This track focused on environmental and public health issues, in the larger context of other social and economic issues vital to community development. This track explored a range of perspectives on the challenges, barriers, and impacts that communities face and address, and how communities can build capacity to learn from these lessons and best practices to better understand and solve this problem. Sessions in this track included:

Moderator: Vernice Miller‐Travis (Skeo) Speakers: Omega Wilson (West End Revitalization Association), Kamita Gray (BTB Coalition), Rep. Harold Mitchell (ReGenesis).
Non‐profits, universities, government agencies, and other  groups use different community engagement approaches  to address local environmental justice and health issues. In this session, speakers discussed models for community engagement,  acknowledging the challenges that community members and  organizers face when  advocating  for community interests. The session also explored strategies for building capacity within communities and  for collaboration with city governments, state governments and federal agencies. Further, the panelists  shared stories, challenges, and lessons learned from  their efforts to use partnerships and community‐driven research to address environmental  injustice and health disparities  across the country.   

Omega Wilson spoke of  the Right  to Basic Amenities, a Community‐Owned  and Managed  Research (COMR) approach to address environmental health disparities in low‐income communities of color serving the smallest EJ communities in North  Carolina. Train people in the  communities to collect data – you need data to find a solution.  
Kamita  Gray  emphasized  cooperation  between the  whole community.  Bring all the  groups  and leaders together to develop a citizen‐centered  cohesive plan. Help the community understand what is happening to them, look within the values of  the community and prioritize what the  community wants.    

Harold Mitchell emphasized the  importance  of  being  at the decision‐making table  – electing  a  representative to city council  ‐‐ and grassroots action. We don’t have time  to wait  for  the  grants. Texas  Southern University, did a health survey  and used  the data  to secure  a community health  center grant. Find the ways  and  means to meet  community needs. For example,  a mobile unit for rural, migrant health care and find experts to help  with local food access. Create an interagency workgroup to  bring in the right  agencies together to  address the issues.

 

Moderator: Dr. Scheherazade W. Forman (Prince George's County Community College) Speakers: Dr. Rosa Smith, Alicia Jackson‐Warren, Danette Johnson, Brian Hamlin, Dr. David Buonora, Monique Burton‐student (all affiliated with Prince George's Community College)

The community college is often overlooked as a viable option for training  and education. However, those  engaged in  the mission  to provide education for all commit to do this through an open access admission policy and comprehensive programs with a  community‐based  approach to teaching and lifelong learning.  In this session, speakers shared how  Community Colleges serve their communities, specifically focusing on  Prince George's Community College.  The session  showcased the  many services  and  programs available at  Prince George's Community College  and the diverse  base of  students and community  members  benefiting  from job training, accredited degrees, noncredit degrees, certifications and many other services. It further highlighted how the community college engages the internal and  external community to provide education, services and training. The conversation  included how to incorporate social justice and environmental  consciousness in the process.  

Dr. Scheherazade framed the discussion by highlighting that the  community college is the center of community opportunities. 

Dr. David Buonora advocated for  job training, not accredited degrees. Noncredit, customized training for businesses, and workforce  certification. Build partnerships for  short term trainings. Connect to Chambers’ of Commerce, Workforce Development Board and business advisory  boards and enlist business leaders to teach classes.

Dr. Rosa Smith recommended having a single  location where students can get all the information  they  need about career opportunities in one place for  degree work, certifications, workforce training and extension  classes.   

Danette Johnson stressed the importance of seeking out private  and public funding and knowing when to go to the external institutions and organizations to develop and work on programs. Bring in the  people who will be using  the  money into the process of getting  the  money. 

Alicia Jackson‐Warren  advocated for a college of  and for the community that supports job search and career development to get students well connected. They sponsor  an annual Career  and  Job  Fair  and  partnered with internal groups to provide professional attire.

Brian Hamlin  shared  about a mentoring program focused on retention, academic performance and  leadership for men of color. (see  www.pgcc.edu  to  view the  documentary.) Bring  in outside professionals of color to mentor, give success  strategies and open doors.

Thoughts shared during  discussion: Look outside the campus to  see  what issues our students are dealing with that we can help with. Program activities so students can  develop their own power, expertise and are able to  advocate  for themselves. Give them  the  training to  go  out and do the work  that needs to be done.  Keep up with workforce trends – currently Healthcare, IT, Hospitality and  Culinary are hot sectors. Partner  with institutions to get the students  on board. We  partner with  nonprofits on outreach to the community. We go where the community is, churches, halls, community centers, Target. We don’t shy away  from  the  need.  

Hoops of approval from the audience after this presentation concluded.  

An audience question  from Sustainable Communities Atlanta: Community colleges often don’t want  to take on certain topics and subjects, how can  you get  around that?

