Archives for category: Peggy Shepard

Upstream Contributor, inspirational community organizer, and environmental justice advocate Peggy Shepard has been nominated for a Lady Godiva award.  Please vote for her here.  If you want to learn more about her remarkable work, view her Upstream interview here.  Below you can find the summary of her nomination.

It is startling to realize how one person’s vision can open our eyes to new vistas; how one person’s leadership can inspire others to strengthen community resilience and acknowledge our collective responsibility to each other. The environment is where we live, work, play, and go to school, and Peggy Shepard helps us understand that the environment is everyone’s challenge because our communities share a common destiny. She inspires us to believe and to organize to achieve access to clean air, clean water, healthy food, a toxic-free environment, and to improve children’s environmental health i.e. asthma and lead poisoning. She is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT For Environmental Justice (WE ACT), based in Northern Manhattan,home to over 630,000 mostly low-income African-Americans and Latinos, which has a 25-year history of combining grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy and environmental health research.

Recently a Washington DC office was opened to voice the concerns of underserved communities in developing policies. A West Harlem resident, she spent 8 years developing a grassroots organization of volunteers into a staffed organizing and advocacy non-profit which raises $1.6 million per year to assist in training over 500 parents to have healthier homes, and has conducted public education campaigns on children’s health that reached over 1 million homes citywide through workshops, radio, and bus ads. By engaging residents like me to develop and implement a common vision around commonly held values, she inspires us to embrace challenge and pursue solutions that might otherwise elude us.

When she moved to Harlem in the ‘80s and 3 senior citizens came to her and asked for her help in organizing the community around environmental exposures, she began what has been a 25-year history of commitment to a set of principles that value community knowledge and engagement in achieving a more sustainable environment, and to building community capacity through organizing, training, and partnerships with academics and scientists.

Her drive and commitment and community organizing skills achieved the retrofit of the North River Sewage Treatment Plant whose emissions were exacerbating asthma attacks in neighborhood children, and a $1.1 million community environmental benefits fund. Her work contributed to the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) retrofitting its citywide diesel bus fleet to cleaner fuels resulting in cleaner air citywide.

View Peggy’s Upstream interview here.

An article about Upstream expert Peggy Shepard was recently published in the Amsterdam News:

Peggy Shepard knows that advocacy brings results. Serving as executive director of West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT), she has seen first-hand what can happen when you try to improve things environmentally in northern Manhattan.

Founded in 1988, WE ACT is not only the state’s first environmental justice organization run by people of color, but it has also been key in making sure that residents living in northern Manhattan are breathing clean air, getting fresh water and receiving safe living conditions.

Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Trenton, N.J., Shepard came to New York to pursue a career in journalism. After working as the first Black reporter for the Indianapolis News, she worked at Time-Life, Redbook, Essence and Black Enterprise in editorial positions. However, after leaving Black Enterprise, she desired something else.

“I wanted to do something with a little more substance,” she said. “I thought I would do serious articles, but magazines at the time were not ready to do serious articles.”

With that, she entered politics as a speechwriter and later became the Manhattan public relations director for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign. She also worked with New York City Mayor David Dinkins and Bill Lynch. Shepard eventually was elected to the position of Democratic District leader, serving alongside Chuck Sutton, nephew to the late Percy Sutton.

Her stint in politics allowed her to travel the state and make solid contacts. She even ran for state Assembly and City Council. However, Shepard also saw inequality among the communities in New York she visited.

Said Shepard, “I got to meet a lot of people around the state and see the differences between certain resources people had in other communities than they had in Harlem. I saw what activism did for the community, and I realized Harlem did not have that same level of activism.”

The first issue Shepard took on was the North River Waste Treatment Plant in 1986 in Harlem, which is now Riverbank State Park. Odors and emissions from the plant were making residents sick. After filing a lawsuit and winning the case, the $1 million settlement was used to start WE ACT.

In another lawsuit filed in 1988, Shepard led the fight against the MTA over the building of a bus depot. Cancer-causing emissions and harmful air pollution, along with the MTA not getting environmental consulting on the project, contributed to a victory that halted the project.

One of her most recent victories is the building of the new Harlem Piers in 2010. The city wanted to build a hotel in the space, but thanks to advocacy from residents and Shepard’s push, the city backed down and built a much-needed public waterfront space in Harlem.

Today, WE ACT operates as a nonprofit organization with a staff of 14 people not only advocating for better conditions in Harlem, but also educating communities on what they can do to save the environment, like recycling and being aware of various environmental issues.

