hosted in the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, where we spent the day attending meetings and planning sessions in windowed conference rooms and among various biomes in the gardens. These meetings created a solid foundational understanding of the logistical work we will undertake for the remainder of the year.
Beyond creating the structure by which the development team will function, I have had the opportunity to take part in critical lobbying work in Michigan’s state capitol, Lansing, talking independently with senators and representatives about the goals of the Ecology Center, and environmental and public health goals to be considered in upcoming legislation. We discussed taking action for children’s health regarding the growing concern of lead poisoning as well as reforming infrastructure within the state for the betterment of energy policy and climate action. The experience allowed us to draw attention to the significant overlap of human health and environmental rights. A favorite moment of mine was sitting in Representative Wittenberg’s office and after introducing ourselves, his staffer said, “Wow a room full of dynamic women! I love when the room looks like this.” Being part of a team of dedicated women with brave political voices has been a rewarding experience arising from this internship.
Now, my team has begun work for an event coming up in October, where we will host a dinner accompanied with keynote speaker Mustafa Santiago Ali. Mr. Ali has worked with communities here in the United States and abroad to secure environmental, health and economic justice. He leads a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that connects the Hip Hop community to the civic process to build power and create positive change regarding climate justice. Prior to joining the Hip Hop Caucus, Mustafa served as a Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Environmental Justice, and was a founding member of the Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), where he designed and implemented many of EPA’s most successful environmental justice and community revitalization programs. I am looking so forward to being inspired by his words, and to being part of creating a channel by which his message can reach many others.