 

Moderator: Dr. Adrienne Hollis, Esq. (We ACT for Environmental Justice) Speakers: Sarah Dresher (Forest Co. Potawaotmi), Dr. Mildred McClain (Harambee House), Sara Pennington (Kentuckians for the Commonwealth), and Dr. Yomi (Eco Action ‐ Hercules Program)

Climate Change has  and will continue to produce an increasing burden on vulnerable  populations including children, the elderly, low‐income  communities  of color, and tribes. Beyond an  increased burden, climate  change impacts will continue to result  in the need  for a strong, coordinated, and intentional disaster  response and ultimate  recovery  for communities affected by climate‐related disasters. In the session, speakers discussed how climate change disproportionally effects  venerable communities. The session shared how  some communities are preparing for climate change using citizen science and collaboration to create climate adaptation plans and make sustainable choices  for the future.   

Dr. Hollis noted the Leadership Forum on Climate Change hosted  by WE ACT. 

Sarah Dresher of the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe emphasized  that tribes are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Project  Greenfire  has  a  goal  of energy independence using renewable carbon‐neutral sources to develop a tribal utility. Strategies include: Internal  efficiencies; Proper reuse of brownfields;  Creating a climate adaption plan; Emergency planning and monitoring; Healthy and sustainable food  initiative, including a seed bank  to maintain a traditional way  of life.  Collaborating with the Midwest Tribal  Resources Program.   
Dr. Yomi  of Eco Action  shared how 75 counties in  Georgia  are  building capacity to address environmental health threats, including flooding, contaminated waterways, climate  change.  At Eco Action, we listen, build capacity and help them transform  their  complaints into strategies. Community resilience, ability to  anticipant, resist and recover  from extreme environmental issues. Strengthen youth and community  leadership. Examples are the  Proctor Creek Stewardship Council and  Turner Field Community  Benefits Coalition. The power of collaboration helps the work continue. Leveraging  and  respecting one  another.  Build on social cohesion.   

Sara Pennington  distinguished  between Energy and Power: Energy  is the capacity to do work. Power is the rate  at which work is done. Energy keeps you  going, but  it is Power that brings about  a bright  future  for  all. A just transition for coal communities. Coal industry is in rapid decline, coal jobs have been halved, and it isn’t coming back. We need vision oriented approaches that are  unified, place based, and rooted in place, regenerative, that create shared political will. Reclaim Act currently in  Congress would allocate one billion  for jobs  that would be created to reclaim  the  land, the same skills that strip  miners used  to strip mine they can  use  to  revitalize  these spaces.  

Dr. McClain, encouraged participants  to keep talking  about the history of  issues in communities. Climate  Change is already  here  with record heat waves and flooding impacting disadvantaged communities. With Emergency Preparedness  and Response Training, Climate  Change = Economic Power and Community Revitalization. 

Moderator: Jerome Shabazz (JASTECH Development Services, Inc) Speakers: Robert Noblett (Water Quality), Danielle Collins (Environmental Fashion), Ally Philyaw (Water Quality), Johnathan Cohen (Water Quality)

There is a need for a diversified young  green leadership and relevant best practices for our most vulnerable communities. The benefits  of  active  and  strategic community  engagement  can be  explored  through  the use  of project  based learning  as youth investigate  and respond to questions to solve problems. In this session, speakers shared youth perspectives on environmental problem solving,  discussing  a variety of topics from  the interconnection  between  fashion  and the environment, to  sustainable  groundwater solutions, to international youth problem solving. This session addressed the  essential question, “what’s in it for me and  my community?” through  presentations  on community‐based learning.
Danielle Collins emphasized the significance of communications  in creating social change to reduce consumption and increase sustainable manufacturing. Think and be observant about your consumption. Supply and demand, buy less, there will be less. Buying from ecofriendly stores, find three  that have something in  common with you.

Ally Philyaw and Johnathan Cohen  – Swarthmore  Environmental Engineering Senior Students discussed the benefits  of  green Stormwater Infrastructure to  reduce sewage  overflows,  increase  green space  and  property values, and simulate the natural water cycle. Using models to minimize  costs  while maximizing outflow reduction.   

Candice Mott, HD Woodson High School shared about the Worlds Smarts STEM Challenge, a partnership  with Ghana  supported by  Carnegie  Mellon University. Investigated water problems in Ghana  and Anacostia, through a Virtual Exchange to explore the problems and potential solutions.  Students developed a wire mesh to cover sewers, with a three  compartment machine  to remove plastic, organic waste, and lead  and  toxic materials

Moderators: Jay Benforado (EPA/ORD) and Shannon Dosemagen (Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science) Speakers: Omar Muhammad (Low Country Alliance for Model Communities), Omega Wilson (West End Revitalization Association), Dr. Mildred McClain (Harambee House), Craig Kreman (Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma)

Exciting developments in  inexpensive pollution sensors, apps and data visualization can empower  communities  to conduct their own environmental monitoring.  This session provided an  overview  of  these trends using examples from different communities working on different issues.  The  audience was engaged in learning about what is possible; discuss how more communities can get involved; and, hear ideas about what kinds  of community  monitoring  are  most  valuable. Speakers  discussed techniques for collecting environmental justice data through citizen science efforts. Speakers also shared examples  of citizen  science efforts in their communities and tribes,  highlighting the  need  for collaboration and community  engagement.  

