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Sustainability Cultural Organizers

Cultural organizing is the strategic use of art and culture to organize for liberation.

The Sustainability Cultural Organizing program leverages the power of the arts to envision a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. Our diverse and multidisciplinary team of student Cultural Organizers (COs) bring a wide range of perspectives and experiences to this emerging SLS program. As they connect members of the arts and sustainability communities at U-M, the COs hold space to imagine and work toward building just alternatives to our racial capitalist systems. Through the development of collaborative multimedia events and art, music, and storytelling projects, COs help to create moments of joy and self-reflection, as well as opportunities for people to build community on and off campus. The driving force behind the work of the COs is to nurture visionary leadership committed to sustainability and social justice at U-M and beyond. Now and into the future.

Cultural Organizing is nothing new. For as long as humans have had culture, there has been cultural organizing. But its purpose as a tool for social and cultural change has been formalized in the past 100 or so years. The Sustainability Cultural Organizer program works within the lineage of Favianna Rodriguez and the Center for Cultural Power (CCP). CCP emphasizes that climate change, race, gender, and cultural equity are intricately interwoven and must be addressed holistically to create institutional change

Our Work

Noon at Night is a global solidarity network of transgressive learners during this crisis and the next that acknowledge interdependence across difference, utilizing foodways as a binder. A collabortation of University of Michigan students, Southeast Michigan cultural organizers and educators, and experiential learning hubs around the world. Noon at Night is 3 components: a transgressive classroom / radical educational network, a living + growth archive of global student movement work, a cafe that binds our sociopolitical solidarity across difference.

Who We Are

dawn weleski (they/she) is UM Student Life Sustainability's Artist in Residence. Weleski is internationally renowned for their participatory, politically-engaged work, activating and broadcasting the stories of individuals and groups that normative institutions fail to provide. They co-founded and co-directed Conflict Kitchen, a seven-year, seven-day-a-week restaurant that served cuisines from countries in conflict with the United States, and City Council Wrestling, where professional-ameatur wrestlers, local residents and City Council members personified their political interests into wrestling characters that figuratively and literally fought out their conflicts in the wrestling ring.

Their most recent work, Refuse Refuse: Radio, is a speculative fiction radio theatre series that dramatizes current and impending climate catastrophe throughout rural New York State. Broadcast from a mutual aid ambulance, Refuse Refuse will record and transmit survival skill-share workshops and participatory climate collapse drama and is supported by a 2024 Anonymous was a Woman Environmental Art Grant, a 2024 New York State Council on the Arts Grant, and the Harpo Foundation. They regularly exhibit and produce public projects around the world, and most recently exhibited at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum 2022-23. Weleski holds a BFA in Visual Art with a concentration in Contextual Practice from Carnegie Mellon University and a MFA in Art Practice from Stanford University.

Cat Diggs (she/her) is a second-year dual master’s degree pursuing an M.S. in Environmental Justice at the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) and in Urban & Regional Planning at Taubman College. Cat is passionate about waste justice issues, notably as they relate to the global plastics crisis and its impact on environmental justice (EJ) communities worldwide. She has experience in grassroots sustainability, EJ, education, and community-based storytelling/event planning work. Her work as a Cultural Organizer focuses on centering positionality and relationality through storytelling, as well as on elevating community voices through the collaborative planning of events where EJ and cultural self-expression intersect. She hopes to continue supporting different student-led programs at SLS in their event-making and storytelling initiatives. She aspires to establish a culture creator speaker series in the near future, which would allow off-campus artists to connect with UM’s creative community.

Nicolette Harvey (she/her) is a junior double majoring in materials engineering and art & design. Her work as a Cultural Organizer focuses on her interest in making sustainable practices more accessible and joyful. Nicolette currently runs the Excellence in Sustainability Honors Cord Program, as well as the official Cultural Organizer Instagram, @umsustiescult. She is also spearheading a campus-wide screen printing initiative, with the goal of decreasing garment waste and overconsumption.

Jasmine Paulk (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in Architecture and minoring in Food & the Environment. Her work as a Cultural Organizer focuses on her interest in food justice, working alongside UMSFP in their Cooking in Community community of practice. Jasmine is developing a social justice cooking show and hopes to foster community partnerships on and off of the UM campus.

Maria Ramirez (she/her) is a second-year master’s student at SEAS specializing in Environmental Justice with a focus on water accessibility and community health. Her work as a Cultural Organizer focuses on her interest in storytelling and collective empowerment. She believes that narrating our own personal narratives and reconnecting/ grounding ourselves to our roots and identity is a stepping stone to liberating ourselves from an extractive-centric society.

Neeka Salmasi (she/her) is a SEAS student specializing in environmental justice and ecosystem science and management. She is interested in anti-colonial approaches to environmental sciences, and the ways that these studies can bolster Indigenous rights and land defense globally. She has worked as a land defender, educator, and organizer with several frontline communities fighting extractive industries and other environmental injustices. Neeka is also a writer and is currently working on historical fiction, VATAN, based on her family's immigration story. She also is a musician working on an album in partnership with the U-M Duderstadt Center.