The Detroit Documenters program trains and pays Detroiters to attend local public meetings and monitor elected officials, in collaboration with journalists. Hundreds of local residents are active in the program, bringing more transparency to local government through their meeting notes, live tweets and civic participation. 

For a community development class at Wayne State University in early 2021, Rukiya Colvin took notes at a Roseville public meeting. It sparked their interest in the democratic process and civic engagement going on within public meetings. When their urban planning and development professor suggested students who enjoyed the assignment should check out Detroit Documenters, Rukiya did. 

As a community organizer, Rukiya thought attending public meetings would help them learn about “the inner workings of local government,” which could in turn help them think about how to challenge the status quo. After documenting public meetings in Detroit for more than a year, Rukiya is sure it’s worth attending these meetings. It applies pressure on officials since Documenters note their answers for the record

“For example, with the Housing Commission thing,” Rukiya said, “I had no idea that it would turn into a whole investigative journey exposing the housing commission and their negligence. All of that came from one of my first [Documenters] assignments.” Rukiya also recalled listening incredulously to the meeting and wondering what was really going on. 

Rukiya said Documenters notes evoke a curiosity that can be used to create change. In the next three to five years, they see Documenters notes as “a leading source in transforming the way we receive news locally.” 

Get paid to help hold local government officials accountable by documenting public meetings. Join the free training at the Detroit Documenters Orientation, Aug. 15 at 6 p.m. 

Scroll down to read more about Rukiya and how you can connect with them on community projects and/or stories. 


Rukiya Colvin

What I do:

I approach the world with a curious lens! I like to wander to new spaces, engage in thought-provoking conversation, read a juicy book, garden and frolic in nature. 

My day to day looks like some community organizing work, writing, having fun with my kid and dogs, and spending time with friends.

What I love about it:

The people I get to share space with and interact with on any given day. I value the fact that our individual life paths are all unique and am motivated by the different perspectives and what it means to work collectively in any given space provided that knowing.

Outside of that, my son motivates me to do the things that I do. I like to think that I’m providing him the tools and resources to move through the sick, sad world we’re faced with and because of that I persist in meaningful work.

One thing I want to get from the Documenters community:

I want to learn more about the inner workings of local government and the decision-making process involved in any given department. This is the first step to thinking through how to implement change/challenge status quo when needed.

One thing I can give to the Documenters community:

My connections to community. I know and have connections to a lot of people and spaces, from grassroots to institutional. I like to see the importance in finding connections between those spaces and try to connect folks whenever it makes sense to.

Which music album do you go back to over and over again?

“When I Get Home” by Solange

I mean, look at the material! But seriously, I see this as a spiritual album, and it resonates heavily for me as I see it representing coming back to self when you may have been lost for a while. It’s also musically pleasing, and I love the production. An underrated album that provides me comfort.

How you can reach me: 

Twitter: @Rukiya_C

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Lynelle (she/her) likes working with Documenters because she thinks it’s important for us to share our news and our voices with our neighbors and networks. Her favorite spaces in Detroit are the urban gardens that promote peace, hope, health and healing.