Addressing Racism As a Public Health Issue Through the Lens of Environmental Health Disparities and Environmental Justice: From Problems to Solutions
Sherry Baron is an occupational physician and Professor at the Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment at Queens College, and an affiliate Professor at the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, City University of New York. Previously, she spent 25 years as a researcher at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC where she was the coordinator of the Occupational Health Equity programs. Her current research project, Safe and Just Cleaners, is an NIEHS funded Research to Action project which applies a community-based participatory research approach for collecting data on household cleaners’ chemical exposures and other working conditions to develop safer cleaning practices to reduce exposure for cleaners and their clients. She also received a Social, Economic and Behavioral Research on COVID supplemental grant to study the impact of COVID-19 on household cleaners.
Sherry Baron, M.D., M.P.H.
Barry Commoners Center for Health and the Environment
Queens College, City University of New York
Robert D. Bullard, Ph.D., is distinguished professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University. He received his Ph.D. degree from Iowa State University. Professor Bullard is often called the “father of environmental justice.” He is the founding director of the Robert D. Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at TSU, co-founder of the HBCU Climate Change Consortium and the National Black Environmental Justice Network. Bullard is the author of 18 books. His latest book is The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities (2012). In 2008, Newsweek named him one of “13 Environmental Leaders of the Century.” In 2019, Apolitical named him one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People in Climate Policy, and Climate One presented him with the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication. In 2020, WebMD gave him its Health Heroes Trailblazer Award and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) honored him with its Champions of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award. And in 2021, he was appointed by President Biden to serve on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC).
Crystal Cavalier-Keck is the co-founder of Seven Directions of Service with her husband. She is a citizen of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in Burlington, North Carolina. She is the Chair of the Alamance County Environmental Justice Committee for the NAACP, a board member of the Haw River Assembly, and a member of the 2020 Fall Cohort of the Sierra Club's Gender Equity and Environment Program and Women's Earth Alliance (WEA) Accelerator for Grassroots Women Environmental Leaders. Currently, Crystal currently works with Native Organizers Alliance on the Sacred Places, Red Road Totem Journey. Crystal is currently working on her Doctorate at the University of Dayton and dissertation on Social Justice of Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Gas/Oil Pipelines in frontline communities. Crystal is also an expert in her field of Strategic Intelligence, Political Campaigns, and Public Administration. She has conducted training along and around the East Coast on Coordinated Tribal/Community Response for emergency management, through natural, cyber, or man-made disasters.
Deysi Flores is the senior coordinator of the Workers Health and Safety Program at Make the Road New York. She oversees operations, including training, logistics, curriculum development, quality control, and participatory research projects. Deysi builds and maintains relations with other health & safety programs. She is a Co-Principal Investigator for the Safe and Just Cleaners project, community-based participatory research documenting cleaning chemicals exposure among Latinx house cleaners in New York, funded by NIEHS. As a senior staff member in the health department and member of the Workers’ Rights team, she provides technical knowledge and support to the various campaigns. Previously, she worked with vulnerable communities on educational and social projects in Latin America.
Supervisor of the Workers’ Health & Safety (WHS) Program
Make the Road New York
92-10 Roosevelt Avenue
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Jason Campos Keck is from East Oakland who found the freedom to choose another lifestyle and another context for his life, ultimately becoming the VP of Outreach for an international men's organization focused on successful families, careers and communities. With a multi-racial heritage of Native American (Choctaw-Apache), French African Creole from Louisiana and European, he is also a ceremonial dancer and works together with his wife on social justice issues in the community. Jason is the President of the Alamance County, Native American Caucus and the Secretary of the 17 Rivers North Carolina Chapter of the American Indian Movement. Jason and Crystal Cavalier co-founded Eastern Woodland Lacrosse and 7 Directions of Service.
