AUSTIN — On Tuesday, October 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., “Power, Discourse, and Community” will be at the center of the fifth annual Building Green Justice Forum. The free event (RSVP here) will take place at Huston-Tillotson University in the Dickey-Lawless Science Building’s auditorium with lunch and networking later in the Davage-Durden Student Union. The entire community is invited.
This year’s theme, “Power, Discourse, Community,” came about because Huston-Tillotson wanted to look at the different lenses of the power frame and how people think about environmental justice – the idea that all people deserve equal access to a healthy environment.
Sessions will take place all day that explore environmental justice across economic, literary, political, religious and scientific/technological frameworks.
“It’s about the intersections of all of these; no one is working in just one of these areas,” said Dr. Karen Magid, professor and director of STEM and Sustainability at Huston-Tillotson University.
Scholars and activists across the environmental justice spectrum will present. Presenters include Huston-Tillotson’s Theo Francis, Shawanda Stewart, Alaine Hutson, and Gina Tillis. University of Texas at Austin’s Raj Patel will serve as the afternoon keynote on how social justice is on the table at every meal. Presenters and lunchtime exhibitors include representatives from the Multicultural Refugee Coalition, Dell Medical Population Health, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Urban Roots, the Sustainable Food Center, Texas Parks and Wildlife, City of Austin, Texas Impact, Blackshear Bridge, Waller Creek Conservancy, Austin Youth Riverwatch, B-Cycle, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, New Story Initiative, and Travis County Health, among others.
“Environmental justice is how the benefits and burdens of environmentalism and how the impacts of everything in our environment are not shared equally by all, and so it’s working towards equity with both of those benefits and burdens,” Dr. Magid said.
Tuesday’s forum begins with a welcome from Huston-Tillotson’s President and CEO Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette and an introduction from Dr. Magid that includes more about building green justice, Huston-Tillotson’s environmental sustainability programs, and the new environmental justice major.
The day continues with local environment-conscious organizations presenting to bring more awareness to their presence and projects in Austin. There also will be a panel discussion about mapping instruction in environmental justice work and broadening perspectives on the work as a whole.
Dr. Magid shared that a lot of times what people call environmental justice work is very limited, and so Huston-Tillotson wants to demonstrate and expand upon that definition and say, “Hey, you don’t have to just be doing this one thing to be doing environmental justice work.”
Even bigger for Huston-Tillotson is the new environmental justice major. Huston-Tillotson wants input from community and experts of environmental justice to help craft the new program, including, but not limited to, the curriculum.
Dr. Magid said that two questions will guide the day of discussion: What do we want students trained in environmental justice to know and be? What will HT look like when justice is woven throughout the environmental programs?
“We want to make environmental justice the core of what we do at HT, which given HT’s history and mission and what we know that engages our students, it is so important that we build and strengthen this component.”
Overall, forums as the Green Justice Forum provide opportunities for students to learn more about the global work on environmental justice, bringing together advocates to learn from each other and learn more about what Huston-Tillotson is doing to preserve the environment.
Over the last five years, Huston-Tillotson has made sustainability one of its many priorities. In addition to starting the Green Justice Forum, solar panels were installed across three buildings. Even three gardens that include food, pollinator, and rain were formed. Landscaping is carefully done with best environmental practices, a greenhouse was built, and a new student organization, Green is the New Black, was formed.
Dr. Magid added that all stakeholders can be a part of environmental justice, from educational institutions, government, to other organizations doing other advocacy work.
“Everywhere you look, there’s a social justice component of that work,” Dr. Magid said. “Environmental justice is a component of social justice, and so wherever there’s work that needs to be done in equity, there probably is work that needs to be done in environmental justice.”
Event co-sponsors include The Dumpster Project, Third Coast Activist Resource Center, Green is the New Black, and City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability.