Empowering Community Voices in the Environmental Movement

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Everyone’s voice and vision needs to be an active part of environmental decisions – especially the voice of those that are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation. Recently, the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group (DRCC/TAG) engaged community groups in South Park as part our role on the Equity & Environment Initiative’s Community Partner Steering Committee. The Equity & Environment Initiative (EEI), a first-of-its-kind effort in the nation, is a program of the City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment; its aim is that everyone in Seattle benefits from the city’s environmental progress, especially those who live in communities that are most impacted by environmental issues – including people of color, low-income populations, immigrants, and those with limited English skills.

Community members gathered at Concord International School for discussionAlberto J. RodrĂ­guez and Paulina LĂłpez of DRCC/TAG collaborated with community members to host multiple events so that many different groups would have the opportunity to discuss the health of their community and their vision for the future of these communities. Latino, Somali, Vietnamese, African American, Native American, and other voices of all ages were able to participate in these events.

Some of the highlights from the community events included:

  • An intergenerational cultural Vietnamese dinner and karaoke night which included members of the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps and the Vietnamese community
  • A Somali tea party and living room forum
  • Living room gatherings for the Latino population, co-hosted by Concord International School and Amigos de Seattle
  • In total, over 175 community members participated in these discussions!
Duwamish Valley Youth Corps member talking to Souh Park community members about the Equity & Environment Initiative

Duwamish Valley Youth Corps member talking to South Park community members about the Equity & Environment Initiative

During these events, participants talked about what makes happy and healthy families in their communities, what is missing in their communities, and the things they would like to add or change. Topics such as community building, safety, community assets, clean air and water, public transportation, food security, economic opportunity, and participation in the City’s decision-making process were discussed during these gatherings.

Community members shared about the importance and value of friendly neighbors and coming together as a community. They also made it clear that priorities included clean and safe neighborhoods and access to community assets like the community center, the library, parks, and Marra Farm. Some more specific priorities included: better street lighting, more security and police presence, more youth programming, expanded neighborhood cleanup efforts, addressing the impacts of asthma, a cleaner environment including a cleaner river, less pollution, more parks and green spaces, affordable housing, more job opportunities, and more reliable public transportation.

Community members made their voice heard as part of the Equity & Environment InitiativeThese recent gatherings have been extremely valuable. Community members who may not have normally had a chance to be part of the discussion have made their voice heard.

Members of the Community Partner Steering Committee across the city hosted similar events, reaching a diverse cross-section of voices. This information was key to informing the Equity & Environment Action Agenda recommendations developed by the committee. On Friday, April 22, City of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is expected to announce the release of the Equity & Environment Action Agenda, which includes recommendations specific and applicable to the health of the Duwamish Valley and its communities at Duwamish Waterway Park in South Park.  Stay tuned for a direct link to the Action Agenda!

DRCC/TAG is honored to be a part of this important, first-of-its-kind in the nation equity and environmental justice work and looks forward to seeing this work continue!

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