Thursday, September 20, 2007

literacy for environmental justice

yesterday, i attended a talk on campus called "environmental justice in san francisco." it took place in the fog 'n grog and was brought to life by USF's african american studies minor and jennifer dever. i attended the first hour but had to leave for the second.

the speaker was anthony khalil from literacy for environmental justice, or LEJ. anthony manages heron's head park, LEJ's educational program, and their native plant restoration project.

LEJ is an urban environmental education and youth empowerment organization located in sf's bayview hunters point district. bayview hunters point is the part of san francisco most of us want to ignore. located on the east side of the city, district ten is 50% african american, 30% asian, 15% latino/a, and 5% white.

it is home to 2 superfund sites. it has 325 known toxic sites. it treats 80% of the city's sewage. it has 2 major freeways running through it. 1/3 of the people who live in bayview hunters point are children - 20% of those children have asthma.

the place was packed. between forty and fifty students, faculty, and staff showed up.

anthony talked about environmental justice - a blend between social justice / civil rights, environmentalism, and public health. he talked about the right of all people to have equal access to basic needs: safe energy, healthy food, clean water, open spaces, non-toxic communities, and equitable educational and employment opportunities.

he talked about hunters point: "this is our hurricane katrina right here." he talked about community. he talked about community outreach. and he talked about community outreach that is based in the environment - within nature, within parks, within gardens. he spoke truth: "we've got white collared jobs, blue collared jobs - we need green collared jobs!" he talked briefly about LEJ projects like heron's head park and the living classroom.

like an expert teacher, anthony balanced between sharing with us the horrific environmental / social / health conditions of bayview hunters point and sharing with us the inspired environmental / educational / cultural programs of LEJ. i left both moved and motivated.


Amber said...

That's so cool, I wish I could have been there!

david silver said...

amber - it was cool.

luckily, USF seems to have some collaborations going with LEJ, especially through professor jennifer dever (biology), so maybe we'll have more opportunities for them to visit us and us visit them.