George Davis: Bridging the gap between communities of color and the environmental movement
George Davis’ Green Journey: Bridging the gap between the environmental movement and communities of color
For our inaugural Michigan LCV Family story, we’ll be diving into the story of our newly-elected Board President: George Davis. We are launching this series to give an inside look into the Michigan LCV and Michigan LCV Ed Fund network, lifting up why and how they joined the environmental movement and the impact that they have in their communities both through their day jobs and with Michigan LCV
Not only is George known for his welcoming personality, as a coach of the Cranbrook Kingswood High School’s football team, and as a civic leader in Michigan, he is also known for sharing his love of music. Each day he highlights a different musical selection for his friends and loved ones to listen to on social media. You’ll find a diverse mix of artists from Earth, Wind & Fire to Chick Corea in his list of suggestions. Whatever it is that day, it is sure to put a smile on your face — something George excels at.
George has had an extensive professional career as a business, political, and community leader in Michigan. In January, he was unanimously elected as Board President of Michigan LCV, and as we close out Black History Month (with the understanding that Black History and people are to be celebrated all year), we want to celebrate George as the first Board President at Michigan LCV who is of African American descent.
George describes his pathway in the environmental world as his “green journey.” Growing up and throughout early adulthood he never saw himself as an environmentalist. He began his career working in youth programs targeting drug and dropout prevention in Detroit. This led him to work with city-wide neighborhood stabilization programs in the City of Detroit’s federally funded Empowerment Zone Initiative. His green journey began to take shape as he strived to better his community and improve Detroit neighborhoods.
George’s natural talent and knack for leadership pushed him into high-level roles with elected officials, working for State Representative Alma G. Stallworth, former City Council Member Alberta Tinsley-Talabi, and former Detroit Mayor Dennis W. Archer. Staying true to his passion for bettering his community, he tackled urban environmental issues such as blighted homes, illegal dumping, graffiti, and abandoned cars in Detroit neighborhoods.
Although these experiences introduced George to environmental issues, he credits his current role at the Detroit Salt Company (DSC) with solidifying his understanding of the broad challenges facing our environment. Learning about the planet’s cryosphere, permafrost, and the role of glaciation in the earth’s history focused his attention on the dangers of a changing climate. Understanding the nuances of weather patterns and the connection to climate change intrigued George and inspired him to act.
George ties together the facts and science with his skills in politics to diversify the environmental conversation. He uses his role now at DSC, coupled with his infectious personality and boundless charisma, to open up the dialogue between different parties and find opportunities to work together to solve Michigan’s environmental challenges.
In many ways, George sees his role at Michigan LCV as a bridge-builder between communities of color and the environmental movement, while understanding that Black and Brown people are not new to environmental issues.
“If you go down the lineage of many Black and Brown families, you’ll find that many have a history that ties into the sustainable practice of growing their own food. Urban farming is not new. Growing up in Detroit, my mother always maintained a garden with vegetables, fruits, flowers. Our neighbors did the same and let us pick apples, pears, and plums from their yards while we played outside.”
George believes that the environmental movement will be more inclusive by expanding engagement and messaging beyond rural areas and intentionally including urban areas across the state.
“We want to focus on the beauty of lakes and streams in Michigan, but you also have to focus on the cities they run through and supply.”
When it comes to local Black leaders in Michigan that inspire George, three come to mind: Theresa Landrum for her tireless activism and passion for families in her community, Dr. Tiah McKinney for her commitment to health equity in Detroit around the social determinants of health, and Mayor Dennis Archer for standing firm in the idea that Detroit is truly a world class city and moving it closer to achieving that status.
George is excited to continue his work on the Board of Michigan LCV, tackling issues that are impacting all Michigan communities and building new bridges as we work to ensure we have a safe, just and equitable environment all can enjoy.