All plenary sessions were moderated by Vernice Miller‐Travis, Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Equitable Development, Skeo. She shared the social media tools that the audience is encouraged to use including Livestreaming, Facebook posts, and Twitter throughout the Summit, reviewed the agenda and major Summit themes, and acknowledged Mustafa Ali as the heartbeat, and Ms. Holly Wilson and Dr. Marva King, as the left and right ventricle of this Summit. She stated that these three people are responsible for bringing the 2016 National Funding Resources and Training Summit to Revitalize Vulnerable Communities into existence. She then introduced Mustafa Ali.
Mustafa Santiago Ali, Senior Advisor to the Administrator for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization & Assistant Associate Administrator for Environmental Justice provided opening framing remarks welcoming both the in‐person and live streaming participants to this historic gathering focused on moving our most vulnerable communities from Surviving to Thriving. As the principal initiator of this Summit he told the audience that today and tomorrow are a monumental and transformational moment that some thought would never materialize. Some have asked why are we focusing on vulnerable communities? Why do we think that the investments that can happen in these communities can yield positive results?
Over the next two days we will be answering these questions by focusing on best practices, and leveraging resources to make change inside of our most vulnerable communities. As we began to plan and develop the content for this summit, we had over 75 conversations with a wide range of stakeholders and organizations about what remains to be done to gain traction and fill in the gaps to invest in our most underserved communities? Over 30 organizations and many individuals agreed to come together to design, plan and support this Summit to change the dynamics in our most vulnerable communities. He welcomed the over 300 participants in the room, and over 100 people and organizations participating online.
He closed by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who once said "that there comes a time when silence is betrayal," Mustafa added to this quote there also comes a time when men and women of good conscience must stand‐up and say no more. Please note that we have anchored this summit in the memory of four people who have given their lives in the course of this work and named our session tracks in their honor – Dorothy Purley, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Dayna Alston and Hazel M. Johnson. Mustafa then introduced Administrator McCarthy as one who profoundly gets it and who vigorously supports the work that we are doing in communities.
Gina McCarthy, Administrator, EPA set the stage with a call to action. She noted that EPA’s mission is to protect public health. We are facing tremendous public health and environmental challenges, and that low income and minority communities face some of the biggest challenges in terms of environmental impacts. The biggest environmental challenge we have is poverty. What are the tools and technologies that we can invest to create opportunity in these communities of need?
It's going to be exciting to see what communities can do to transform their problems and drive additional investments that can change lives and change communities. EPA has to start paying attention to these solutions and attack our environmental challenges in a way that creates a f uture that is amenable to everyone. So it’s exciting to see the agency focusing on revitalizing vulnerable communities, which is Mustafa's vision. She came into government to positively impact people's lives. Our vision of the future is to look for real transformation and to fight the cynicism that holds us back.
Jacqueline Patterson, Director, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Environmental and Climate Justice Program, Jacqueline Patterson, MSW, MPH, has served as a trainer, organizer, researcher, and policy analyst on international and domestic issues including women’s rights, HIV&AIDS, violence against women, racial justice, economic justice, and environmental and climate justice. She serves on the Boards of Directors for Center for Story Based Strategies, Institute of the Black World, GRID Alternatives, and US Climate Action Network.
She noted the critical importance of engaging the frontline communities in this work and shared examples of community groups doing great, innovative work in the face of injustice (Black Mesa Water Coalition, One Voice Mississippi, Zero Waste Detroit, Free Your Voice Coalition in South Baltimore, Black Lives Matter, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Advancing Equity and Opportunity, EJ Leadership Forum). She emphasized "Listen, listen, listen," and the motto, “Nothing about us without us." We need to recognize the intersectionality of systemic racism, sexism, and move from systems of extraction and domination to systems of resilience, regeneration and collaboration to support the eco‐system that we all rely so much upon.
Dr. Cecilia Martinez, Co‐Founder, Center for Environment, Energy and Democracy (CEED), Dr. Cecilia Martinez is the co‐founder and Director of Research Programs at the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED). She has led a variety of projects to address sustainable development at the local and international levels. Her research is focused on the development of energy and environmental strategies that promote equitable and sustainable policies. She was recently named one of the White House Champions for Climate Equity.
She shared that they started a non‐profit to undertake research, data collection and analysis that was developed with, and on behalf of vulnerable communities themselves. She noted the disconnect between climate/energy professionals and the realities of vulnerable communities. The wealth gap is increasing, and communities are not vulnerable by accident, but due to public and private policies including home ownership programs, which is the principle household wealth builder. We need to rethink the kinds of partnerships we need to build. Focus on building small businesses (which supports 60‐80% of employment in the country), in vulnerable communities and building multiple layers – private capital, public programs, workers, youth – to support change in a community.
