Environmental Justice Coordinating CouncilEJCC
To eradicate environmental and economic injustices in north Minneapolis and beyond.
The EJCC visualizes, creates and implements ecological, economic, and strategic investments to end environmental racism.
In 2017, Public Policy Project organized and created the Environmental Justice Coordinating Council (EJCC), composed entirely of African American residents and agents of change in North Minneapolis. With a grant, through Pillsbury United Communities, funded by the McKnight Foundation to develop an Environmental Justice Assessment and Action Plan for North Minneapolis. The EJCC meets monthly to develop and coordinate planning to reduce the environmental justice overburden in our community and increase both environmental and population health.
When we first asked African Americans in our community about how they see “environmental issues” in relation to the everyday racial and economic justice issues they focus on – people did not see a clear connection. After a series of one to one conversations and collective dialogues, people came to see that “all issues are environmental justice issues”.
The work of EJCC:
- Functions with the goal of sustainable and measurable improvement in the combined environmental and population health of North Minneapolis;
- Gathers and reviews existing data on environmental and population health in North Minneapolis;
- Develops a forward-looking analysis of this data, suggesting how this analysis will be applied to support increasing returns to environmental and population health;
- Produce a preliminary environmental justice action framework;
- incorporate an assessment of ecological literacy and engagement in the outdoors of North Minneapolis residents;
- Design and implement a campaign to increase outdoor environmental engagement and to increase ecological literacy;
- Take concrete, measurable action to address the priorities of the environmental justice action framework. This might include engaging North Minneapolis residents in air, soil and water quality monitoring and remediation, analyzing brownfields and developing plans to generate an environmentally sound community development strategy to improve the quality of life.
- Connect to the broader network of mainstream environmental organizations and partner to advance career opportunities and both Board and staff leadership roles for American Indian people and people of color in all environmental fields.
In addition, the EJCC convened quarterly dialogues with mainstream environmental organizations to partner around developing a career pathway strategy for more American Indians and people of color to connect to employment opportunities in environmental fields and advance into leadership roles in the field.
Public Policy Project welcome the new group of EJCC Fellows which began their work October 1, 2020. The new Fellows are:
- Thomas Berry jr
- LesLee Jackson
- Jayda Pounds
- Ra’Essa As-Sidiq
- Hillary Thomas
- Pearll Warren
Each EJCC Fellow is required to take a leadership role on one or more of the following focus areas: (note: due to the COVID-19 Health Pandemic and the murder of George Floyd we added two additional focus areas for Fellows to work on)
- Upper Harbor Terminal Development
- Northern Green Zones Taskforce and its 12 resolution Goals
- Environmental Justice Partnership (EJP)
- Lead & Asthma outreach work with Northern Metals Advisory Council
- COVID-19 Pandemic
- Police Community Relations
History of EJCC Fellows work:
The first group of EJCC Fellows (17 members), formed in November 2017, achieved the following outcomes:
- The EJCC played the lead role in establishing the Northern Metals Advisory Council on which 1 EJCC member sits. The NMAC, through a series of ten stakeholder meetings we facilitated, determined how to allocate funds from the Northern Metals Consent Decree (a metal shredder violating pollution standards) to address lead poisoning and asthma triggers.
- The EJCC played the lead role in generating the authorizing resolution for a North Minneapolis Green Zone Task Force, on which 5 EJCC members sit. The GZTF developed twelve objectives and is now acting upon 6 priority areas.
- The EJCC played a lead role in establishing the Environmental Justice Partnership, which bridges mainstream environmental NGOs across Minnesota with environmental justice communities. The EJP brought organizations together with environmental justice leaders to consider actions to advance finance, policy, shared leadership, and results in environmental justice across Minnesota.
- The EJCC also played a key role as a catalyst for a different model of development occur on the Upper Harbor Terminal – a 48.8-acre site in our community offering a once in a generation opportunity for a major –scale tipping point caliber development initiative that could positively or negatively impact the future of our community.
In these four areas above, the EJCC has centered the perspectives of African American community residents, challenged mainstream perspectives on policy and practice, and acted as catalysts for different ways of considering and addressing environmental and population health.
EJCC Definition of Environmental Justice:
Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. –U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
“Fair treatment means that no population, due to policy or economic disempowerment, is forced to bear a disproportionate share of the negative human health or environmental impacts of pollution or environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local and tribal programs and policies.” -EPA
“All people and communities are entitled to equal protection of environmental and public health laws and regulations.” -Robert Bullard
“The environment is everything: where we live, play, go to school, as well as the physical and natural world. And so, we can’t separate the physical environment from the cultural environment. We have to talk about making sure that justice is integrated throughout all of the stuff that we do.” -Robert Bullard
“EJ the principal that all people and communities are entitled to equal protection of environmental and public health laws and regulations.” Robert Bullard
Environmental racism refers to any policy, practice, or directive that differentially affects or disadvantages (whether intended or unintended) individuals, groups, or communities based on race or color.” -Benjamin Chavis 1982
Environmental Justice Partnership:
One of the many achievements of PPP/EJCC is the establishment of the Environmental Justice Partnership (EJP), which bridges mainstream environmental NGOs across Minnesota with environmental justice communities. The EJP brought organizations together with environmental justice leaders to consider actions to advance finance, policy, shared leadership, and results in environmental justice across Minnesota.
The purpose of the Environmental Justice Partnership (EJP), catalyzed by the McKnight Foundation, was developed to generate a powerful statewide coalition of stakeholders to:
- Work in partnership with communities to lift up and resource Environmental Justice work with place-based communities and Native Nations being the core foundation for which we build, stand, and give voice.
- Bring sectors together to build relationships, explore, commit to, and embark upon shared work resulting in environmental justice and improved environmental health in all communities.
- Create change in the current structure and composition in the environmental movement and mainstream environmental organizations (MEOs) in order to honor the full intersectionality of ‘the environment’, and ‘environmental issues’, which include ALL issues.
Since the creation of EJCC in north Minneapolis and the EJP, Public Policy Project has been asked to establish similar EJCC groups in communities across Minnesota and around the country to work in partnership with MEO’s.
Public Policy Project/EJCC has recently partnered with Environmental Initiative to meet the following needs for the EJP:
- People have been doing environmental justice work for generations across the nation, in black and brown communities, tribal communities, and in Minnesota; however, the environmental justice community is under-resourced and black people, people of color and indigenous people need to lead the work locally, statewide and nationally.
- We define “mainstream environmental organizations” as those that have been historically led by white people versus led by those who live in communities directly impacted; focus on traditional environmental problems like land, water and air; and have privileged connections and relationships with funders and decision makers. Many traditional, mainstream environmental organizations reinforce ecological apartheid by failing to lead from a broader definition of ‘the environment’, and failing to deeply partner with environmental justice communities to promote an ecologically wise and just environmental movement.
- We face daunting challenges related to the way we care for the natural world and the things we share. We also have gaping disparities in the distribution of wealth, power, and opportunity that result in gaping health disparities, injustice, suffering and conflict. These critical challenges overlap, intertwine and are urgent. It is critical to address these challenges with an appreciative approach that starts with the honoring, full engagement from, and leadership by environmental justice communities across Minnesota.