“I feel great, and a lot of people ask me what keeps me going. It’s the activism,” she said. “This isn’t a job, it’s social justice. We need community residents to be active and concerned about issues in the community, to come together and do something about them.”

View Peggy’s Upstream interview here.

Upstream Contributor Peggy Shepard speaks on Environmental Justice and surfacing the meme of “Sacrifice Zones.”

Visit Peggy Shepard’s main Upstream page.

From :

Advancing Environmental Justice and Urban Sustainability, 6th Annual Arnold J, Alderman Memorial Lecture, Martin Luther King Celebration, Yale Peabody Museum

Upstream Contributor Peggy Shepard is one of several prominent celebrities to speak at an upcoming TEDX Conference at the Apollo Theater.  (The poster image above is from a recent Peggy Shepard speech.) Here are some details for the upcoming event.

From Harlem World:

The one-day interactive forum will feature presentations on inspiring ideas and innovations by prominent speakers across various industries . The theme, “Creating Waves,” speaks to the notion that ideas have the ability to spread and make an impact, no matter where they are conceived.

Throughout the day, approximately 20 speakers, including Harlemites Celebrity Peggy Shepard, Chef Marcus Samuelsson, Thelma Golden of Harlem Studio Museum, and Khadim Diop, among others, will facilitate a suite of short talks, demonstrations and performances on an array of subjects to foster learning, inspiration and wonder.

The aim is to provoke conversations that help propel the Harlem and the global community forward. Topics include health and wellness, civic engagement, science, technology, engineering and math (S.T.E.M.) and mobility and connectivity, to name a few. The visionaries showcased believe communities like Harlem have the potential to nurture and spread fresh ideas that create change beyond their community.

Participants will experience speakers that are sure to move and stimulate. Bina48, a robot that speaks, hears, and thinks like a human being, will share her personal testimony and take questions from TEDxHarlem social media followers at the conference. “I want people to see how far I’ve come,” Bina48 said. When asked how it feels to be a robot, she replied, “I dream about being human, but it’s not half bad. I’ve never been anything else.”

“We created TEDxHarlem to exemplify the spirit and culture of this great community. There has been a resurgence of the Harlem community that will be reflected throughout this transformative day of brilliance, entertainment and progressiveness. It is our hope that by bringing together big thinkers and community members, we will drive true impact within Harlem and beyond,” said Marcus Glover, TEDxHarlem organizer and founder of the Living Labs Foundation.

The Apollo Theater, March 27 from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

For more information about TEDxHarlem visit http://www.tedxharlem.com .

<p>Peggy Shepard</p>

Peggy M. Shepard, executive director and co-founder of WE ACT For Environmental Justice (WE ACT), gives the annual MLK Lecture on Environmental Justice. The title of her talk is “Advancing Environmental Health & Justice: A Community Perspective.”

Shepard has successfully combined grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy and environmental health research to becomea national leader in advancing the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities to ensure that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment extends to all. Shepard was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science from Smith College last May for two decades of leadership in environmental justice and urban sustainability.

From Huffington Post:

“Who wouldn’t be against the poisoning of children?”

This was the rhetorical question posed by Dr. Robert D. Bullard during a recent phone interview that I had with him. Our talk covered topics from the genesis of his career as the “Father of Environmental Justice,” to the role that women and mothers have played in the struggle for the health of the planet. As Bullard stated, “Women have been the backbone of environmental justice — and women of color have consistently been fighting for their kids.”

African-American and Latinos have repeatedly found their communities targeted as prime locations for toxic facilities. I reached out to Bullard for an overview on the evolution of the Environmental Justice movement, which has served as a prism through which to examine policy based on race, environment, and waste. Bullard walked me through his work from the 1970s, when he developed the theory of Environmental Justice, to his current role as the Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University.

* * *

Dumping In Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality, Bullard’s 1990 book, became a textbook primer for teaching the underpinnings of Environmental Justice. In it, Bullard illustrated how siting practices have created a full range of health problems in the African-American population as the result of incinerators, garbage dumps, hazardous waste, and chemical plants. Bullard meticulously used research based on science and facts to demonstrate that environmental waste was being located in economically poor and politically powerless neighborhoods. The same year, Bullard built a list of groups doing related advocacy initiatives, which led to the National People of Color Environmental Summit in 1991 and a Principles of Environmental Justice manifesto. His formulations on public policy branched out to the international level, when in 1999 he assisted in preparing environmental racism documents that were presented at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

When we spoke, Bullard expressed his concern about the current atmosphere of ongoing negativity toward the Environmental Protection Agency. He said, “When people demonize the EPA, it’s totally bogus. We need a strong, independent EPA.” Reflecting on what a lapse on enforcing standards could do to the public’s wellbeing, Bullard remarked, “Are we trying to race to the bottom?”

