Environmental Justice: Advocacy in action

Dear Sam,

I’ve recently heard some buzz about the Tangletown Neighborhood Association’s Environmental Committee adding environmental justice advocacy to their mission. Do you have an example of what that may look like in action?

With curiosity,

Hi Burt,

The buzz is true! The committee has taken a page from Tangletown Neighborhood Association’s Equity Committee to utilize our voice to advocate for those in our community who disproportionately experience negative environmental impacts. I interviewed the chair of the Equity Committee to gather an understanding of their advocacy work. Here was their insight:

“The equity committee, after having spent some time understanding the vision of the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) to create an Indoor Urban Farm using the old Roof Depot site, felt compelled to find some way we could lend our support to our neighbors.

That the neighborhood faced poor health outcomes across all age groups due to decades of industrial pollutants didn’t seem accidental, considering it is among the most diverse populations in the state. A long history of racist policy created a neighborhood where residents have and continue to live in close proximity to industrial pollutants that poison the air and leech into the soil. For the neighborhood to be only a few miles from ours, it seemed a world away. The city’s intention for the site seemed to ignore the needs and concerns of East Phillips residents, who had already done an enormously impressive job of organizing and fundraising—far beyond anything I can imagine us accomplishing in our neighborhood.

By the time we were involved, it was peak quarantine, so we read up, watched press conferences, and met with EPNI organizers on Zoom so that we could discuss what they might need from us. We asked the Tangletown Neighborhood Association board to formally lend their support to East Phillips. We collectively worked with other South Minneapolis neighborhood organizations to advocate on behalf of EPNI. We met with our elected officials to encourage East Phillips’s support and give organizers opportunities to speak directly with them. We shared information and stayed in communication as the legal and bureaucratic complexities unfolded.

As volunteers of a neighborhood organization, we value the collective effort it takes to build, maintain, and strengthen our community. It seemed an easy choice to leverage our position of relative privilege to assist another neighborhood in its work to improve the lives of its residents in such an impactful way.

Now that EPNI has reached an agreement with the city and secured funding from the state, the project will move forward. A great deal of work and, inevitably, challenges remain. For now, we’ve been invited to celebrate this incredible step forward alongside EPNI and the community on Sunday, June 18th @ Cedar Avenue Fields Park, 1-7 PM. The celebration will be a family-friendly event, including a Little Earth Fathers Day Round Dance, Speakers, Reuben Stately (a local Native rapper), Little Earth Drum group, music, food, mutual aid, and much more.”

The Equity Committee has shown us what environmental justice advocacy can look like for our neighborhood. If you would like to get involved in shaping this work with us, we invite you to join the Environmental Committee and bring your ideas! Email info@tangletown.org for meeting information.