HBCUs Supporting the National Black Environmental Justice Network Meet the Challenges of the WSSD
ATLANTA, GA, August 19, 2002 - Representatives from two historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) will assist the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN) in participating in the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). The NBEJN is a network of black groups that will attend this international summit to fight global environmental racism, eradicate poverty, and promote health and sustainable communities. The Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark University (directed by Robert D. Bullard) and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (directed by Dr. Beverly Wright) are assisting the NBEJN participate in the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). The Summit is held in Johannesburg, South Africa from August 26 through September 4, 2002.
The NBEJN was formed in 1999. It is a national network of Black community based organizations, grassroots groups, faith-based groups, labor, legal, health groups, educators, and research centers. The two centers worked with dozens of African American leaders to craft language, fact sheets, technical reports, background papers, and policy briefings for the international meetings.
The two centers helped NBEJN members organize workshops, commissions, and side events with the South African-based Environmental Justice Networking Forum and other nongovernmental organizations that work on poverty, pollution, environmental and economic justice, and sustainable development. "It is important that we infuse the principles of environmental justice into all aspects of the Johannesburg meetings," said Bullard. He adds, "it is unlikely that sustainable development can be achieved in the United States or abroad without addressing social, economic, environmental, and racial justice."
The NBEJN delegation traveling to the WSSD in Johannesburg represents a diverse mix of Black America--including grassroots activists, grand mothers, college professors, authors, lawyers, church leaders, retired school teachers, and civil rights advocates. The delegation is sponsored by a grant from the Ford Foundation. "The Ford Foundation is providing valuable support to a constituency whose voices are not usually heard at these international gatherings," said Wright. "We have to be in Johannesburg because our people are sick, our neighborhoods are dying, and our communities are stifled economically by unsustainable development practices. Louisiana's Cancer Alley is a classic example of this where the communities are ‘sacrifice zones' for all types of locally unwanted land uses."
The environmental justice centers also helped the NBEJN launch its nationwide Healthy and Safe Communities Campaign in July at the 2002 Essence Festival in New Orleans. "The WSSD fits into our national campaign to protect our children, families, and communities from environmental threats and hazards," said Damu Smith, director of NBEJN.
For more information please visit http://www.johannesburgsummit.org/ or http://www.iisd.ca/wssd/portal.html.
Robert D. Bullard, Ph.D.
Environmental Justice Resource Center
Clark Atlanta University
Beverly Wright, Ph.D.
Deep South Center for Environmental Justice Xavier University of Louisiana
National Black Environmental Justice Network