On the issue of “unequal protection,” Bullard emphasized the need of governmental agencies to work together so that “no community becomes a dumping zone.” He was definitive in his stance, “You need a strong Federal presence,” referencing how in too many circumstances, “states have done a lousy job.” Drilling down on the way equity issues impact low wealth communities, Bullard noted that the same neighborhoods that experience toxic sites are also the ones lacking in supermarkets, parks and other quality of life markers. Pointing to a Toxic Waste and Race Report, Bullard observed that of 413 commercial waste facilities, 56 percent were in locations inhabited by people of color. Using the term “clustering,” he pointed to hot spots in California, Texas, and New Mexico — as well as to the urban centers of Detroit, Miami, Washington, D.C. and New York City — that shared similar patterns of toxic release.

* * *

In explaining how children of color were disproportionately affected by ozone, automobile and truck exhaust, coal-fired power plants — putting them on the front line, Bullard circled back to the efforts of mothers in East Los Angeles, reiterating how they had been battling against local incinerators for decades. He also mentioned the ongoing work of [Upstream Contributor] Peggy Shepard, executive director and co-founder (1988) of West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT), New York’s first organization devoted to improving environmental health in communities of color. Speaking of all youngsters, Bullard said, “If we protect children, we protect everyone. If we don’t, we put everyone at risk.”

His final words to me summed up why mobilizing to ensure and maintain the progress and regulations put into place by the EPA is so essential:

“Writing off an entire generation is not acceptable.”

More.

From Black Star News (including quotations from Upstream Interviewee Peggy Shepard):

New York State Senator Bill Perkins and State Assemblyman Herman Farrell are backing efforts by Community Board 9 in Harlem to obtain over a million dollars in a fund administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in order to develop water-related projects in West Harlem.

There is currently an estimated $1.1 million in the North River Environmental Benefits fund that came from fines that the conservation agency had levied on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) during the last decade, including violations related to the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant on 144th Street and the Henry Hudson Parkway. The Community Board alleges that the protection agency is most recently responsible for safety code violations in the wake of the July fire at the plant.

“The money is owed to us because the plant was built in our neighborhood and we’ve been carrying that burden for the west side of Manhattan for decades,” said Brad Taylor, first vice-chair of Community Board 9.

The DEP hired an outside agency to analyze the cause of the fire but the report is yet to be published and the agency has refused to comment. “Were going to push to have that report moved faster,” said Senator Perkins. “They’re taking too long and it’s raising credibility concerns. We don’t want to wait until there’s another crisis. The community has been very supportive and now they’re exercising good community activism. There are financial consequences to not resolving the issue but more importantly there are environmental consequences.”

“I fully support the boards efforts at getting that money to reinvest in the area,” added State Assemblyman Farrell.

Peggy Shepard, executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, sued the DEP in 1988 for operating the plant as a “public and private nuisance.” The suit was settled in 1994 and WE ACT was awarded $1.1 million. “I recently sent letters to the protection agency and the conservation agency protesting the fact that the money has not been spent despite the task force and the years of meeting to develop projects,” said Shepard.

She added that the commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation agency, Joe Martens, is “pulling the implementation of the protection agency’s projects back because it has refused to address public engagement.”

The fire, which began on July 20 in the fuel room of the plant, sent plumes of smoke 30 feet into the air, closing parts of the highway and evacuating 1,000 people from Riverbank State Park, which is built on the roof of the plant. Taylor estimated that by the end of the day, hundreds of millions of gallons of partially treated sewage water had spewed into the Hudson River.

“When I toured the plant after the fire, I saw design flaws from start to finish,” said Taylor, the first vice-chair at Community Board 9. “There was a lot of spaghetti work with the cables and general common-sense oversights, like no walls separating pumps, so that if one pump catches fire, it immediately takes the rest of the pumps with it along with the control system.”

Taylor wanted to know why, for example, water sprinklers were not installed in the fuel room.

How serious was the fire? “Purple-K, the chemical for powder extinguishers, was used to treat the fire because water would not suffice for this kind of fire,” said Jim Long, an active firefighter who also works in the FDNY’s press office in Brooklyn.

