Charity Hicks, guest on Urban Connections Food Fight! broadcast, February 22, 2014, a beloved Detroit community leader and commons advocate, died July 8 from injuries sustained after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in Manhattan, New York City. Today Urban Connections will rebroadcast segments of our February conversation with Charity.
Charity Hicks had been in a coma since being hit by a car at a bus stop on 10th Avenue on May 31st. She was in New York to speak at a conference. The medical examiner says she died of blunt impact injuries. The driver then fled the scene on foot and hasn’t been caught. Charity was involved in many local and national campaigns for the environment, water, social justice and food security and helped found the Great Lakes Commons network with many other organizations from around the lakes, including On The Commons.
Charity Mahouna Hicks
Charity Hicks was an extraordinary Detroit activist, advocate, and movement weaver. A native Detroiter raised on the lower eastside right off of the Detroit River which contributed to her love for the environment.
As a founding member of the People’s Water Board, Charity Charity helped co-lead the peoples’ response to the City’s shut-off of thousands of Detroit households for non-payment of water bills. Charity was instrumental in bringing Maude Barlow to Detroit to speak about water as part of the commons. Maude declared: “But the people of Detroit face another sinister enemy. Every day, thousands of them, in a city that is situated right by a body of water carrying one-fifth of the world’s water supply, are having their water ruthlessly cut off by men working for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Most of the residents are African American and two-thirds of the cut offs involve children, which means that in some cases, child welfare authorities are moving in to remove children from their homes as it is a requirement that there be working utilities in all homes housing children.” In May 2014 Charity was arrested and detained overnight for speaking out against water shutoffs on her block in Detroit.
She was a Master Gardener through Michigan State University-Extension, a member of Sierra Club, the Great Lakes Water COMMONS group, and several other environmental/ecological groups. She was trained in the New Economy Initiative via The Land Policy Institute of Michigan State University on place making and regional economic development.
She became a fellow of the EAT4HEALTH equitable food & agricultural policy fellowship, and the Policy Director at East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) helping to empower the Detroit community to protect, preserve, and value the land, air and water. In her food system work, she was the lead person on the team which wrote the City of Detroit Food Security Policy (2008) and the articles for the establishment of the Detroit Food Policy Council (2009), and was the initial community engager/facilitator of the Detroit Food Justice Taskforce, a collaborative of 10 community based groups, and local activists in Detroit formed in 2009 to work in the food system and urban agricultural movement to promote a justice centered food system. Charity approached the food & agricultural system from the frames of health/nutrition, environmental/ecological justice, and economic equity.
Her background includes being a Clinical Research Associate- Human Subjects with the Detroit Health Disparities Research Center of the University of Michigan: a multi-faceted longitudinal health disparity study following over 1,200 African American families in Detroit which started in 2002 and was brought to closure in 2008. She worked over 10 years in research, public policy, and community activism in Detroit on health disparities, urban ecology, and African American community organizing. Charity’s extensive background in public/community service led her to serve with several boards and committee groups in Detroit including: Detroit Public Schools Health Council, Detroit Grocery Store Coalition Steering Committee, Peoples Water Board Detroit, Future’s Taskforce of the Community Development Advocates of Detroit, Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, and The Green Taskforce Water Sub-committee. She received leadership development training from the Center for Whole Communities, The Rockwood inaugural group of Upper Midwest Leadership, and the Damu Smith Organizing & Leadership Academy-Institute of the Black World.
Charity often cross-pollinated her work to build more transformation in shifting towards lasting solutions. She held community passions and interests in economic development, environmental justice, food sovereignty, urban agriculture, place making, design-architecture, community based research, health disparities, Africana culture, restorative justice, and growing the Beloved Community.