Houston’s Environmental Justice “Encuentro” to Chart Path Forward for Communities

This post was co-authored by Dr. Denae King, research associate professor at the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, and Juan Parras, founder of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.

Source: Houston Peace and Justice Center

Source: Houston Peace and Justice Center

Encuentro in Spanish means meeting, awareness, or encounter, but in this instance it is the title of an environmental justice event. Environmental Justice (EJ) is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. The goals for this event are to bring conservation groups and residents most affected by severe environmental health risks together to foster a dialog around the EJ movement. Encuentro also seeks to enlighten Houstonians with an understanding that environmental injustices suffered by "fence-line" communities affect all Houstonians. Through this discussion, Houstonians can identify and pool the resources needed to help improve environmental quality, public health, and the well-being of local families and neighbors.

Next Friday, May 16 and Saturday, May 17, community leaders, environmental advocates, and energy and sustainability experts will convene at Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs for the “2014 Encuentro.” The ideas and strategies to be presented at this year’s Encuentro build upon a rich history of the Environmental Justice movement in the Houston region.

Encuentro was first held in 2007 after Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) and John Sullivan (University of Texas Medical Branch) saw a need to educate communities in the region on present EJ issues. The goal at the time (and one that still stands today) was to unite EJ communities from neighboring states in the fight for clean air, public transit systems, and access to healthy built environments.

The 2014 Encuentro will center on environmental health and quality, as well as community capacity, and will feature panel discussions, breakout sessions, and a keynote speaker. This is followed by training workshops to help build important community organizing and EJ skills, such as how to use and communicate data to policy makers. Participants will share stories, learn skills, and strategize next steps for the local and regional EJ movements. Participation is not only welcome, but also essential to charting a path forward on these critical issues.

The forum will feature speakers such as:

  • Dr. Robert Bullard, Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University
  • Dr. Al Armendariz, Senior Campaign Representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign and former Regional Administrator – EPA Region 6
  • Larry Soward, Board President of Air Alliance Houston and former TCEQ Commissioner

Encuentro will empower Houston-area residents to pool resources and talents to make a difference in the Houston metropolitan area. This is truly a community, participatory event and we encourage you to join us at the Encuentro on May 16 and 17!

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