Diana Copeland: 2013-14


 The 2013-14 Twink Frey Visiting Social Activist: 

Diana Copeland, Co-Director of East Michigan Environmental Action Council

In the fall of 2013, Diana Copeland developed an eco-feminist curriculum for youth that addresses urban environmental issues.  A key part of the curriculum is "Detroit Women Speak:  A Community Film on Race, Environmental Justice, Leadership and Gender in Detroit."  Copeland worked with 
U-M Screen Arts & Culture alum Anna Terebelo to produce the film.

As Co-Director of East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC), Copeland is familiar with providing environmental justice leadership and civic engagement training to residents of Southeast Michigan.  Since 2007, EMEAC has worked with U-M and the Detroit Public Schools to run the Greener Schools program.  This interdisciplinary arts and environmental education program engages high school students in redesigning their schoolyards and elements inside the buildings.  By improving the school environment, students gain a sense of ownership and worth. 

                  Download a copy of the Detroit Women Speak Curriculum Guide

Copeland’s new curricula builds on this model by including filmed interviews of Detroit women and teens, reflecting on how place has shaped their view of self and why having a strong sense of womanliness is important.  EMEAC has trained three young women who will take the new curriculum to the schools.   Each woman will be organizing a community group that they will facilitate throughout 2014.

"Detroit Women Speak" is a 60-minute look at how Detroit -- and the women who call it home -- have changed over time. The film explores and challenges issues of gender, environmentalism, feminism, place, race and what it means to be a leader. We meet fifteen women, ranging in age from 7 to 70, who all grew up in and currently live, work and play in the city of Detroit. The women discuss how their time growing up in Detroit affected the way they view themselves in the world and their trials and triumphs in leadership.

The women come from all over the city and identify with a variety of natural, built and toxic environments within the city, as well as a variety of cultural and racial backgrounds that are reflective of the Detroit demographic landscape. They are mothers, friends, professionals, daughters, granddaughters, artists, teachers, scholars, mentors, mentees and all lovers and defenders of the place they call home.

Two women interviewed in the film -- Halima Cassel and Siwatu Salama-Ra -- joined Diana Copeland for the film's Ann Arbor premier and a panel discussion. (Salama-Ra provided support to Copeland's creation of the Guide.) Roughly 100 students, faculty, staff and community members attended the event, which was hosted by the U-M School of Natural Resources & the Environment.  In addition to CEW and SNRE, other event co-sponsors were the School of Literature Science & the Art's departments of Afroamerican & African Studies and Women's Studies, the schools of Education and Social Work, and the Ginsberg Center for Community Service Learning. 

In addition to this public event, Diana Copeland met with students in Dr. Stephen Ward's "Urban & Community Studies" class.  They discussed Copeland's activist experience as a UM student at the School of Natural Resources & the Environment and her more recent work as a community organizer.  Of particular interest to students was the "town/gown" dichotomy that sometimes causes friction between community members and academic scholars.  A reflective learning exercise facilitated by Shari Robinson-Lynk of the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning complemented the student's discussion. 

Ms. Copeland also spent time with members of ECO Girls, a community group sponsored by Dr. Tiya Miles.  ECO Girls encourages girls to integrate environmentalism into their lives, share environmental knowledge with their communities, and contribute to environmental problem solving as future thinkers and leaders.