Charity Louise Darlene Mahouna Hicks

We are among the community of activists mourning the loss of an  extraordinary friend and colleague who, on May 31, was the victim of a hit and run accident while she waited for a bus to take her to the Left Forum where she was schedule to participate on a panel. For six weeks, Charity fought for her life as fiercely as she fought for human rights and justice.

Charity had an incredibly full and accomplished life. Among her many responsibilities, she served as a national policy Fellow in the Noyes Foundation's Everybody At the Table for Health initiative, working with East Michigan Environmental Action Council and partnering with the National Family Farm Coalition. At an EAT4Health policy briefing in Washington, DC, last April, Charity declared that “Federal policy must be formed, implemented, and evaluated based on how well it eradicates poverty and alleviates systemic economic disparities.” The Foundation was proud to support Charity´s work, and our board of directors had the privilege of being directly touched by her insights, vision and analysis when she presented to us during a Detroit Board site visit in 2013.  It was an honor to have been a small part of Charity´s remarkable life and work.

Through EAT4Health, Charity was building a case to target federal loan and grant resources, guided by strong equity criteria, to finance a more localized and regionalized food system in the Detroit area. She believed that investing in food hubs, small family farmers, and urban agriculture and food enterprises would create jobs, improve nutrition, reduce diet-related disease, help remediate brownfields and generally build community well-being.  She advocated for a robust Healthy Food Finance Initiative through which federal support would spur investment in local and cooperative food infrastructure and enterprise ownership, living wage food sector jobs, and farm-to-table value chains.  She also advocated for a fair Detroit water system and helped lead the fight against inhumane water service shut-offs for even relatively small arrears that threatened thousands of households, even enduring a day in jail for her civil disobedience.

Charity was a child of Detroit, raised on its lower eastside right off the Detroit River. She loved the river, the land, and the people of her city. She pursued knowledge and developed her skills, becoming a Master Gardener through Michigan State University-Extension, training with the New Economy Initiative of The Land Policy Institute of Michigan State University on place-making and regional economic development, and joining ecological organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Great Lakes Water COMMONS group. Charity invested time in developing her own leadership skill by training with the Center for Whole Communities, the Rockwood Program, and Damu Smith Organizing & Leadership Academy-Institute of the Black World.  She always turned to a network of Detroit elders for guidance and wisdom, including her beloved mentor Lila Cabilla.

Charity's training, commitment and alacrity positioned her to serve as the lead person on the team that wrote the City of Detroit Food Security Policy (2008) and the articles for the establishment of the Detroit Food Policy Council (2009).  She also served as the initial community engager/facilitator for the Detroit Food Justice Taskforce, a collaborative of 10 community-based groups and local activists formed in 2009 to work in the food system and urban agricultural movement to promote a justice centered food system.  In 2012 she was chosen to serve as the Policy Director for East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC), and was awarded a Fellowship with EAT4Health.  Charity identified governmental programs that could support the Detroit community in building upon and protecting its assets of land, air, water and people. She approached the food and agricultural system from the frames of health/nutrition, environmental/ecological justice, and equitable economic development.

Charity served with several boards and committee groups 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 was also active in national coalitions such as the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, and the Climate Justice Alliance, as well as the international network Grassroots Global Justice. 

Charity cross-pollinated the work if multiple movements to break down silos and build a transformative social and environmental justice movement to nurture lasting solutions. As she said, "good solutions solve multiple problems."

Expressions of lessons learned from Charity are being compiled for a future resource publication that can be sent to: Charity Forever, c/o18435 Wildemere Detroit, MI  48221 or e-mailed to lcabbil@rosaparks.org, subject: Charity Forever. 

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