Environmental Justice Academy 2010

By Omonigho Oiyemhonlan, Stanford University, DataCenter Summer Intern

Special Thanks to Jon Frappier and Max Weintraub for presenting at the Camp!

nicholas, omonigho, rebecca & miho (3)On September 11th & 12th, the DataCenter hosted it third annual research training academy, and first research academy focused on environmental justice. The academy had an amazing turnout with participants from local organizations such as: Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Youth United for Community Action, Greenaction, Pacific Institute, and the Winnemem Wintu tribe.

What made this academy particularly special was the level of enthusiasm and dedication the participants brought. They were not gathered in the 3rd floor conference room to dwell on our past successes or commend each other for the most recent, campaign endeavors. Instead, the DataCenter staff was met with gregarious community organizers, interns, and staff that came prepared with serious questions about how to strategically improve their research framework and realize the goals of their campaign issues. We came prepared to challenge our colleagues and happily they came ready to make the utmost of this opportunity and pose their questions and concerns related to their on-going organizing.

Participants identified with DataCenter’s concept of “research as an organizing tool” framework, and found it helped strategically plan their campaign agenda. The Environmental Justice Research Training Academy accomplished its goal to provide the necessary skills-based workshops that would transform the community’s expertise (intimate understanding of the goings on in their community) into political ammunition that would hold up in mainstream knowledge.

A workshop held by DataCenter co-founder Jon Frappier and private investigator Amie Fishman covered corporate and individual profiling in such a manner that something initially viewed as dreadful and overwhelming by participants, was “kind of fun”. In addition to this duo, Max Weintraub, held a roundtable discussion covering the different agencies of the Environmental Protection Agency and laid out the different pathways participants could follow to acquire the necessary government resources to build their research issue. Lastly, Catalina Garzon & Eli Moore of Pacific Institute, added to the participant’s repertoire of tools to help transform the community’s reality into the empirical evidence widely accepted in mainstream media. Their presentation introduced two techniques—photo-voice & community mapping—not often used by community organizations.

Overall our intensive training academy was nothing short of amazing. Participants took home binders packed with resources that covered over and beyond what DataCenter managed to cover in those two short days. More importantly, many participants left inspired and ready to employ more innovative perspectives to environmental issues in their community.