VOICES Green jobs, now!

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It took 12 months, hundreds of calls, thousands of emails and a flexible team of dedicated community activists to bring green jobs to Oakland and Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota is poised to do the same for the Twin Cities. EJAM’s mission is simple, bring hope to a community broken by an exclusion/pollution-based economy, empower its citizens with information and skills and further, connect them to jobs and pathways out of poverty that can heal the broken community. We are activists walking the talk. We know our community is in need of inclusive/green solutions. We want green jobs now, for those who need it most.

These are the tenets of Green For All, a national organization led by Van Jones and Majora Carter. Green for All located funding and has a corps of green workers ready for action. Socially responsible and responsive advocacy are mirrored by EJAM, a group co-created by community members and most notably, the Honorable Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s 5th congressional district representative. Five years ago, the group formed to address a domestic environmental justice concern: lead. While the congressman served at the state level, he and many others worked to and won solutions for residential communities being poisoned by lead. And he continues his work on the national stage.

At EJAM’s 5th “Founders Day,” a community celebration held on Minneapolis’ north side every January the group held a forum. And they provided good food for all by Common Roots Cafe. Those in attendance were treated to vendors active in environmental and social justice, legislators, and homegrown advocates. The forum ran like a seminar and offered attendees choices to learn the key points on the state of our environment, our world. Together with Women’s Environmental Institute (WEI), and Sierra Club’s Northstar chapter, EJAM and it’s fiscal agent, the Minneapolis Urban League informed residents with powerful speeches, art, music and dance, question and answer sessions with experts, government officials, and held open community forums. Eureka Recycling helped attendees with proper disposal techniques, accepting compost-able waste and recycling cans and glass. The crowd of more than 150 participants at the full-day event produced less than a kitchen size-bag of garbage.

EJAM has a working group, where everyday concerned citizens meet, review and take action on climate justice that is co-sponsored by WEI. Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota knows our commitment comes from an informed, and irrefutable point of view. Pawlenty convened a group to review the effects of global warming. Climate Justice advocates answered the review by thoroughly auditing their report, collectively commenting and submitting a request for more research on how the Governor’s plan will impact under represented (never included in the report) communities of color, the poor and indigenous communities. The climate justice working group’s response was written by educator and advocate, Dr. Cecelia Martinez.

Our organization works for environmentally responsible options and we are focused on the supply side of hope: jobs. North Minneapolis, where EJAM calls home, there are brown fields that blight our community, left from industries no longer viable. In order to be our future, we must heal our earthen cankerous, diseased eyesores and reclaim our community. If left unchecked, our people can become an endangered urban species.

We strive to build a caring coalition of urban farmers, schools, businesses, stakeholders and craftsmen to heal a hurting region. We want education that will direct people to jobs. We seek inventive civic-brokers interested in transforming polluted cityscapes. Skilled professional groups are in danger of dying without members. They are the co-mentors, co-educators of community citizens. Trades, flexible enough to address land reclamation, energy production and responsibly manufactured products are wanted. Rosie the Riveter and thousands of women answered the call to arms in World War II. And so can we in the 21st century.

Concerned people, under represented but committed to change – members of the Hmong, African American, Native American, Hispanic and new immigrant communities of North Minneapolis, and throughout the Twin Cities region are ready for an answer to their prayers for survival. EJAM stands with them in love and hope and the will to etch a pathway out of poverty. A green economy, non-fractured ecology and land belongs to all of us. And everyone must have a part in it. “Hundreds of contracts, thousands of jobs,” a twist of the Jones mantra is what Minnesotans seek. And the people living without must be at the table. Green jobs, now – for each of us.