Nancy Krieger, Ph.D., is Professor of Social Epidemiology and American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) and Director of the HSPH Interdisciplinary Concentration on Women, Gender, and Health. She is an internationally recognized social epidemiologist (Ph.D., Epidemiology, UC Berkeley, 1989) and ISI highly cited scientist (a group comprising <0.05% of publishing researchers), with a background in biochemistry, philosophy of science, and history of public health, plus 35+ years of activism involving social justice, science, and health. Krieger’s work addresses: (1) conceptual frameworks to understand, analyze, and improve the people’s health, including her ecosocial theory of disease distribution, focused on embodiment and equity; (2) etiologic research on societal determinants of population health and health inequities, including structural racism and other types of adverse discrimination; and (3) methodologic research to improve monitoring of health inequities. She is author of Epidemiology and The People’s Health: Theory and Context (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2011), and Ecosocial Theory, Embodied Truths, and The People’s Health (OUP, 2021). In 1994 she co-founded, and still chairs, the Spirit of 1848 Caucus of the American Public Health Association, which focuses on links between social justice and public health.
Harvard Academic Profile
Johnnye Lewis, Ph.D., is a Research Professor and Director of the Community Environmental Health Program (CEHP) at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center College of Pharmacy. Her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Manitoba was followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in inhalation toxicology at the Department of Energy Inhalation Toxicology Research Institute in Albuquerque, NM, and private sector work as owner and CEO of Environmental Health Associates, an environmental health consulting firm providing risk modeling and assessment methodology development for Indigenous tribes, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and NRC. She moved to academia in 1996 and developed CEHP to merge her scientific research in toxicology with community concerns, creating partnerships among multidisciplinary researchers, communities, policy and decision-makers, and clinicians to develop creative and integrative transdisciplinary solutions to environmental contamination problems. Today Lewis leads multiple center-level programs including the Navajo Birth Cohort Study, Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (NIH-OD), the METALS Superfund Research Center (NIH-NIEHS), the Center for Native Environmental Health Equity Research (NIEHS/USEPA Phase 1, NIMHD Phase 2). CEHP’s primary focus is on risk to Indigenous communities from chronic exposures to abandoned uranium mine waste from Cold War weapons development throughout the Western US. The Centers focus on environmental mobility and multigenerational toxicity, engaging teams of trained indigenous community researchers, indigenous language and culture specialists, artists, toxicologists, engineers, mineralogists, geochemists, geographers, statisticians and mathematicians, immunologists, ethnographers, and clinicians. The Centers work with communities to Integrate indigenous knowledge, language, and art into design and implementation of clinical trials and novel risk reduction strategies to form a framework from which to build culturally acceptable solutions.
Pamela founded Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) in 1997 and serves as Executive Director. She brings more than 35 years of research, education, and advocacy experience to her present work. Pamela works passionately for environmental and reproductive justice, health, and human rights. In addition to serving as Executive Director for ACAT, Pamela was elected in 2016 as Co-Chair of the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), a network of over 600 environmental health and justice organizations working in more than 124 countries. She serves as a Principal Investigator for community-based participatory research projects funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Pamela received a Meritorious Service Award from the University of Alaska and Alaska Conservation Foundation’s Olaus Murie Award in recognition of her “long-term outstanding professional contributions to the conservation movement in Alaska.” She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Wittenberg University and a master’s degree in environmental science from Miami University. Prior to her work in Alaska, she served as Ocean Issues Technical Coordinator for the Washington Department of Ecology and Director of a marine science education center at Nisqually Reach in southern Puget Sound. She received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence in Washington State. She came to Alaska in 1989 following the Exxon Valdez oil spill to serve as a research biologist for Greenpeace.
Naeema Muhammad is Co-Director/Community Organizer of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), seeking to promote health and environmental equality for all people of North Carolina. She is also a founding member of BWFJ (Black Workers for Justice) in North Carolina, a community-based organization that addresses workers’ rights issues since 1981. Naeema has extensive experience in community organizing and in community-based participatory research, especially concerning waste from industrial hog operations. As a collaborator on two NIEHS grants – the Community Health and Environmental Reawakening (CHER) and Community Health Effects of Industrial Hog Operations (CHEIHO) projects – she has coordinated environmental monitoring and data collection; conducted interviews; and implemented environmental justice education. Naeema is the wife of Saladin Muhammad for 55 years, and they have fought for justice all along. She believes their work will lead to better lives for their families, including their 3 children, 9 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.
