Building Power Training Series: Organizing 101 —— IN-PERSON ONLY

Detroit City Council

2301 Woodmere St Detroit, MI 48209 (Directions)

Patton Recreation Center

Assume this meeting is in-person only. If a Zoom link is provided, this information will be updated.

From City Council District 6 Councilmember Gabriela Santiago-Romero:

I’m excited to announce Session #2 of our Building Power Training Series: Organizing 101, How to make change in your community. Please join #TeamGSR, We The People MI Action Fund, Core City Strong, Detroit People’s Platform, Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition, and We the People of Detroit for this important workshop to build your toolbox of skills and grow community power. 💪 #leadwithlove #organizing #peoplepower

Check the source website for additional information


Edited and summarized by the Detroit - MI Documenters Team

Note-taking by Marianna Alva-Wies

Activists give advice about building collective power and organizing in Detroit.

Live reporting by Anna Harris

Activists give advice about building collective power and organizing in Detroit.

Hey Detroit! I’ll be live-tweeting the Building Power Training Series: Organizing 101 at 6pm today. Follow along for more! @DetDocumenters

04:22 PM May 24, 2023 CDT

Anna @sister_threads 3/56
This is the second in @gabysantiromero 's Building Power Training series.
Anna @sister_threads 4/56
We’re set up at Patton Rec Center in District 6. There’s pizza and water for attendees, as well as some great resources:
Anna @sister_threads 5/56
It looks like we're giving folks some time to trickle in and get settled. About 10 attendees so far, with almost as many staffers.
Anna @sister_threads 6/56
It is 6:15, and we are off! Councilmember Santiago-Romero is introducing the series and the evening. Tonight, we will talk about Organizing. @srchengn is here with @WeThePeople_MI to talk with us about the work of the organization.
Anna @sister_threads 7/56
We will have a training session, a brief break, and then a panel discussion. The councilmember's staff is doing introductions, and then we will get into Kamau's presentation.
Anna @sister_threads 8/56
We are doing introductions - lots of activists here, including @MonicaLewisPat2 , and folks from various block clubs, Detroit People's Platform, Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition, and others.
Anna @sister_threads 9/56
Kamau is sharing a story about driving home one late night in 2016 during the huge floods. He describes nightmarish conditions, trying to navigate through a city underwater. At a community meeting (hosted by @stephanielily), DWSD claimed that their power station had lost power.
Anna @sister_threads 10/56
This was an issue with DTE, and the reps from DWSD predicted further issues, with no solution in sight. This experience launched Kamau into activism around power justice and public power.
Anna @sister_threads 11/56
He talks about "full-body leadership" - head, heart, and hands: combining the data and strategy, compassion for those impacted, and the on-the-ground work of responding to issues in our communities. We need all three to succeed.
Anna @sister_threads 12/56
Some key takeaways: shared purpose is imperative. Leadership needs to balance between being the only point of decision-making ("dot leadership") and too many leaders without cohesion ("we're all leaders"). Ideally, "snowflake leadership" - branches of leaders...
Anna @sister_threads 13/56
... moving out from the center, tackling smaller and smaller pieces of the bigger issue but still tied to the central purpose.
Anna @sister_threads 14/56
Strategy is how we obtain power - "not a thing, quality, or trait, but the influence created by the relationship between interests and resources". What power can we build together? What resources are available?
Anna @sister_threads 15/56
Building relationships with our public officials is one way to wield our power as constituents - attending coffee hours, town halls, hearings and making demands of elected officials.
Anna @sister_threads 16/56
That's the end of Kamau's presentation - CM Santiago-Romero wants to review some of the slides and they will take some questions on the presentation together.
Anna @sister_threads 17/56
She talks about the importance of identifying your "2-minute story": the story of self, the event or experience that got you into the work of organizing. She talks about realizing that her family was poor as a child, and about how the local community orgs and city policy kept...
Anna @sister_threads 18/56
...the lights on and food on the table. This is what got her into activism.
