What's Left Ypsilanti

In Memory of Ditch Witch

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Rest in Power to our friend Lisa Leggio, AKA Brooklyn, AKA Ditch Witch, who passed away last month. She was an important activist for environmental justice in Michigan, and she will be dearly missed. As those of us who had the privilege of fighting and resisting the forces of capitalism and climate change alongside her would attest.

📷 Valerie Kay

Talented and passionate on many fronts, Brooklyn was a poet, a songwriter, a witch, a comedian, an artist, a parent, and a regular frontliner. She was truly hardcore. Facing off with the most daunting and destructive systems of power, she devoted her life to protecting the well-being of people, animals, and the earth. Always considering the safety and concerns of those around her, she approached her activism with future generations in mind. She genuinely lived by the value of mutual aid.

Although I only met her in person a few times, Brooklyn has been an important role model for me. She was there at the first direct action I ever participated in, and what stuck out to me in particular was the way she balanced rage, playfulness, mayheim, and wisdom. Her way of being and the way she interacted with me made me feel a part of something meaningful and powerful. Though I was overwhelmed and frightened, she was welcoming and caring. Her kindness to me during that action was part of what inspired me to continue showing up at actions.

“Solidarity is a fucking verb.”
— Lisa Leggio, AKA Brooklyn, AKA Ditch Witch

Brooklyn was recently quoted in the latest EF! Mag saying, “solidarity is a fucking verb.” It’s a striking claim, and, I believe it resonates with how she navigated the world. In fact, it was a quote so uniquely characteristic of Brooklyn that I could see her saying it, hear her yelling it from across the peninsula.

Since Brooklyn’s death I have been pondering the phrase and how to enact and embody it in the face of grief. Radical communities talk a lot about solidarity, and I think that mostly what we mean by this is showing up for each other on the frontlines together to dismantle systems of oppression and injustice. I think solidarity also means that we need to work collectively to heal in the wake of violence and devastation.

Brooklyn acted in solidarity with the oppressed, disadvantaged, and devastated peoples and places of the world. She did amazing work with Food Not Bombs, MICATS, Camp Promise in Flint, Leau Est La Vie, Up Hells Creek, and many other groups. She provided relief work to the victims of Hurricane Harvey, locked down to Line 3, fought Embridge and ICE. Brooklyn was always on the frontlines defending the water, the people, and the Earth.

This last week as we have been mourning her death, she continues to reveal the profound impression and guidance she has offered us. Many communities across Michigan and beyond have organized vigils to commemorate Brooklyn’s life. These vigils were not the traditional soft and somber vigils like the ones I have previously attended. Instead, they were thunderous, mischievous and booming noise demos outside of numerous prisons across the state. I think Brooklyn would have wanted a vigil like this. As we stood yelling and drumming in front of the prison, it was easy to imagine Brooklyn dancing and shouting with us. There is no better way to celebrate a fighter than to fight, and no better way to mourn a comrade than to show solidarity.

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