May 2022 Edition
An e-newsletter from the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice
  • Annual Conference Recap
  • ECWTP Graduation
  • CBO News
  • Success Stories
  • Powerlands Film Fundraiser
Fifty Years is Enough!
Dr. Beverly Wright, founding executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ) and Dr. Robert D. Bullard, executive director, Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University co-convened the 8th Annual HBCU Climate Change Conference in New Orleans, April 13 – 16, 2022. This year’s conference theme was, “Fifty Years Is Enough.”

When we look back 50 years to the enactment of the Clean Air Act and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, as well as the enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1972, we see the failure of a regulatory system whose legacy is one of sickness and death resulting from chemical exposure within a landscape filled with majority people of color communities disproportionately exposed to environmental pollution across the country.

The conference addressed the need for transformative change that is only possible by dismantling the vestiges of structural racism that have facilitated the weak environmental laws and regulations, perpetuating
unequal protection of environmental justice communities.

The conference also addressed climate solution strategies using an equity and justice lens related to mitigation, adaptation, community resilience, and other major climate change challenges including transportation, energy sources, carbon emissions, green jobs/green economy, just transition, and community economic development.

Over four hundred students, faculty, faith leaders, community leaders, government officials, environmental and climate justice leaders gathered in New Orleans to participate in discussions about building just, fair and equitable climate solutions to the crisis facing frontline communities.

The first night of the conference welcomed local metro New Orleans residents along with conference participants to the Community Forum, Justice40: A Time for Righteous Investment.
L – R: Dr. Robert Bullard, Peggy Shepard, Dr. Beverly Wright, and Dr. Danielle Wright (Moderator)
Expert panelists, Dr. Beverly Wright, executive director, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Dr. Robert Bullard, executive director, Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University, and Peggy Shepard, executive director, We ACT for Environmental Justice, discussed a three prong approach to activating President Biden’s Justice40 Project.

  1. Engagement - The Deep South Center for Environmental Justice will launch a community “Engagement” project that will build the capacity of communities through education and training to participate in the “just” implementation of Justice 40.
  2. Empowerment – The Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice will use data and analysis tools to “empower” communities to advocate for Justice40 and challenge false bias and unjust project implementation.
  3. Enlighten – We ACT for Environmental Justice will utilize approaches to “enlighten” political representatives at both the local, state, and federal levels who are unaware of Justice40 and its possible benefits for their constituents.
The four-day conference included eight expert panels, five student panels, five keynote speakers, two interactive workshops, a student poster competition, a career fair, and the 2022 Damu Smith, Power of One Award, presented to Peggy Shepard for her dedication and critical leadership in environmental and climate justice over the decades.

The event featured a number of nationally known authors, researchers, practitioners and iconic figures in the environmental and climate justice arena, including Dr. Robert D. Bullard, “Father of the Environmental Justice,” Dr. Beverly Wright, DSCEJ founder and Heinz Award recipient, University of Michigan environmental justice scholar, Dr. Paul Mohai, Dr. Delta Merner, Union of Concerned Scientists, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., Hip Hop Caucus, and Dr. Calvin Mackie, Founder of STEM NOLA. This year, representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Administrator, Michael Regan (remote), Robin Collin, EPA Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Daniel Blackman, EPA Administrator Region 4, were keynote speakers on the program who have committed to making environmental justice a priority while serving vulnerable communities over burdened by pollution.
First Place Graduate Student - $500
Aara’l Yarber – “Evaluation of particulate pollution levels and sources in West African Megacities,” Pennsylvania State University
First Place Undergraduate Student - $300
Monet Murphy, “Potential Use of Benthic Foraminifera as Indicators of Sea Level Rise in the Savannah River Estuary ,” Savannah State University.
Second Place Undergraduate Student - $200
Karis Thomas - “Our Mind Controls Our Future: Examining the Connection between Cultural Orientation and Varying Support For Climate Crisis Mitigation,” Howard University.
Third Place Undergraduate Student - $100
Elise Steenburgh, “Africatown Community History Digital Archive,” Oberlin College.
First Place High School Student - $75
Jonathan Smith – “Environmental Injustice: Train up a Child to Fight Against and Make a Difference,” New Orleans Math and Science Charter High School.
The Conference hosted an Electric Vehicle (EV) Exhibit sponsored by EVHYbridNOIRE where attendees were introduced to a variety of zero emission electric vehicles. The brand-neutral display featured metro New Orleans EV drivers displaying their vehicles and educating participants.
Student participants said they were honored to have the opportunity to not only share their research but also interact with national environmental, climate justice experts and community leaders.

