Advocating for a healthy environment through innovative community and policy action that values all people.
All people benefit from environmental policies and policy processes that value the voices and reflect the will of impacted communities.
Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice (DWEJ) was officially established in 1994 with Donele Wilkins as its first Executive Director. Prior to our official creation Detroit’s People of Color Environmental Justice Organization, formed in 1991, established an agenda for environmental justice work in Detroit. Members from that group formed DWEJ to advocate for and give people of color and low-income residents in Detroit and beyond, the tools they needed to educate, advocate, and organize for cleaner, healthier communities and environments. From the start, our primary focus has been to ensure that environmental justice becomes a priority while addressing the unequal environmental burdens faced by many Detroit residents. We are best known for our history of advocating for public policy changes that create an environment free from pollution for every citizen in Detroit.
Detroit residents have identified health concerns – asthma, lead poisoning and cardiovascular disease (CVD) – that are linked to environmental issues. DWEJ focuses on working with community members to reduce these key environmental health disparities. Environmental health disparities exist when communities that are exposed to a combination of poor environmental quality and social inequities have more sickness and disease than other communities. These disparities are fueled by racist and classist policies and practices that devalue the lives of Detroiters.
Our approaches to reducing health disparities involves combining education about impacts of environmental hazards and climate change with political action to reduce the environmental factors that lead to poor health and disease. We focus collaboration, outreach, education and advocacy efforts on improving the natural and built environment so that the physical, spiritual, mental, and economic health of Detroiters is improved, protected and maintained.
OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES
We are guided by the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice, Jemez Principles and the indestructible Nguzo Saba.
We acknowledge that the land where we live, work, learn, play and pray, the place that we call Detroit, is land that was claimed by the United States through force, displacement and treaties negotiated in bad faith. We acknowledge the original stewards of this land, the Anishinaabe. This acknowledgement serves as a reminder of our ongoing efforts to recognize, reconcile and restore the lands and water that we collectively benefit from today.