Pictured above: The second Write A House home under construction in February, 2015.
Hello all! This week I interviewed Sabionne Agee about her work on the next Write A House renovation. Ms. Agee is apprenticing with Zac Cruse of Zac Cruse Construction. The company did a brilliant job on the first Write A House (I should know, because I live in it) and is now beginning to work alongside Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice on the next writer's residence with Sabionne on board. I asked Sabionne a few questions about her life in Detroit and how she came to construction work as a woman in Detroit.
Casey: What part of the city did you grow up in? How do you feel about the ways Detroit has changed in your lifetime?
Sabionne: I was born and raised on the east side of Detroit. Grew up in the 300 block of Newport (Jefferson and Chalmers area). A block and a half from the Detroit river. A neighborhood where every neighbor was your parent and you dare not disrespect them or any elder. Now a days it's such a different mentality in our neighborhoods. You barely know your neighbor's or even speak to them. There's barely if any unity in the communities now. I've watched a beautiful and viable city decline in so many facets of life. The people, mentality, unity, economically, etc. Detroit was the city to come to find jobs and build families. Now it may take a person a year or more to find employment. And by that time your on your way or either homeless at that point. It's sad.
Casey: What kind of work have you done in the past? What led you to work with Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice?
Sabionne: I've worked in grocery stores, industrial plants, casinos and for myself (self employed). All in which were some type of customer service and stewarding or utility (janitorial). But in being self employed, I found how much I enjoyed cleaning, then clean outs, then painting, and also minor home repairs. So after some time I figured I should obtain my paper work (education) for what I enjoyed doing. And I began class for Environmental Technician at Green Door Initiative where I took a 16 week course where I received a state license for Lead Supervisor, Asbestos Contract Supervisor, Certified Renovator, certificates in weatherization, construction, RRP (repair, renovate, and paint), HAZWOPER (hazardous communication), 30hour OSHA. From Green Door Initiative, I found out about DWEJ (Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice) having classes for pre apprenticeships and began another 12 weeks of training for First Aid/CPR training, Your Role in the Green Environment, Roots to Success, NCRC (National Career Readiness Certificate), OJT (On the job training), 30hour OSHA, Work Readiness Certificate, and Certificate of Completion Pre - Apprenticeship Training. From there I was introduced and interviewed by Mr. Zac Cruse for Write A House Project and Zac Cruse Construction.
Casey: You just started apprenticing with Zac Cruse. What's that like, and how is it going so far?
Sabionne: I'm enjoying working in the field, around others who are masters of their trade, and really loving the hands on experience. It has been a pleasure meeting and working with Mr. Zac Cruse.
Casey: hat, if anything, do you think is important about being a woman working in construction? Do you think more women should be involved in this kind of work, and if so, why?
Sabionne: I applaud any woman in the construction trades or any non-traditional trade. And I would certainly love to see more women in the trades. I just don't think many women see it as an option. Hopefully I can help to change that soon.
Casey: Given the number of boarded up properties in the city, do you feel like your current field has more opportunities than other lines of work in Detroit?
Sabionne: Detroit is set to have construction projects for the next 5-10 years, so there is plenty of opportunities in the construction field now. And even with all the foreclosures in the city, up came a lot of home owners (buying at auction) who needs repairs and updates done to their purchase. Lots of opportunities.
Casey: What would you like to see happen in Detroit over the next 10-15 years more generally? What are you excited about looking forward?
Sabionne: In the next 10-15 years I look for Detroit to really get it's head above water and become what I recall it being in my youth. A Beautiful, Viable, Family Oriented city. Full of hopeful small business owners and home owners supporting one another. A city united and stronger than ever! So I'm excited to see what all Detroit will have to offer to its fellow Detroiters and tourism. I feel I am Detroit. Just as Detroit is a diamond in the rough... so am I. We just needed to be polished to shine! (it's coming real soon)