Renard Monczunski l EJAM 2017 Fellow
Fighting for transit rights

As a lifelong Detroit bus rider, Renard Monczunski believes the city has one of the worst transit systems in the country. As such, he was driven toward transportation justice as a career. “If no one organizes to improve our transit here in Detroit, it will not get done.”

Renard’s dedication has been followed by success. He campaigned for a Fair Fares Program to be adopted into the new charter for the City of Detroit. And he successfully campaigned to suspend fares during the COVID-19 crisis.

Part of what has contributed to Renard’s achievements was his initial training in the 2015 EJAM Michigan Economic Justice Fellowship. Before the program, he admittedly didn’t know much about justice work. Within the fellowship he learned about media narratives and messaging, studied how to start a petition and organize others toward a cause, and formed alliances with other organizers.

“It was the beginning step of me learning how to be a community leader, an organizer, and a leader maker. I’ve learned so much from my fellowship; it’s part of why I’m still in this work as a community organizer.”

Renard was deeply interested in work around economic justice and “always believed that, working class, low-income people in Detroit, Black folks, should have economic justice to redress historical pressures.” The fellowship provided the tools he needed to fuel his passion. To this day, his learnings have impacted his work as a transit justice organizer for Detroit People’s Platform.

And that work ramped up for Renard as the region and the country have dealt with issues specific to COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders. He was able to foresee the duress that lack of bus service would cause and respond quickly.

He sought suspended fares at the onset of the pandemic and a returning fare policy that “could be a great economic justice benefit to many bus riders who have already lost their jobs, or dealt with higher costs through the pandemic.”

Renard says that his work is not only rooted in economic justice, but also in racial justice as the majority of bus riders in Detroit are people of color or people who don’t speak English as their primary language.

“It’s our low-income, working class who we advocate for and organize with. And that’s all related to economic justice. If you have transit, you will exit the house and get a job.”