Shannon Dosemagen, Executive Director of Public Lab in New  Orleans, remarked  on  the creativity of human agency over the last decade, keeping people at the center. For  example, cameras  on kites at  the BP oil spill. Map  the  areas you  care about  and have  data to  counter company information. Examples include  Mapknitter,  Bucket Brigade and Safecast.  
Craig  Kreman described the tribal  perspective in monitoring 40  square miles of lead tailings with  TAMS ‐ Tribal Air Monitoring Support. Resources include EPA’s Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists and www.epa.gov/air‐sensor‐toolbox.  

Omar Muhammad with the  Lowcountry Alliance for Model  Communities (LAMC) received four million dollars in the first ever  NEPA  community mitigation settlement  from  the  Port of Charleston expansion  rather than just 12 jobs  at the Port.   The Charleston  Community  Research to Action  Board supports partnership development, stakeholder assessment and data collection for environmental sites in the neck area. He  recommends the EJRADAR Online Mapping  Tool that  allows  the community  to access and use  data to advocate for policy changes.  

Omega Wilson shared the  Community  Owned  and  Managed Research Model (COMR) built from several EPA grants, including an Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving grant to support citizen science and  protect  the interests of the  community. Train people from the community and ensure they  are  co‐authors  and  co‐owners of  the research. Science for compliance.  Data  must be  used to  seek  attainment and  compliance in communities. Hold  the local governments accountable.   

Dr. McClain spoke of  a neighborhood of 1000 in Savannah Georgia  that is surrounded by 17 industries. The community is accommodating these  industries despite health concerns. Dr. Hollis collected citizen observations  and shared the observation with the students to  teach the young people. Validate resident science. No longer can  we afford  for  the people to be ignored,  we have to be training. Create the capacity. Respect their expertise.   

Moderator: Matt Campbell (Federal Emergency Management System, FEMA) Speakers: Dr. Beverly Wright (Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Dillard University), Monique Harden, Esq. (Advocates for Environmental Human Rights)

Speakers discussed the consequences  of natural disasters for vulnerable  communities, showcasing the  need for community engagement in  emergency evacuation planning  and equity in the planning for, emergency services during, and recovery  from  natural disasters. This panel highlighted efforts by communities  to prepare  for and strengthen their  ability to respond to and recover from future disaster impacts with  minimum  damage to  social well‐being, the  economy,  and  the environment.  Their presentations were followed by an interactive discussion with the audience to explore opportunities and resources for communities to prepare  and respond  to disasters.  

Matt  Campbell (FEMA)  emphasized the need to shift from post disaster management  to  prepare before a disaster to address hazard  and equity issues. A resilient community is prepared on many levels:  social, organizational, political, physical, economic, environmental. Need to consider, how  can we support the whole community?   

Dr. Wright spoke about the consequences for vulnerable communities during  and after  Katrina.  Turning  communities  into green space is "disaster capitalism" reinvesting recovery dollars in mostly white areas and not investing in communities  of color who were most affected.  Her community (New Orleans East) had to fight to return home to  New Orleans and rebuild, and to regain public water and sewerage services. Now the White population has increased  8% and the African American  population  has declined by  14%.  The Road Home  Program, assists people in  getting  back into  their homes, homeowners in particular, but discriminatory in that mostly black people received the  face  value of  their houses, while  white folks  received  face value  and rebuilding monies since  their houses  were more expensive. Flawed housing policy  creates  a  new  form of  segregation  with all poor people  now  being re‐housed in New Orleans East a formerly prominent Black  middle class community.  

The New Orleans Public School District was abolished post Katrina and now the entire school system is privatized  Charter Schools where  teachers are from Teach for America. This has opened the door for educational  entrepreneurs and charter schools are treated like  businesses where teachers are all white though students are all African  American. None of  this would have happened if it weren’t for Hurricane  Katrina, and  they caught  us when  we  were down.  The  Plasma  Arc disposal project and the Dwyer Road  Drainage  Project are  post disaster policies that  favor development, not  equity. This is  not  just New Orleans, there  are disasters every year  and we  need to  get  ahead of  the  curve and  identify what  makes our  communities vulnerable.   

