Helping communities of color go green

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Representatives of environmental advocacy groups from across the Twin Cities met May 25 at the Local Organizing for the Environment, Energy and the Earth roundtable discussion at the Rondo Community Center to compare notes about their efforts to connect the green economy to developments in communities of color. Shalini Gupta, director IATP Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy and participant of the roundtable, pointed out, “there’s an expression that ‘Anything about us, without us, isn’t for us” in reference to the dominant dialogue regarding sustainability and environmentalism commonly leaving out the voice of people of color. Together, she and the other groups represented at the roundtable hope to foster a more inclusive environmental movement that benefits all of society.

Valerie Martinez, executive director of Indigenous People’s Green Jobs Coalition, said that she helps people in her community understand how sustainability and going green can affect their lives. “Sometimes the environmental justice movement can be so large, we as families and individuals don’t know how we fit in,” she explained. Especially within the indigenous communities, where Martinez notes food is often considered a type of medicine and connection to the earth is a fundamental belief, creating mindfulness of harmful chemicals can connect with individuals on a very fundamental level.

Environmental activism is also an opportunity to gain access to immigrant communities that are often marginalized because of language or cultural barriers. As Lydia Nobello, an organizer with the West Side Citizens Organization, explained, immigrants who come from agricultural backgrounds can be confused by regulations on growing and selling produce in Minnesota. Through education and involvement with group community projects such as community gardens, Nobello and others at the roundtable hope they can begin to empower these once-marginalized communities to have a stronger voice in shaping environmental policy.

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.