Monica Lewis-Patrick is one of five founders of We the People of Detroit (WPD). As president and CEO of WPD, she helps build informed, trained and supported community coalitions that mobilize Detroit citizens, and beyond, to improve their quality of life. She is now extending her influence and activism as a newly appointed member of the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) Great Lakes Water Quality Advisory Board. She will be sworn into this board on Oct. 23 in Vancouver, Canada.
Lewis-Patrick, known as the “water warrior,” focuses heavily on water rights and security. She is an active member of the Michigan Water Unity Table, Michigan State University (MSU) Water Fellows, the University of Michigan’s Water Center’s Lead & Copper Rule Committee, US Human Rights Network and the Healing Our Waters (HOW) Equity Advisory Action Council. In October 2014, she co-hosted the United Nations Rapporteurs on Water/Sanitation and Housing. There she challenged the U.N.’s Human Right to Water and Sanitation, as clean, safe and affordable water was being denied to Detroit residents. She is a co-author of the 2016 book, “Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African-American Neighborhoods in Detroit,” that documents the effects of political and economic policies and its relationship to race in Detroit.
“More than 84% of North America’s freshwater comes from the Great Lakes,” said Lewis-Patrick. “However, many minority and low-income communities near the Great Lakes and throughout the U.S. do not have access to clean water.” She explains that corporations, pollution and government funding have changed the way water is distributed, “corporations are destroying the ecosystem as they buy, manufacture and sell water. This increases its price, making it difficult for minority and low-income communities to purchase.”
Lewis-Patrick says the goal of WPD and the Great Lakes Water Quality Advisory Board is to create a pathway towards access to clean, safe and affordable water for all.
“I hope to use my positions to create programs and initiatives that get us closer to our goal.” One program that particularly excites her is the Great Lakes’ people of color (POC) water camp. The camp will be dedicated to collaborating with youth leaders of color, ages 14 to 25, around the science of clean water, the social impact of providing affordable water to all and an understanding of the cultural implications of water equity or the lack thereof.
“The camp is still in design mode right now, but we hope to have it open to young people nationwide in 2021,” said Lewis-Patrick. “I would love to see several Bennett Belles there!”
For Lewis-Patrick, Bennett College was integral in making her the woman she is today. “I love Bennett, it is in my heart, it continues to be a transformative part of my commitment to serve others. It taught me the importance of professionalism, excellence in my work and what it means to be a Bennett Belle.” She graduated from East Tennessee State University but spent three years at Bennett before transferring.