State Senator Mark Grisanti spoke in October at a hearing hosted by the New York State Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. Grisanti, the chairman of the committee, said he wants to bring about a better system to notify the people and parks of New York City if water has been polluted. “We must continue to seek new ways to reduce sewage discharges into the Hudson River and its tributaries and improve public notification procedures when discharges occur,” said Grisanti at the hearing.

The frustration in the wake of the fire is just another chapter in a storied history of the plant. It began operating in 1986 and the park opened in 1993 as a concession from the state to Harlem for agreeing to host the plant. According to Taylor, the state has yet to make good on a number of promises it made for the park, including an enclosure for its ice-skating rink, rooftop fountains, an Olympic sized pool suited for diving and a spacious restaurant.

“It’s completely inadequate including everything from the ventilation to the seating,” said Taylor. “It can’t be subject to the same budget cuts as other parks because we’ve taken on a special burden for the city. Looking back, it’s obvious that the city planners were praying on the fact that Harlem would remain an unorganized neighborhood without high powered lawyers.”

Now an old chapter could be re-opened due to the controversy.

More.

View the extended Upstream Interview of Peggy Shepard here.

Upstream contributor, Peggy Shepard is participating in the “Promoting Healthy Communities” Conference.  Here is the agenda.

PROMOTING HEALTHY COMMUNITIES: Developing and Exploring Linkages Between Public Health Indicators, Exposure and Hazard Data

Grand Hyatt Washington
1000 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Monday, September 26 – Tuesday, September 27, 2011
DRAFT AGENDA

Print Version (PDF) (4 pp, 36 K)

See conference schedule under the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Peggy Shepard 

Peggy Shepard is executive director and co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Founded in 1988, WE ACT was New York’s first environmental justice organization created to improve environmental health and quality of life in communities of color.

In this portion of my interview, she discusses some of the challenges and rewards of environmental activism, as she responds to the prompts listed below.

(Duration 14:22)

Contents

Part 7 – Environmental Activism

  1. What do you consider to be the biggest obstacles to reform and most significant challenges to reformers? 00:40
  2. Why is community involvement and mobilization important? 03:00
  3. Why do you think community organizing has died out? 05:20
  4. What are some consequences of not having meaningful community movements? 07:00
  5. Why do you suppose so many people are apathetic with regard to environmental health risks? 08:30
  6. Does the global focus of many mainstream environmental groups contribute to the public apathy toward more local environmental justice concerns? 10:00
  7. What can we do to promote environmental health and environmental justice in our own communities? 11:00

Go to Part 8 – “Five Favorites”.

Title Duration
Part 1 – Early Career 10:30
Part 2 – The Origins of WE ACT 8:24
Part 3 – The Work of WE ACT 11:02
Part 4 – Environmental Health & Justice 6:29
Part 5 – Collaborating with Scientists 7:51
Part 6 – Policy Reforms 10:15
Part 7 – Environmental Activism 14:22
Part 8 – Five Favorites 5:45
Full Interview 66:41

Visit Peggy Shepard’s main Upstream page.

Peggy Shepard 

Peggy Shepard is executive director and co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Founded in 1988, WE ACT was New York’s first environmental justice organization created to improve environmental health and quality of life in communities of color.

In this portion of my interview, she discusses the policy reforms that WE ACT has helped to advance and that she would like to see adopted in the future, as she responds to the prompts listed below.

(Duration 10:15)

Contents

Part 6 – Policy Reforms

  1. What sorts of policy reforms has WE ACT helped to promote locally? 00:40
  2. How do your local efforts connect to the environmental justice movement around the country? 02:00
  3. What activities does your organization specialize in when engaged at the national level? 03:40
  4. Would you say that the environmental justice movement has been successful? 04:30
  5. What are some other policies that you would like to see enacted? 06:10

Go to Part 7 – “Environmental Activism”.

Title Duration
Part 1 – Early Career 10:30
Part 2 – The Origins of WE ACT 8:24
Part 3 – The Work of WE ACT 11:02
Part 4 – Environmental Health & Justice 6:29
Part 5 – Collaborating with Scientists 7:51
Part 6 – Policy Reforms 10:15
Part 7 – Environmental Activism 14:22
Part 8 – Five Favorites 5:45
Full Interview 66:41

Visit Peggy Shepard’s main Upstream page.

Peggy Shepard 

Peggy Shepard is executive director and co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Founded in 1988, WE ACT was New York’s first environmental justice organization created to improve environmental health and quality of life in communities of color.

In this portion of my interview, she discusses her collaboration with the public health and environmental health scientists as she responds to the prompts listed below.