Monique Harden, Esq. with Advocates for Environmental Human Rights emphasized that these issues are not limited to just New Orleans.  No one was prepared. Between  2005 ‐2010, there  was  a  disaster  every  year. What  makes communities  vulnerable?  Diminishes the value of your community. Clean Power Plan. The Clean Air Act codifies  existing industrial practice, not regarding people and location. We’re  operating  within our permits, but  the permits have  nothing to do with  health, children, or equity. Article 6 of the  Constitution speaks to  how  permits can  sometimes violate  human  rights; we  need to understand that environmental rights are human rights. The Union of Concerned Scientists’  recent report entitled  Surviving and Thriving in the Face of Rising Seas: Building Resilience in Communities on the Front Lines of Climate Change, captures the  multiple threats and vulnerabilities that New Orleans and  other coastal communities  face. . We’re out of time.  We need standardizations. We need funding for training.   

Moderator: Jay Benforado, US EPA, Speakers: Ramon Palencia‐Calvo (Chispa Maryland), Maria Payans
(SRAP), Walkiria Pool (Centro de Apoyo Familiar, CAF)

Speakers shared the ways that  their  organizations seek to increase environmental  health literacy within vulnerable communities. This session  discussed engaging  community  members where  they work, play,  pray and learn to increase  understanding of environmental issues. Environmental Health Literacy (EHL) is  an emerging and evolving  concept  that  shares theories, methods,  and practices  from a variety of fields  including public health, health literacy,  and risk communication. EHL is  an important  way  to  ‘inpower’  residents that  live in  communities  impacted by  environmental  injustices. Panelists discussed different  approaches  that they  have used to improve  environmental health  literacy in the communities they work in, how these efforts have  ‘inpowered’ these stakeholders, impacts,  lessons learned, and best practices.  

Maria Payan spoke about how the non‐profit, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, conducted a Health Impact Assessment which resulted in  EPA  taking  action to deny a  facility permit. Also collecting medical  information  and data  is important to laying the foundation for  creating change.  

Ramon Palencia‐Calvo emphasized  the importance of voter engagement to  hold elected officials  accountable. Bridge the language gap, let the youth  translate for their parents. Frame the message in terms  of what is the  benefit  for  them in terms  of culture,  health  and  the role of the family.  Important to work with trusted influences and the faith community.   
Walkiria Pool  spoke  about enlisting  Promotoras to  educate  people about health in their homes. The CAF Work Model engages someone  from the community to teach the  community.   Make  the  data tangible to  them  with pictures, and  get the youth  involved. Childcare providers learn and then provide the information to the  parents of children enrolled in childcare.  

Moderator: Jacob Burney (EPA/Office of Environmental Justice, OEJ) Speakers: Patricia Glass (HHS), Deborah Bae (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), Hannah Kett (Duwamish Clean UP), and Rae Tamblyn (National Association for State Community Service Associations)

Speakers discussed the role of  grants  in environmental justice work for  communities, and provided resources for participants to consider. This session provided an overview  of financial  resources available to vulnerable communities and their  partners. Audience learned  about federal  and technical resources, loan opportunities, contracts, foundational grants, and fellowships  from the  government, philanthropic, and the  private sector. It was  followed by  an engaging  question and answer dialogue  with the  audience.  

Deborah Bae, Robert Wood Johnson  Foundation spoke about their mission to build a  Culture of Health in America.  Think about  health as where  you live, play, and pray.  Identify  County health rankings  and create health  maps.  They  are investing in  leadership for better health  outcomes,  healthy  communities,  healthy children, healthy weight. Pioneering ideas include: Maker Nurse, Virtual Reality, Air Louisville (GPS tracked inhalers).

Patricia Glass, spoke about Grants.gov  and Workspace which lets  you  now  know immediately if there are errors or issues with your application.  Workspace information is saved for three years.  

Hannah Kett spoke of  the  need to look  for a diversity  of funding sources. For example, the Duwamish River Clean Up obtained an Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving  Grant  and an EPA  Urban Waters Small Grant. Start with one grant and build success. Know your goals and mission. Build a relationship with your project and/or grant officer. Collaboration is key, enlisting  a sub grantee, or giving money to partners. Celebrate  and strategize!

Rae Tamblyn, spoke of the Vision of the  Community Services Block Grant  (CSBG) and shared a range of  grant resources including the  Weatherization Assistance Program  (WAP); The  National Community Action Network Theory of Change  ($13.8 billion, less competitive, and more collaborative);  Weatherization Plus Heath.org  We  have  a  list  of our partners. DOE  Better Buildings  Initiative. HUD  Healthy Homes and Lead Initiative;  Brownfields Clean‐up  Grant (nonprofits) 200k out now;  Environmental Justice Small Grants  
($30K) – underfunded states. Out  in  two weeks;  EWDJT  Brownfields Grants  (200K)  Fulltime sustainable  jobs;  Environmental Education Local Grants ($90K); Urban Water’s Small Grants  ($60);  EJ Collaborative  Grants; Source Reduction  Assistance ($260K)