Calvin Booker, Corporate Vice President, Waste Management Inc., Mr. Calvin E. Booker Sr. is the Corporate Vice President of Public Affairs for Waste Management Inc. He joined Waste Management in July 1991 in Dallas, Texas, and has become an invaluable asset to the company utilizing his knowledge and relationships with local, state and federal legislators. He is responsible for the organizational development and strategic implementation of Governmental Affairs across 48 states and WM’s Federal Office located in Washington, D.C.
Emphasized that EPA and community voices have changed their business model over the past 25 years. Community voices have pushed for change that has empowered him and others to make changes on the inside of their companies. Every Waste Management site is now expected to have a plan for community engagement. Many changes have occurred in Waste Management Inc. regarding the siting and location of their facilities, their operations and standard waste management practices. Your work has allowed me to do good work inside the company to push for change and help communities. EPA has an important role in helping to estimate risks and impacts (e.g. EJ Screen) and ensure permitting is done equitably. He emphasized the need for private companies to better understand the communities they serve.
Robert Garcia, Director‐Counsel, The City Project of Los Angeles, Robert García is an attorney who engages, educates, and empowers communities through innovative planning, healthy green land use, equitable development, and compliance with civil rights and environmental justice policies and laws. He is the Founding Director and Counsel of The City Project, a non‐profit legal and policy team based in Los Angeles, California.
He noted that the lack of access to parks and open space for youth of color is an issue of civil rights and social justice. People of color suffer first and foremost from environmental issues and inequity. He emphasized that if we don’t recognize these fundamental disparities in terms of access to natural resources then we cannot begin to solve the problem. The mainstream environmental movement forgot the people – you have to include people in the process. As communities become greener, people of color are displaced. To combat this loss of community it is important that federal agencies enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and follow through on the tenets of Presidential Executive Order 12898 and the Environmental Justice 2020 Action Agenda. It is good to see that access to parks and open space are now included as indicators within the EJ Screen tool. The City Project has developed 5 steps for equity planning to ensure that environmental benefits are distributed and invested equitably. The five steps include:
- Describe what you plan to do.
- Analyze the benefits and burdens on all people.
- Analyze the alternatives.
- Include people of color and low‐income people in every step.
- Have an implementation plan to distribute benefits and burdens fairly and avoid discrimination.
Several questions were then asked of these plenary speakers by the audience before the morning break.
Tuesday Luncheon ‐ Working with Foundations
Stuart Clarke, President, Town Creek Foundation, Stuart Clarke has been Executive Director of the Town Creek Foundation, based in Easton, Maryland since 2004. His previous philanthropic experience includes serving as a Program Officer with the Turner Foundation and as Development Director of the Southern Partners Fund, both in Atlanta, Georgia.
Stuart emphasized to participants that they need to get to know the foundations they hope to receive support from, and understand the work that the foundation does. If they support work like your work, then they may be inclined to support you. Help them make the connections to your work and build financial relationships outside of grants. If you know one foundation, then you know one foundation. We believe that if you truly want to address economic inequality then you can't merely reproduce the same economic systems and policies that produced the economic disparities to begin with. Town Creek works to collaborate with people who are developing plans and creating new frameworks to ensure social equity is integrated into environmental, energy, climate and economic policy. He emphasized the importance of integrating environmental equity and justice into the green energy economy and the climate and resiliency movement. For example ‐ like the work currently underway to create Baltimore’s resiliency hubs which are focused on helping vulnerable communities bounce back after extreme weather events. Another example is the Green the Church Summit (happening today also in Baltimore) to engage communities in greening their homes and churches.
Beth Toner, VP for Communications, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Beth Toner, MJ, RN, Senior Communications Officer, has more than 24 years of experience in marketing and corporate communications. She is also a registered nurse with clinical experience in long‐term care and community health settings. She helps provide strategic communications support to RWJ investments in projects and programs designed to give all in our society an equal opportunity to pursue a healthier life, to equip 21st‐century leaders from all sectors to help build healthier communities and practices, and to engage businesses across a wide variety of industries to help build a "Culture of Health".
Beth shared how their Change Leadership Program promotes a national movement to establish health as a shared value and essential priority across the nation, and to ensure that people are supported to live the healthiest lives possible where they live, learn, work, and play.
Theresa Lewallen, Senior Program Director at the National Collaborative for Health Equity (NCHE) and Deputy Director of the National Program Center for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Leaders Program. Theresa Lewallen, MA, CHES, has held a variety of leadership positions at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ACSD), where she played an instrumental role in the development of ASCD’s whole child efforts. At ASCD, she directed a project funded by the RWJF linking schools with local public health agencies with project outcomes.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leaders is a network of leaders across disciplines, focusing on health and equity. They are looking for individuals from community organizations and environmental justice groups to participate in the 2017 program. The program includes 32‐38 hours a month of virtual and in‐person education. Participants come together four times a year and are provided a $20,000/year stipend.
