Flint, MI – Egypt Otis says it was her background in social work that made her want to get involved in the community in an impactful way. She recently received an award at the African American Leadership Awards and has been recognized for her work as an organizer in Flint and Detroit. The Awards ceremony took place in February for Black History Month at the African American Museum of Arts in Detroit.

“I was really taken back,” Otis said of the ceremony. “It was really nice to see black and brown people coming together and getting acknowledged for the work that they were doing…Often times the work as an organizer, if you are an effective organizer, you’re out in the field, you help amplify the voices of people who otherwise wouldn’t have a platform to share their stories and their issues.”

Egypt Otis pictured with her daughter.

Otis has been involved with a number of grassroots movements. She helped start a Flint chapter of The Democratic Socialists of America. She is also co-chair of the Genesee County Human Trafficking Taskforce and was recently appointed, by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, to the board of the Child Abuse and Neglect Taskforce, which helps shape child welfare policies in the state of Michigan. The Taskforce is currently working on the protocol for reporting cases of child neglect, and steps taken after a case is reported. 

Of the Democratic Socialists of America, Otis said, “It expanded my way of thinking in terms of a lot of complex political issues. It also created my own community of people who come together for helping empower others and getting information that would be useful for them to resolve those problems that they are experiencing.”

In July of 2019, Otis became the Planned Parenthood regional community organizer for Oakland County and Flint. Otis is also working on a campaign for Fair and Equal Michigan to help amend the Elliot Larson civil rights act to extend protections to LGBTQ groups in the state of Michigan, helping to prohibit discrimination in those groups achieving housing and employment.

“It’s hard because right now,” Otis says. “In order to achieve that, we’re going through [a] citizens ballot initiative, and we need to have 350,000 signatures, and we can’t do that if we’re not out circulation petitions [because of coronavirus shutdowns]. So, it’s been a challenge, but we’re trying to be as strategic as we can in getting petitions in people’s hands while also taking precautions and making sure that we’re not putting people at risk of exposure to the virus and making sure that people are comfortable.” 

Otis says they are mailing the petitions to people’s homes so people can sign them internally and send them back.     

Staying true to staying busy, Otis has also started a jewelry line called Assata Revolutionary Swag. She makes earrings, which are adorned with pictures of women of color who have shaped the social justice world. She says she does it to carry on their legacy.   

“You see very important figures like Rosa Parks, for example, or Maya Angelou, but not a lot of people know about the Lucy Parsons of the world,” Otis said. “I think it’s important to highlight people who still have a major impact on our lives and how we shape our country, and I think they deserve that acknowledgment.”

For the future Otis says she plans to keep doing the work that she is doing, wherever she is needed. 

“I’m not one of those people that says, ‘by this time I want to be in this position.’ I’m kind of like whatever feels right, and wherever I feel like I am helping the most, that’s where I go,” Otis said. “If I see that there needs to be work done, if there is something that I bring to the table, then I’m going to nominate myself to help.”

To check out Egypt Otis’ Assata Revolutionary Swag earrings, visit her Instagram account. To learn more about the Greater Flint Democratic Socialists, check out their Facebook page. To learn more about Fair and Equal Michigan, and to request a petition, go to their website.

Allie Powers is a world traveler, avid gardener, and graduate of the University of Michigan- Flint campus. Alongside English and ecology, she studied journalism. She is involved with a small non-profit...