In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Office of Equity and Inclusion teamed up with members of the Green Fund to organize an event series with a focus on environmental justice. The four-part series will provide further context for and build up to Dr. Dorceta Taylor’s keynote address, “Different Shades of Green,” set to take place on Jan. 29 at 4:15 p.m. in the Memorial Chapel.
Taylor is a professor and James E. Crowfood Collegiate Chair at the University of Michigan. She will be holding a panel presentation about the prolific legacy of the celebrated civil rights activist and will draw upon his ideas to emphasize the augmenting importance of sustainability in modern-day society. Such an interdisciplinary topic becomes particularly relevant with respect to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Mich., a town that also possesses a 53.3 percent black population according to the 2000 United States Census.
“Various parts of the Wesleyan community have been talking about how we might get different parts of the community that are working on the same issues but almost speaking a different language together, and by that I mean the student of color community and the green community,” said Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Antonio Farias. “[Everyone is] interested in sustainability, it’s just that those words mean different things to different people.”
Farias then explained how Taylor serves as an ideal point of convergence between these two student groups.
“[Taylor] is a very well-respected environmentalist,” Farias said. “She understands diversity, she understands concepts of environmental justice…and right now she’s a big name in the green philanthropy world. She’s been a key change agent in advising green communities on how to become more diverse…and she is very much integrated into that entire problem.”
Green Fund Chair Zacko Brint ’16 described the way this year’s commemoration was orchestrated.
“The large engagement of both the SOC [Students Of Color] and environmental communities has developed through many meetings and phone calls that engaged over 50 people,” Brint wrote in an email to The Argus. “The goal for this event was to bring many peoples together from many communities.”
Brint also explained the benefits of adding campus environmentalists into the dialogue, saying that even though the focus of this year’s commemoration differs in substance, it does not so much differ in attitude.
“By incorporating another large section of campus into the discussion, we are continuing a trend of trying to enact meaningful change as a result of this commemoration,” Brint wrote. “Bringing communities together, brainstorming ideas of ways to productively work together in the future, and learning from a brilliant and eloquent speaker all seem to remind me of the Reverend King.”
Before this Friday’s speech, students and faculty have the opportunity to learn more about the issues that Taylor will present. The series begins with a film screening of the 2008 documentary “Trouble the Water” on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in PAC 001. Student organizers will facilitate a discussion after the viewing.
On Thursday, Jan. 28, Taylor will hold a workshop session called “Environmental Justice, Social Justice and the Planet that Binds Us” beginning at 6:45 p.m. in Beckham Hall. Participants will primarily include students active in the environmental and SOC communities on campus.
In final preparation for the keynote address, a group of selected students will strategize and brainstorm ideas going forward, as well as their long-term goals with respect to environmental justice at Wesleyan and beyond.