Melissa Green, MPH, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Deputy Director for Recruitment and Communications for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program, Melissa is the Deputy Director for Communication and Recruitment for the Clinical Scholars Program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Melissa’s experience includes 15 years managing research intervention studies in community settings using principles of community based participatory research with and for African American and Latino populations.
Melissa described this program as one that seeks clinical health providers who are at least 5 years into their career to workgroup a solution to a “wicked” public health problem, which is a problem with no easy fix and that undermines A Culture of Health. Must think about how the problem emerged in the first place. Applications are available January 4th and due March 8th. Beth, Theresa, and Melissa held one‐one‐one conversations with participations as requested in a separate board room throughout the afternoon and the next day, and staffed a table at the Eco Café.
Asked, what communities are we talking about? Most are not thriving, but barely surviving, we need to do something as a country to lift these vulnerable communities up. We are not all on the same page in the United States. Race and wealth determine where you live and how long you will live. Not understanding how things happen and how they work means that other people decide for you, and that makes you vulnerable. Environmental Justice communities become the path of least resistance, so companies use them and don’t respect them. They put things in these communities knowing that they will harm or kill people. Their company business plan can also serve as a death plan for some. You have to fight against those types of business models where some communities are sacrificed to benefit others. Dying, Surviving, and Thriving. Climate justice is Black Lives Matter too. Eighty percent of all black people support the clean power plan. Now I know you’ve been hurt and disrespected in the past. But we need to let go of those feelings so we can make change happen, for the future. We need to build Climate Leadership and create climate music to excite a climate movement that spurs a climate resistance movement.
Rev. Yearwood was joined by Terence "TC" Muhammad, Advocacy Manager for the Hip Hop Caucus and Nakisa Glover, National Climate Justice Organizer for the Hip Hop Caucus who both offered brief remarks to underscore how important it is that we come together to protect, defend and advance the interests of our most vulnerable communities. It's a now or never proposition.
Wednesday Closing Plenary, Track Session Report Outs, and Next Steps
During the Track Session Report Outs, track leads and co‐leads were asked to share with the audience the key themes, action items, take‐aways and recommendations from their sessions.
Just Transition Workforce Development Training
Sharon Beard, National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), shared that she and her track Co‐leads, Chip Hughes (HHS/NIEHS), Khalil Shahyd (Natural Resources Defense Council), and José T. Bravo (Just Transition Alliance), were able to gather a diverse group of stakeholders together during the Summit to be able to engage in the various sessions focused on Just Transition and Workforce Development Training. They discussed the need to thoughtfully address the challenges of change and transition in a workforce sector and the need to carefully plan for a just transition for all potential workers so the burdens are not borne by a few but that all workers are able to participate in the new energy economy. For example, for those workers transitioning from fossil fuel and extractive industries to jobs in the green economy and in renewable energy fields, so that displacement, job loss, and loss of wages is minimized with a special focus on women, low‐income and people of color. Another observation is the recognition of how many truly excellent job training and environmental workforce development programs there are and the amazing results they are achieving, especially in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. But that there needs to be an increase in the amount of federal resources to support these great programs. Current appropriations range from three to six million dollars annually.
- That there be a Just Transition and Workforce Development workgroup established within the Interagency Workgroup on Environmental Justice,
- That the federal government develop a comprehensive plan that spans across all agencies to meet the UN 2020 Sustainable Development Goals for the United States,
- That those working in the Workforce Development sector need better training and understanding of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requirements of Community Workforce and Project Labor Agreements, and the need to gather good data to measure the effective implementation of these agreements to ensure that they will be justly and fairly implemented.
Business Opportunities and Access to Financial Resources
Carlton Eley, US EPA – The track leaders, Charlie Bartsch (EPA/OLEM), Dr. Erica Holloman (Southeast CARE Coalition) and Gilbert G Campbell (Volt Energy, LLC), worked together closely over the last five months to bring this track to fruition. Their four sessions included:
- Small business and entrepreneurial resources to help vulnerable communities thrive
- Stepping Outside the Box ‐ Exploring Alternative Business Models and Technical Resources to Sustain Community‐Based Profit/Non‐Profit Entities
- Your Business Needs the Internet and the Internet Needs You
- Federal Financial Resources ‐ What Can Work for Communities, Why and How
Key take‐aways included:
- Be nimble, partner, engage, engage and engage, never forget impacted communities, be careful about how we encourage diversity of resource recipients, importance of understanding that community are underserved by design, it is not accidental but rather the result of public policy;
- Community Benefits Agreements – need to make sure that community members are thoroughly versed in the process of creating and structuring these agreements so that the benefits actually do derive to the people intended.