I am a member of Blue Gap/Tachee Community, Arizona from the heart of the great Navajo Nation. Blue Gap/Tachee is a region that was mined for uranium during the Cold War, with the abandoned mines that affected our people, livestock, land and water still not remediated today. I was born and raised on the Navajo Reservation and attended Bureau of Indian Affair Schools: Cottonwood Day School, Chinle and Many Farms, Arizona. After three years at St. Catherine Indian School, Santa Fe, New Mexico, I spent two years at Northern Arizona University, majoring in Civil Engineering Technology. I worked at Peabody Coal Company as Survey Crew Chief, Navajo Nation Land Department where I managed the Land Office in Chinle, Arizona and was Director for the Federal HOME Program, Window Rock, Arizona. I was elected to Navajo Nation Council in 1999 to 2014, served on Government Service Committee and Transportation and Community Development Committee and was elected as the Speaker of the 22nd Navajo Nation Council. I have also served as Chairman on Navajo Housing Authority Board of Commission.
Amy Jo Schulz
Amy J. Schulz is University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor, and Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She has served as PI or Co-Investigator on multiple NIH-funded initiatives. A sociologist with expertise in the joint contributions of social and physical environmental exposures to health inequities, and a leading scholar in the field of community based participatory research (CBPR), she has extensive expertise in working collaboratively with community, practice and academic partners to conduct both etiologic and intervention research. She currently serves as MultiPI for the Community Action to Promote Healthy Environments (CAPHE) partnership, a CBPR partnership focused on air pollution, social and economic vulnerabilities, and development and implementation of a Public Health Action Plan to reduce excess risk in the Detroit Metropolitan area. Since 2000 she has served as PI for the Healthy Environments Partnership (HEP), a CBPR partnership focused on understanding, and designing, implementing and evaluating interventions to address, social determinants of cardiovascular disease in Detroit. She has also been a member of the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center (Detroit URC) since its inception in 1995. Her specific expertise is in analysis of joint effects of social and physical environmental conditions for chronic health outcomes (Schulz et al 2016; Schulz et al 2018; Schulz et al 2020), the development of policy and programmatic interventions, and engagement of community, academic and public health practice partners in participatory research and intervention efforts (e.g., Schulz et al 2017). She has worked closely with community and academic collaborators to develop widely cited conceptual frameworks (Schulz et al 2005), conduct etiologic research examining pathways linking social and physical environments to multiple health outcomes, and develop, implement and evaluate community-based interventions to promote health and health equity.
Peggy Shepard is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice and has a long history of organizing and engaging Northern Manhattan residents in community-based planning and campaigns to address environmental protection and environmental health policy locally and nationally. She has successfully combined grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy, and environmental health community-based participatory research to become a national leader in advancing environmental policy and the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities — to ensure that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment extends to all. She has been named co-chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and was the first female chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the National Black Environmental Justice Network and the Board of Advisors of the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. Her work has received broad recognition: the Jane Jacobs Medal from the Rockefeller Foundation for Lifetime Achievement, the 10th Annual Heinz Award for the Environment, the William K. Reilly Award for Environmental Leadership, the Knight of the National Order of Merit from the French Republic, the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award from the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and Honorary Doctorates from Smith College and Lawrence University.
WE ACT for Environmental Justice Profile
Viola Pangunnaaq Waghiyi
Viola (Vi) Pangunnaaq Waghiyi is a Sivuqaq Yupik, Native Village of Savoonga Tribal Citizen, mother, and grandmother. Since 2002, she has worked with Alaska Community Action on Toxics and serves as Environmental Health and Justice Program Director. She was appointed by President Biden to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) in April 2021. She is a nationally recognized environmental justice leader and is frequently invited to speak locally, nationally, and internationally. Vi serves as a leader of the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus that advises the United Nation’s international delegates for treaties concerning persistent organic pollutants. She served as a member of the Environmental Health Sciences Council that advises the NIEHS. Vi received an Environmental Achievement Award from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in “Recognition of Valuable Contributions to Environmental Excellence in Alaska.” She received a certificate of appreciation from the leaders of her home village, Savoonga, “for the dedication and devoted service as an Ambassador of St. Lawrence Island for protecting our health and human rights.” She coordinates environmental health research projects in the Norton Sound region of Alaska and supervises the work of community researchers on Sivuqaq.
Donele Wilkins is the Executive Director of Green Door Initiative. She has dedicated her life’s work towards improving the quality of life for Detroiters and others through environmental and social justice. She is the founding director of the Green Door Initiative, a non- profit organization promoting environmental justice in Michigan. She is sought after as a public speaker. Recipient of many awards most recently received the Life-Time Achievement Award by the Detroit City Council’s Green Task Force. Serves as the Detroit City Councils Appointee to the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, served on the Environmental Protection Agency- National Environmental Justice Advisory Council and served as former Governor Granholm’s Appointee to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality- Advisory Council.