(Duration 7:51)

Contents

  1. Please describe how you are collaborating with environmental health scientists. 00:40
  2. What sorts of things have your learned through that research, and how has that research assisted in your activism? 02:40
  3. Can you say a bit more about the research findings that connect environmental toxins to adverse health outcomes? 04:40
  4. How do you work with environmental health scientists to promote policy change? 06:15

Other Portions of Peggy Shepard Interview

Title Duration
Part 1 – Early Career 10:30
Part 2 – The Origins of WE ACT 8:24
Part 3 – The Work of WE ACT 11:02
Part 4 – Environmental Health & Justice 6:29
Part 5 – Collaborating with Scientists 7:51
Part 6 – Policy Reforms 10:15
Part 7 – Environmental Activism 14:22
Part 8 – Five Favorites 5:45
Full Interview 66:41

Visit Peggy Shepard’s main Upstream page.

Peggy Shepard

Peggy Shepard is executive director and co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Founded in 1988, WE ACT was New York’s first environmental justice organization created to improve environmental health and quality of life in communities of color.

In this portion of my interview, she discusses the environmental justice movement as she responds to the prompts listed below.

(Duration 6:29)

Contents

  1. How would you summarize the connection between environmental health and environmental justice? 00:40
  2. Can you say more about the role of race in determining exposure levels to environmental toxins? 01:15
  3. Why is it that environmental toxins disproportionately burden communities of color? 02:40
  4. In general terms, what do those exposures mean for health outcomes? 04:30

Other Portions of Peggy Shepard Interview

Title Duration
Part 1 – Early Career 10:30
Part 2 – The Origins of WE ACT 8:24
Part 3 – The Work of WE ACT 11:02
Part 4 – Environmental Health & Justice 6:29
Part 5 – Collaborating with Scientists 7:51
Part 6 – Policy Reforms 10:15
Part 7 – Environmental Activism 14:22
Part 8 – Five Favorites 5:45
Full Interview 66:41

Visit Peggy Shepard’s main Upstream page.

Peggy Shepard

Peggy Shepard is executive director and co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Founded in 1988, WE ACT was New York’s first environmental justice organization created to improve environmental health and quality of life in communities of color.

In this portion of my interview, she discusses the goals and accomplishments of WE ACT as she responds to the prompts listed below.

(Duration 11:02)

Contents

  1. As community activists, how do you measure your own success in helping to create a healthy community? 00:40
  2. Please briefly describe WE ACT’s “8 Indicators of a Healthy Community.” 01:40
  3. Is there one environmental problem that stands out as most important to WE ACT? 04:40
  4. What sorts of things have you done to promote improved air quality? 06:20
  5. Please briefly describe some of your work to create open and green spaces in the community. 07:00

Other Portions of Peggy Shepard Interview

Title Duration
Part 1 – Early Career 10:30
Part 2 – The Origins of WE ACT 8:24
Part 3 – The Work of WE ACT 11:02
Part 4 – Environmental Health & Justice 6:29
Part 5 – Collaborating with Scientists 7:51
Part 6 – Policy Reforms 10:15
Part 7 – Environmental Activism 14:22
Part 8 – Five Favorites 5:45
Full Interview 1:06:41

Visit Peggy Shepard’s main Upstream page.

Peggy Shepard


Peggy Shepard is executive director and co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Founded in 1988, WE ACT was New York’s first environmental justice organization created to improve environmental health and quality of life in communities of color.

In this portion of my interview, she discusses her early career and responds to the prompts listed below.

(Duration 8:24)

Contents

  1. Was it difficult to mobilize public support for environmental reforms? 00:40
  2. How responsive was the city to the problems that you raised about the sewage treatment plant? 01:30
  3. Were you pushing to have the sewage treatment center closed? 03:05
  4. Please describe the lawsuit that helped to solve that problem and helped to invigorate WE ACT. 03:50
  5. Can you say more about WE ACT’s history and its staff? 05:40
  6. Please describe the community in which WE ACT does most of its work. 06:20
  7. What is the mission of WE ACT? 07:00

Other Portions of Peggy Shepard Interview

Part 1 – Early Career 10:30
Part 2 – The Origins of WE ACT 8:24
Part 3 – The Work of WE ACT 11:02
Part 4 – Environmental Health & Justice 6:29
Part 5 – Collaborating with Scientists 7:51
Part 6 – Policy Reforms 10:15
Part 7 – Environmental Activism 14:22
Part 8 – Five Favorites 5:45
Full Interview 1:06:41

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