Anna @sister_threads 19/56
This presentation is a distillation of a 3-day training offered by @WeThePeople_MI - attendees are encouraged to check out their work.
Anna @sister_threads 20/56
We will now see a video by Vanessa Butterworth, and organizer with @corecitystrong , who couldn’t be here tonight.
Anna @sister_threads 21/56
Core City Strong began in 2022 in response to a plan to build a concrete crusher in Core City, with Black and brown residents to be disproportionately impacted by the air pollution resulting from the facility's operations.
Anna @sister_threads 22/56
Vanessa talks through the process of defending her community against what she refers to as "an open-and-shut case of environmental racism", and wants to share some of the keys to the success of this campaign.
Anna @sister_threads 23/56
We only watched four minutes of the video, but the rest is available at the link above. CM Santiago-Romero leads a brief discussion on what we saw. The community had to come together, unified in purpose, in order to move forward.
Anna @sister_threads 24/56
We are taking a five-minute break before the panel discussion.
Anna @sister_threads 25/56
Our panel:
@gabysantiromero @MonicaLewisPat2 Simone Sagovac, and Renard Monczunski
Anna @sister_threads 26/56
Monica Lewis-Patrick is the President and CEO of We the People of Detroit. She talks about leading from the role of a Black mother and connecting to the collective power to create change in the city.
Anna @sister_threads 27/56
GSR: What does organizing mean to you? MLP talks about centering the people closest to the issue at hand, and building power in community. SS talks about starting small, doing small acts together having surprising power. RM talks the power of the collective.
Anna @sister_threads 28/56
GSR: What was your orgs most important win? Simone Sagovac talks about the first time the City's land was for sale - the state wanted to buy it (this was the era of emergency management), and talked about the process of securing community benefits as part of that sale.
Anna @sister_threads 29/56
This was a big project, spanning two countries, and required a multi-prong approach. As part of the Community Benefits Coalition, she worked to link the asks of the community to the comm. benefits package, and secured funding to demolish burned homes in the neighborhood.
Anna @sister_threads 30/56
Renard Monczunski talks about working with the Detroit People's Platform. On the topic of community benefits packages, he talks about demanding comm. benefits as part of tax abatements for corporations. The group collected 3k signatures, and they fought...
Anna @sister_threads 31/56
... against city council's "watered-down" version of the proposal. He mentions that Detroit is the first and only (not sure if that's still the case) city with a community benefits ordinance.
Anna @sister_threads 32/56
MLP talks about her work with the water affordability movement, spanning 25 yrs. She discusses the mass shutoffs during emergency management, 8-10k homes per month, and the lack of transparency from the city. Other cities have based their water affordability programs on Detroit.
Anna @sister_threads 33/56
"We weren't waiting for anyone to rescue us" -Monica Lewis-Patrick
Anna @sister_threads 34/56
GSR: How do you manage all the different approaches to organizing to achieve your organization's goals? SS mentions the limitations of organizing in Delray, where many do not have vehicles and sometimes don't use social media, so knocking on doors was the way to disseminate info.
Anna @sister_threads 35/56
There was no funding while organizing around the bridge proposal - all this work took the resources of the community. Phone calls, post cards, personal vehicles taken to Lansing, etc.
Anna @sister_threads 36/56
GSR: to MLP - tell us about the LifeLine Program introduced by the city, and what comes next for water affordability. MLP notes that this program is just about a year old, and remarks that assistance (this program) is temporary, affordability is sustainable.
Anna @sister_threads 37/56
Detroit residents pay anywhere between 10-25% of income on water - this isn't affordable. She encourages folks to call Wayne Metro to register for the LifeLine program in the meantime, but calls for a water affordability ordinance at the city level.
Anna @sister_threads 38/56
GSR: to Simone - what is the advantage of the Community Advisory Council (re: Gordie Howe Bridge) vs. the city's advisory council? SS says it almost isn't a fair comparison - the community council is connected to residents, gets officials in the room, etc.
