Charity Hicks, a Detroit social activist and policy director of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council, died on Tuesday in a New York hospital. Early on May 31st, Charity was waiting for a bus to take her to a panel discussion when a car veered off 10th Avenue, slammed into a hydrant and the bus stop sign, which fell on Charity’s head. She never awakened from her coma. Despite having his car, eyewitness descriptions and a first name, the police have not yet arrested the driver who fled the scene.
I met Charity several years ago at the Center for Whole Communities in Vermont. She was wearing, as she always did, African clothes of bright colors and speaking in rhetorical cascades about the world’s injustices. Heir more to the Black Power than the Civil Rights movement, she fought for dignity for all people. She devoted her life to Detroit’s oppressed, focusing on food and water security, supporting her extended family on a part-time university stipend. In May, while demonstrating against the city shutting off water to the poor, she was jailed. “The conditions,” she said, “are meant to shame you, demoralize you, criminalize you and break you down.”
She was a fighter with a very human heart, filled at times with self-doubt, subject to depression, yearning for peace in places she would never visit. “My work is in the city,” she once said. “But my heart is in the wild.”
Charity was my friend. I will miss her big heart.