Donele has played a key role in developing Michigan’s Environmental Justice Policy, launched the city’s first green jobs training program, advocated for citizen involvement in public policies, citizen science and contributed to many scholarly articles on environmental justice and public health.
Over the course of his life, Ayo has lived and worked in impacted frontline communities in North Carolina and Ohio, and used his skills in nonprofit management, organizational management and development, and community organizing to support and empower impacted people through the arts, climate/environmental justice, and health/group fitness. In 2013, he traveled to Liberia, where he analyzed and provided recommendations for a national land records digitization project managed by Liberia’s Center for National Land Documents and Records Agency funded by the World Bank. He is Director of Clean Energy and Climate Justice at West End Revitalization Association, an organization founded in 1994 by his parents and concerned neighbors in the community where he was raised. He holds a B.S. in Communication, Electronic Media/Broadcasting from Appalachian State University and a Masters in Public Administration, cum laude from NC Central University. He serves on the Board of Directors for NC Climate Justice Collective, Haw River Assembly and NC WARN, has taught Zumba classes in North Carolina and Texas in conjunction with climate justice work with his brother Omari as Twin ZIN.
West End Revitalization Association (WERA)
Omega & Brenda Wilson
Co-founders of the West End Revitalization Association (WERA) in 1994 of Mebane, North Carolina. WERA incorporated as a 501-(c)(3) non-profit in 1995. Mission: Support access to “basic public health amenities” (safe drinking water, sewer lines, housing, streets, sidewalks, and storm-water management) for people of color and marginalized communities. Federal administrative complaints were filed to support first-time infrastructure installation under the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, etc. WERA supports primarily African American and Native American heritage communities: West End, White Level, Kimrey Road / Hawfields in Alamance County, and Buckhorn, Perry Hill, and Cheeks Cross in Orange County. February 1999 & Sept 2014: WERA filed complaints at U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and referenced the Environmental Justice Executive Order 12898 - 1994, to challenge the planned 8-lane interstate corridor that would destroy two historic African American and Native American communities in Mebane, North Carolina. DOJ directed six branches of the federal government to investigate their lack of oversight of civil rights and public health guidelines during the highway planning process that had been going on for 16 years without opportunities for public input. The highway construction was placed on moratorium from 1999 to 2016. More than 100 homeowners, out of 500, have since had sewer lines installed for the first time and dirt streets paved, even though homes have been within two blocks of Mebane’s municipal sewer treatment plant since it was constructed in 1921. Omega served as a “community perspective” member of EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (2007-2010). The EPA publication “Information to Action: Strengthening EPA Citizen Science Partnerships for Environmental Protection” (April 2018) features a case study on WERA community-owned and managed research (COMR) model. Omega and Brenda served on the National Citizen Science CitSci-2019 Conference’s Environmental Justice Planning Committee (2017-2019), Raleigh, North Carolina. In the AARP Bulletin-April 2019, both are featured as “senior citizen – citizen scientists” for collaborative problem-solving that “addresses human being in their environment.” Omega R Wilson: BA in Radio-TV-Film 1973, Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina; MA in Mass Communications 1974, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio; Ph.D. Coursework ABD in Mass Communications 1976, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio. Brenda A Crosby-Wilson: BA in Education 1974, Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina; MAED in Special Education 1980, Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi.
West End Revitalization Association (WERA)
Rick Woychik, Ph.D., was named Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program on June 7, 2020, after serving as Deputy Director since 2011. He is a molecular geneticist with a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Case Western Reserve University and postdoctoral training with Philip Leder, Ph.D., at Harvard Medical School. He spent almost 10 years at Oak Ridge National Laboratory rising in the ranks to become head of the Mammalian Genetics Section and then director of the Office of Functional Genomics. In August 1997, he assumed the role of vice chairman for research and professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University. In 1998, he moved to the San Francisco Bay area, first as the head of the Parke Davis Laboratory for Molecular Genetics and then as chief scientific officer at Lynx Therapeutics. He returned to academics as the president and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory in August 2002 and served in that role until January 2011.