- Utilize the internet, social media, blogging and webinars to promote your business and disseminate your ideas and expertise.
- The solutions, resources and energy needed to revitalize our vulnerable communities is already present in these very communities, we just have to tap into it and bring it to the surface.
Health and Environmental Resources
Jay Benforado, U.S. EPA, shared that they were maybe too ambitious in that they had eight sessions with up to five speakers each. He remarked that he and his track Co‐leads, Dr. Scheherazade W. Forman (Prince George's Community College) and Dr. Adrienne Hollis (WE ACT), covered a lot of ground, including:
- Models of Community Engagement ‐ about the innovative strategies communities are employing to reach far and wide to mobilize community action and power,
- The role of anchor institutions ‐ focused on the diverse programs, training and resources offered by Prince George's Community College to build individual and community capacity and identify diverse leaders,
- Youth engagement and youth leadership – what innovative strategies young people are devising and utilizing to teach, motivate and engage their peers,
- Communities are doing innovative planning for themselves with limited resources, and the need for more federal, state, local and philanthropic support was a constant theme across many sessions,
- Climate Change, Disaster and Emergency Preparedness planning needs to reflect the diverse needs of diverse populations. Including land use, transportation, public health and comprehensive evacuation, right‐to‐return and redevelopment planning,
- There is a need for two directional learning models and translation,
- The power of networking
Charles Lee, Deputy Associate Administrator for Environmental Justice, EPA, shared the Promise of EJ 2020 Video and encouraged participants to look ahead, think about communities and extended an invitation to make sure that environmental justice is incorporated into all areas of government. All parts of EPA took part in the development of the EJ 2020 Action Agenda which is a 50‐page plan that details specific commitments to advance environmental justice at the programmatic, policy, enforcement, funding and goal setting level. Two big goals are the elimination of elevated levels of childhood lead poisoning, and access to safe, clean drinking water for all, among many other stated goals.
Emily Fritze, Senior Director, White House Office of Cabinet Affairs spoke about developing equitable climate change policy, meeting folks where they are. She described the White House Clean Energy Savings for All Americans plan. Which will work together with a broad range of stakeholders, including low income, tribal and vulnerable communities to reduce pollution and increase productivity. She highlighted the need for innovative funding streams for low income communities to be able to take advantage of green energy development and to scale up workforce development and training opportunities in the green energy economy.
Rep. Harold Mitchell, Executive Director, ReGenesis Community Development Corporation, South Carolina State Representative, District 3, encouraged participants to put the real issues on the table, as well as real strategies, and move the needle forward. He called for more ReGenesis communities. His group came together to address contamination in their community. Early on they decided who will be the spokesperson and what would be their group's name. They started with an EJ Small Grant from EPA, then secured a general support grant from the Ford Foundation, they then were able to receive a grant from the Department of Energy that supported visioning summits. The Department of Housing and Urban Development contributed funding for low and moderate income housing development. Now they have been able to build new housing, health and dental clinics, a Supermarket and small shopping center, a recreation center, and a new Highway by‐pass to allow safe entry and exit from their community. There is even a LEED certified golf course atop a closed landfill in the design stage, and a renewable energy learning center in the works. We need to support more peer to peer training to replicate their success and move this needle forward. We need to see this kind of transformation happening in many more communities.
Closing Statements and Next Steps
Provided by Holly Wilson, Dr. Marva King, Vernice Miller‐Travis and Mustafa Ali.
Connections! Don’t forget that at the end of the day we’re all connected. Everybody has a gift to offer to this movement to revitalize vulnerable communities. This summit brought together industry, academia, grass roots, faith groups, Labor, tribes, big greens, federal agencies and others. We don’t often see that kind of coming together. People not only volunteered their time and expertise, but came together and truly interacted with one another. As we go forward remember to give space to and have respect for the expertise and wisdom of local communities. We need to join hands and continue to work together because we all have a vested interest in transforming vulnerable communities from Surviving to Thriving. By 2050, there will be a 12 trillion‐dollar worldwide economy focused on climate change. Folks of color, low‐income and tribal communities have got to be a part of that emerging green economy. Change the paradigm. Join the Infinite Earth Podcast to continue to learn about innovative work in communities. Find partners who will be authentic, such as the Vulnerable Communities Network. Our next step will be to continue this sharing of resources and network building at the regional level. To that end both EPA Region 7 (Kansas City) and region 4 (Raleigh, NC) have agreed to hosts the first regional Summits to continue this work to marshal resources to continue to support the revitalization of vulnerable communities through partnerships and collaboration.
Mustafa encouraged participants to take advantage of the recommendations offered at the end of this conference. Those recommendations will drive the shape of future conferences and also broader conversations within the agencies. You are drivers in this process; your input, feedback and reflections helps us to go back and share your recommendations more broadly.