Who We Are

A major goal of the Center has been the development of minority leadership in the areas of environmental, social, and economic justice along the Mississippi River Chemical Corridor. The Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ) has become a powerful resource of Environmental Justice Education and Training. A major aim of the Center has been the development of curricula that are culturally sensitive and tailored to the educational and training needs of the community. Over the years, the Center has made great strides in the accomplishment of these goals. We have observed the incredible metamorphosis of local grassroots community residents into national and international leaders, advocates, and spokespersons for environmental justice.

 

The DSCEJ has gained a considerable reputation in the field of hazardous waste worker training. Over the past thirteen years, in partnership with the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, the DSCEJ has forged a new, culturally sensitive training model designed to meet the specific needs of urban city youth living in environmentally contaminated communities through the implementation of Minority Worker Training Programs and Brownfields Minority Worker Training Programs in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport, LA; Biloxi/Gulfport, MS; West Dallas, TX; Atlanta, East Point, and Savannah, GA, and Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, FL, and Detroit, MI. The center has also implemented worker training under grants with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Labor.Since its inception in 1992, the DSCEJ has implemented numerous grants in the areas of research, capacity building, and education and training. Projects have been conducted in the areas of community assistance and education, research and policy, and primary, secondary, and university education. In its long-standing history of providing service to communities that have sustained negative environmental impact, the DSCEJ has continued to forge ahead, training communities and building capacity.

 

The DSCEJ has developed and embraces a model for community partnership that is called “communiversity”. This model emphasizes a collaborative management or partnership between universities and communities. The partnership promotes bilateral understanding and mutual respect between community residents and academicians. In the past, collaborative problem-solving attempts that included community residents and academicians were one-sided in terms of who controlled the dynamics of the interaction between the two, who was perceived as knowledgeable, and who was benefited. The essence of this approach is an acknowledgment that for effective research and policy-making, valuable community life experiences regarding environmental insult must be integrated with the theoretical knowledge of academic educators and researchers.  Either group alone is less able to accomplish the goal of achieving environmental equity, but the coming together of the two in a non-threatening forum can encourage significant strides toward solutions. The DSCEJ has advanced the communiversity model with the formation of the Mississippi River Avatar Community Advisory Board (CAB). The board consists of representatives from grassroots organizations and leaders of affected communities in the corridor and Gulf Coast Region. The Center has been involved in valuable environmental research aimed at providing technical assistance.

 

The DSCEJ provides educational seminars to college-level students and integrates student interns into its programs, research, and community outreach. In 1999, the Center established an Environmental Justice Club led by students to help reduce the carbon footprint on campus and throughout the metro New Orleans area to encourage environmental justice education and solutions to problems facing communities of color who bear the brunt of exposure to pollution and who are disproportionately impacted by climate change; to provide motivational lectures and inform students about careers in the environmental sciences and to provide scholarship/research opportunities at  the Center. In an effort to make students more aware of the environmental justice arena, students are invited to receive hands-on experience by immersing themselves in community environmental problems and working to solve these problems.  

 

Dillard University has established a green campus sustainability advisory board that works closely with the Students for Environmental Justice Club (SEJC) and the Melton Scholars. The “Go Green” Campaign was launched in March 2008 on Dillard’s campus to introduce sustainability practices. Dillard recently conducted an energy audit and will retrofit all existing campus buildings to become energy and water efficient. Dillard is currently recycling paper and plastics and plan to implement electronic waste recycling in the Fall of 2009. The students, faculty, and administration at Dillard University are making great strides to rebuild its beautiful and historic campus in a way that is safe and sustainable.In the Post Katrina era, the DSCEJ has directed its programmatic components and research efforts toward finding solutions and providing technical assistance for community residents along the Gulf Coast. Community projects specifically directed toward environmental clean up, public policy, rebuilding, and worker training programs for community residents represent the Center’s efforts in what is intended to be a long term investment in the restoration of the devastated communities.