Recently I had the opportunity to bring my experiences working with communities to an Environmental Justice Workshop for DC’s Department of Public Works’ SWEEP Summer Youth Employment Program. I had the pleasure of engaging with a cohort of environmentalists who are working to solve some of the Districts most pressing issues. Through a series of hands-on exercises, we modeled the institutions, resources and strategies available to help the youth participants correct social injustices and environmental issues. Three modules were presented to the youth participants. Each module included a presentations and interactive lessons to help the students identify various components in their lives.
“The Self” – Who am I and what is my value as an actor/innovator/influencer? In this module, the participants were tasked to engage their co-workers, in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of who they are, where they live, what are their interests, and what are the concerns and issues plaguing their communities. The participants were also challenged to identify their strengths and what qualities they possess and can utilize to impact change within their communities.
“Neighborhood & Community”– What do I recognize about the places I frequent each day? In this module, participants learned about two perspectives of the District of Columbia. From one vantage, the District is home to many of the nation’s most prized monuments and statues, the White House, and well-manicured landscapes, including the Cherry Blossoms. Although many of the participants were aware of these jewels they are also aware of the “alter ego” of the District, which includes environmental degradation, crime and poverty ridden neighborhoods, litter filled streets and waterways, and a lengthy list of environmental issues that are readily classified as social ills.
“City & Region” – What are the institutions affecting the opportunities surrounding us? In this module, the participants learned about the resources that are available and spread throughout the District. Participants were grouped by ward and tasked to geographically map and identify schools, churches, community centers, libraries, and office suites that can play major roles in spreading their campaigns.
The participants were able to draw best management practices based from sample campaigns and then guided through a step by step process to build their own local campaigns that will impact their issues and measure the success of their efforts
As the day winded down, the participants were also able to draw from the 85 years of life and wisdom from a woman and local DC champion, Mimi. In all that she shared and offered the most important point raised was that in “listening”, their campaigns will flourish. From this workshop, three campaigns were born; a campaign to address and control the litter issues, a campaign to fight homelessness and afford this population with more readily available transitional opportunities, and a campaign that address the gaps in life after High School and services that would help recent graduates select the path most efficient for them.