SAN FRANCISCO -- May 23 -- For its historic first World Environmental Day (WED) to be held in the United States, the U.N. invited the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (EBC) to host the Social Equity Track, a series of events that focus on opening up environmental opportunity and equality to people of all incomes, races and backgrounds. "The theme of this year's conference is 'Green Cities,'" said Van Jones, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, "and you can't talk about green cities without talking about the people who are most impacted by pollution in cities."
EBC is sponsoring events with several local partner organizations that focus on environmental justice, including Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), The Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Urban Habitat, and West Oakland Toxics. "EBC really opened up the door for the whole local environmental justice movement to come together and reach a wider audience through this event," said Carla Perez, an organizer for CBE.
EBC will unveil its Reclaim the Future project at the Saturday afternoon panel entitled Social Equity and The Environment: Eco-Equity or Eco-Apartheid? The project intends to link "at-risk" youth and people released from prisons with jobs in the green economy. International mayors, United Nations officials and local community leaders will be in attendance at the panel discussion featuring prominent leaders in the social and environmental justice fields.
The Social Equity Track calendar is jam-packed with five days of San Francisco-style events: provocative panel discussions, independent film, hip hop theatre, slam poetry, parties that run into the night, and a final rally and press conference. Speakers include luminaries in the environmental justice field, such as Cecil Corbin-Mark, Director of West Harlem Environmental Action; local scholar activists, such as Raquel Rivera-Pinderhughes of SF State; and surprise celebrities. Events take place all over the city, from the financial district to Fort Mason and Bayview Hunter's Point.
Highlights include the opening panel discussion on Wednesday, Green Cities, Brown Folks: Responsible and Just Urban Environments. An art opening follows, featuring a rare exhibit of art by prisoners. Other highlights include Voices Rising!, a celebration following the Saturday panel and reception, featuring local poet devorah major and a full slate of musical performances from groups including Soulography and Dialectic.