WFU Environmental Justice Summit brings key issues to forefront

April 24 event features nationally recognized speakers and discussions

Wake Forest University is preparing to welcome several national, state and local experts to campus for the 2024 Mellon Environmental and Epistemic Justice Summit. The full-day program will take place on April 24 from 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. at the Broyhill Auditorium in Farrell Hall. The free event is open to the public.

The goal of the program is to bring various perspectives together for a deeper understanding of environmental issues facing underrepresented communities, share ideas, help find solutions and inspire grassroots efforts. It’s part of a broader research teaching and community engagement effort funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

“This gathering is critically important for this initiative and exemplifies our university’s core commitment to Pro Humanitate,” said Corey D. B. Walker, Dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity and director of the African American Studies program. 

Panel topics and research

Panel discussions will feature scholars and activists on the front lines of environmental justice. These guest speakers will dive into several topics, including how environmental laws and policies are impacting communities, what stories are unfolding and being reported by journalists, health equity and the health impacts of climate change. A session will include a discussion with Wake Forest faculty members on how they are incorporating environmental justice into the curriculum.

The health panel will also present the findings of research conducted by Dr. Callie Brown at Wake Forest University School of Medicine about the impacts of the Weaver Fertilizer Plant fire.

“Climate change and environmental justice issues are increasingly being viewed as social determinants of health.” Melba Newsome, Program Coordinator, WFU Environmental and Epistemic Justice Initiative

“The Environmental and Epistemic Justice Initiative’s inaugural summit will focus on the many and increasing ways climate change and environmental injustices impact our lives and how we can address these growing concerns,” said Newsome.

Keynote speakers and continuing environmental justice work 

A highlight of the event will be a presentation from the keynote speakers: Jalonne White-Newsome, White House Senior Director for Environmental Justice, and Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. These nationally recognized experts will also take questions during a Q&A at the end of the program.

The issue of environmental justice is more urgent than ever,” said Walker. By bringing together students, scholars, community organizers, policy officials, journalists, and the public – we hope this summit will serve as a catalyst for creative and sustainable collaborations to effectively address environmental justice issues. It is also vitally important to nurture and sustain these partnerships as we seek to live into a vision of being an environmental justice university.” 

The environmental justice summit is among a series of events and speakers taking place on campus thanks to generous support from the Mellon Foundation. Most recently, Carlton Waterhouse, a professor at Howard University School of Law, presented, “Unsustainable Developments,” a lecture exploring the premise that much of our economic activity is being driven in a way that puts our ecosystem at risk, particularly when it comes to environmental equity and injustice. 

In July, Wake Forest’s Program in African American Studies and journalism program will collaborate to present the Summer Institute. This initiative brings selected journalism fellows to campus for an intense week-long training on environmental justice reporting. That foundation is used by the journalists to further develop story projects that address environmental concerns in under-resourced communities of color.   

In addition to the Mellon Foundation, the environmental justice summit is also sponsored by Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Wake Forest University School of Law, Wake Forest University African American Studies, The Andrew Sabin Family Center for Environment and Sustainability, and Wake Forest University Environment and Sustainability Studies Program. 

Media Note: A rundown of the environmental justice summit can be found here.  Guest speakers and panelists will be available for interviews. Media Contact: Keri Brown 336-758-4442 0r C: 336-971-5402.


Categories: Top Stories