Derrell Slaughter is the Lansing Director for Greenation, an organization that has recently formed to impress the issue of environmental justice onto the green economy debate. I recently sat down with Mr. Slaughter to find out more about his organization. You can hear the whole conversation in mp3 format here.
Brian Fadie (MPN): Tell me about Greenation - who you are and what you do? (read more...)
Derrell Slaughter: Greenation started when I was going to Wayne State University last year and I had a professor – Pastor David Alexander Bullock – he’s a philosophy professor and I had two classes with him. We started talking after class about social justice and social equity and how we can get these lower income urban centers back on their feet, but we wanted to do it in a different way – not using the methods the NAACP exactly used. Their methods were mainly through the legal system - not saying that we might not have to do that but that was their main source.
So basically [Pastor Bullock] and I started doing research on this whole green movement and this language of sustainability and started to identify that this stuff would be perfect to bring to inner city areas because sustainability covers a wide range of areas, such as how to make things more efficient and long lasting. For example, it’s not efficient to give residents of Detroit access to bad food because there are higher insurance rates, there are higher health issues, and basically the state has to pay for these people. If we can solve that problem and can get healthier food to residents of places like Highland Park or Lansing or Benton Harbor then we can have long lasting success. So basically we decided to take that message of sustainability, social equity, and environmental justice and create and organization – a green nation. […]
Right now we’re kind of in the early stages but we’re making partnerships with organizations around the state like the NAACP, Rainbow Push, Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit, City of Lansing, City of Highland Park, and the City of Detroit. These are just some of the organizations or institutions that are already working with us on this.
We had our first summit back in March. We had a very good turn out – 150 to 200 folks. We had a good mix of community folks and professionals and people came away feeling very informed and that they can do something different using this movement. That’s what we’re trying to do with these initial events and we’re having the next one around May 30th to kick off this whole green jobs thing and to introduce this to folks. That’s how we’re looking to introduce this stuff to inner city folks.
MPN: You mentioned using different tactics that hadn’t been tried before. What sort of tactics will you be trying?
Slaughter: Right. For example, I’ll just use a good one that’s relevant. There’s a green job training program already implemented through the state – through places like Lansing Community College and other colleges in the state of Michigan – it’s a decent attempt, and I know they don’t have the complete funding, but we look at it as not being a complete program. In order for it to be a real training for these folks it has to have some sort of life lessons attached to it. So not only just learning how to do a new job or career, but they also have to learn how to live more sustainable. Some of these people don’t even know how to handle money. You have to give them the tools to be successful and moving forward in life.
We’re not going to reinvent the wheel. For example, the NAACP will use rallies and those methods are still quality methods. But we just want to modify them a little bit – add our own little twist to it. The green jobs program is our first attempt to put our own twist on these methods.
MPN: So it sounds like one of your main goals is to utilize resources the state already has with the green jobs retraining program and try and make people more aware of it basically.
Slaughter: Make people more aware of it, but we’re also trying to reach out to elected officials. How can they write within a proposal or a bill maybe certain measures that we think should be in there? Trying to get more funding for programs like this is where they can really help out – more funding.
MPN: Do you have any plans to expand to any other kinds of activities outside of these summits?
Slaughter: Absolutely. The summits are kind of a kick-off to what we plan to do. We defiantly look to hold workshops in communities to really educate folks about what it means to live more sustainable and that you do have a right to request better housing or that your utility bills shouldn’t be that high because there are other ways to reduce your bill. But we’re really just trying to get the community fired up and ready to fight for some of these issues where they might think things are business as usual – no they’re not. It’s a social justice and social equity issue. You should have a right to healthy food and different things like that. And we’ll do all types of events and activities to do this.
MPN: Do you guys plan to reach out to the established environmental community to get help with this issue?
Slaughter: Absolutely, and I’m glad you brought that up because I have been spending the last few weeks trying to reach out to these established environmental groups. We’re working with the Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition – working with Brandon Knight over there – or with Tremaine Phillips over at the Michigan Environmental Council – those guys are really committed to what we want to do and we look to help one another out to help push this message of green. But before when we talked to them their focus on green was really in the abstract maybe, just talking about on making everything energy efficient, but not on the whole social equity thing. You know, this is not right. These people deserve to have quality housing that’s environmentally safe and that’s energy efficient so that they don’t have to pay as much money. I believe that by my organization reaching out to those types of people we’ve added a whole new focus to this whole green thing that no one is really talking about. So yeah we are reaching out tho those traditional environmental groups and they’re very receptive to what we’re trying to do.
MPN: What sort of reaction did you get to your first summit?
Slaughter: Nothing but 100 percent support. Every time I do a presentation or a meeting people are like “there is nothing like this out there already?” I tell them I’ve been doing stuff like this for a little over a year and no one has the focus on this social equity argument within the green movement like we do. People are very receptive. It adds another element to it.
MPN: Have you gotten much reaction from legislative officials?
Slaughter: Yes, I have, but they are politicians. So they may in good faith fully support us, but you have to stay on them. They may support you but if there are no votes attached to it – you know that kind of stuff. I know they’re supportive; we just have to stay on them.
MPN: What about the environmental justice movement interests you and makes you think it is important?
Slaughter: Let me say from my background, I have some family members that live in Detroit and some of their housing is just…I can’t believe humans live in the house. And it’s disgusting that people are allowed to live in those types of conditions. And as a result of living in those types of poorly built houses people develop asthma or other health related illnesses. I don’t think you should have to be rich to avoid those conditions. You should be able to as an American – we live in the greatest country – that’s one of the things you should be guaranteed. To live in a safe, environmentally efficient home is something I just think is a fundamental value.
MPN: How can people find out more about your organization?
Slaughter: You can find us on Facebook – just search for Greenation. You can find our blog at www.ourgreenation.blogspot.com We are busy, but we try to update those as much as possible. You can find us at our next summit that will probably be on May 30th. Just come out and support us. We need to have more young people, that was one thing our first summit was missing. We need all the support we can get.