Anna @sister_threads 39/56
She says that if you don't have an organized community to begin with, and you bring people together to discuss an issue for the first time, it's going to be hard to get things done. Relationships and empathy are fundamental to organizing.
Anna @sister_threads 40/56
GSR to Renard: it can be hard to get community buy-in, but the People's Platform have succeeded in pulling together large numbers of people - how do you do it? RM talks about a "community of care", using the "story of self" to motivate and engage residents.
Anna @sister_threads 41/56
Persistence - consistent meeting times/days. Check in on community members. Engage with collective care, gather over food and water and conversation. Set meeting standards/ground rules. Move activists into leadership using snowflake model (from presentation).
Anna @sister_threads 42/56
The number for Wayne Metro (LifeLine program for water assistance) is 313-386-9727.
Anna @sister_threads 43/56
We will take some questions from the audience.
Anna @sister_threads 44/56
GSR talks about the fight against ShotSpotter - the big goal was to deny the contract entirely, but the actual result was that different funds were used, a win for the organizers. The work continues, but we have to celebrate our wins.
Anna @sister_threads 45/56
Okay! Now we are taking audience questions.
Anna @sister_threads 46/56
A question for GSR asking for an overview on how a comm. org can leverage the power of the councilmember on their behalf. GSR talks about "power with" (rather than "power over"). She talks about having strategy, community pressure, etc.
Anna @sister_threads 47/56
A member of the West Side Coalition asks about a sign that has apparently gone up in the neighborhood from a Canadian company that they don't like, and the process of how a sign or billboard gets approved. GSR refers to a signage ordinance, and how to get a company in compliance.
Anna @sister_threads 48/56
No further questions from the audience. GSR has a couple of more questions for the panel.
Anna @sister_threads 49/56
To Renard: what are important elements of organizing? RM says that organizing is about collective power: gathering people, organizing around a problem. Advocacy is working on behalf of someone but w/o skin in the game, but organizing is power w/action, and transformative change.
Anna @sister_threads 50/56
He promotes a bus rider's orientation happening tomorrow - I will post a flyer shortly.
Anna @sister_threads 51/56
GSR asks the same of Simone. SS talks about having respect for the people and the place where you are organizing. Many times, folks outside a community don't understand what is happening inside. Respect is fundamental, dealing on the level of humanity.
Anna @sister_threads 52/56
GSR then asks for final words from Monica Lewis-Patrick. MLP quotes Coleman Young: "If you find a good fight, get in it", and adds, "and stay in it!"
Anna @sister_threads 53/56
CM Santiago-Romero makes a few announcements about upcoming events, all of which are posted on social media and via the weekly newsletter. She shouts out @DetDocumenters! The meeting ends promptly at 7:59pm.
Anna @sister_threads 54/56
This concludes my coverage of the Building Power: Organizing 101 meeting. The next meeting in the series will be announced, but will take place in Q3 2023. For more meeting coverage, check out
Anna @sister_threads 55/56
If you believe anything in these notes is inaccurate, please email us at with "Correction Request" in the subject line. Thanks, everyone!
Anna @sister_threads 56/56
Here’s the flyer for the Thursday, 5/24 event:

Agency Information

Detroit City Council

See Documenters reporting

The Detroit City Council is the legislative body of Detroit, Michigan, United States. The Council is responsible for the creation of local laws—called ordinances. Additionally they pass resolutions, motions, and the proposed city budget. The full-time council is required to meet every business day for at least 10 months of the year, with at least eight of these meetings occurring at a location besides city hall. The council may convene for special meetings at the call of the mayor or at least four members of council. Areas of responsibility for the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee include, Budget, Finance and the Auditor General.

City Council members are elected on the same cycle as the Mayor and will be elected in 2021. Seven members represent the seven council districts, while two members are elected at-large.


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