Siwatu-Salama Ra is the kind of young Detroiter who inspires hope. Raised between Northwest Detroit and California, the black mom began fighting for environmental justice in the city at just 19 years old, taking on polluters like Southwest Detroit’s Marathon Oil Refinery and the Detroit Renewable Power trash incinerator.
Now, seven years later, the 26-year-old is the co-director of the Cass Corridor’s East Michigan Environmental Action Council. In recent years she channeled her energy toward educating other young Detroit moms about nutrition and how to avoid harmful chemicals in food. Before that, she developed programs in Detroit schools to engage kids in environmental causes, and some of those students are now graduating college and building their own careers around environmental justice. She represented Detroit in events at the Paris Climate talks, and is organizing a large conference in the city that will bring together environmentalists from around the nation in May.