The HBCU Climate Change Consortium would like to thank all of the sponsors and volunteers for their generous support of the event. The conference was funded in part by the Environmental Defense Fund, the JPB Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the League of Conservation Voters, Levi Strauss Foundation, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Science Foundation, Rothy’s, the Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Winward Fund.
Twenty-Seventh ECWTP Class Graduates
On Wednesday, April 6th, DSCEJ held a graduation ceremony for 20 trainees who completed the Environmental Career Worker Training Program (ECWTP). We are happy to announce that we have successfully placed all of our graduates within one month of graduation.

The graduation took place at City Park in the Park View Terrace Room. DSCEJ administrators, staff, ECWTP Instructors and counselors were in attendance to recognize honorees who were joined by family and friends. Awards were presented per course for Best Student and Most Improved Student in Basic Skills and Technical Training.
Our Executive Director, Dr. Beverly Wright and our Keynote Speaker, Dr. Dana Andrus of Truthlink 2150, Inc. delivered words of wisdom and valuable perspective. Payton Wilkins, our Environmental Careers Program Manager, presided as Master of Ceremonies.

We are so very proud of the hard work and commitment all of our shareholders exhibit to make our twenty-seventh ECWTP class and the graduation event successful. One hundred percent (100%) environmental remediation job placement within one month!... We look to do it again in 2023.
Africatown CHESS Victory! EPA denies air pollution permit for south Alabama factory

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency struck down an air pollution permit for a chemical plant near the economically distressed area of Africatown in Mobile County, saying that the state of Alabama needed to do a better job responding to public questions about the permit.

. . .GASP senior staff attorney Haley Lewis said the group was able to identify deficiencies in the permit by working with frontline partners in Mobile such as the Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition, Africatown-CHESS (Clean, Healthy, Educated, Safe, Sustainable), and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice.

“We were able to identify serious problems in ADEM’s proposed decision to issue the air permit for the UOP facility,” Lewis said in a news release. “The parts of our Petition that EPA granted that are most impactful are EPA requiring ADEM to adequately respond to comments.”
Unity in the Family to launch Environmental Justice (EJ) Youth Exposed to Success (YES) Program
The EJ YES Program, recently funded by a Gulf Research Program (GRP) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine grant award, will launch in June. This yearly project will engage four teachers and 25 at-risk, economically disadvantaged Black fourth and fifth graders in a six-week summer STEMM program.

It will allow students to explore the environmental perils of their community; how people of color are disproportionately impacted by environmental justice, and what can be done to dismantle and/or counteract the damage. Teachers will receive 10 hours of EJL train-the-trainer instruction, enabling them to teach the EJL curriculum after the grant period has ended.
DSCEJ Trainee Showcased on National Podcast
Kendra Graves (ECWTP Class of 2020) was recently featured on the Work Green, Earn Green Podcast episode "Keeping Louisiana’s Head Above Water." Graves, now a contractor, was inspired to enroll in a DSCEJ environmental career training program after a burst pipe in her home. She graduated from the 2020 ECWTP cohort and was named “Best All Around Student" for her excellent performance in all aspects of the training. On the podcast, she speaks candidly to Jay about how this decision enabled her to start her own business helping others recover from water damage and flooding. LISTEN HERE
Documentary Film Premier Raises Funds for Residents of Gordon Plaza, United Houma Nation
On Wednesday, May 18, DSCEJ partnered with the PATOIS Film Collective to host the Southern Premier of Powerlands, a new film about Indigenous Rights and Environmental Justice. The Screening and Benefit took place at the Broad Theater in New Orleans and featured a post-screening discussion with Shannon Rainey, President of Residents of Gordon Plaza, Donny Verdin, Vice Principle Chief, United Houma Nation, Powerlands Director Ivey Camille Manybeads Tso and Powerlands Cinematographer Melisa Cardona. The post film discussion was moderated by Asti Davis, NBEJN Network Coordinator.
A total of $1,209.10 was raised through this event. Proceeds will be equally shared with the United Houma Nation & the Residents of Gordon Plaza.