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The Virginia Environmental Justice Summit is a conference to engage undergraduate and graduate students from around the country in multidisciplinary conversations around issues of environmental justice.
about environmental justice issues impacting
advocacy and activism skills for making the change you want to see
with environmental justice activists from other universities
To unify and empower student environmental justice advocates from throughout the state of Virginia
Planned for students, by students.
This conference is a student-run initiative started by the Mason Environmental Justice Alliance at George Mason University.
Our planning committee is made up exclusively of undergraduate students with support from graduate students, faculty, and staff.
We would love to have representatives from other student organizations, departments, and universities on the committee. Interested in helping plan the summit? We want people from every discipline and background! Please email the project team, at .
The Speakers (2021)
BeKura W. Shabazz
Newport News native, mother of 4 plus 4 and her cat Otis. BeKura W. Shabazz has over 2 decades of dirtroots advocacy and activism in the areas of criminal injustice, policy, environmental injustice, child welfare reform, housing and economic injustice work. She previously served as State lead for federal legislation on climate change and sea level rise with the Virginia Conservation Network. Since leaving that role she has been vigorously fighting against oppressive and systemic nonprofit culture against African Americans along side all of her other areas of interest. She is currently the Social Justice and Health Disparities committee chairwoman of the Va. Green New Deal, Chesterfield NAACP Criminal Justice committee chair, Internal Policy Committee of the Va Environmental Justice Collaborative and Board Member, an Advisory Board member of the Virginia Human Rights Network and just recently expanded her advocacy to the state Maryland by becoming the Legal Empowerment Director of Life After Release. Ms.Shabazz is the Founder and President of First Alliance Consulting LLC, The Criminal Injustice Reform Network and Mothers Against Mandatory Minimums. She is also a certified mediator, conflict resolution specialist and provides legal advocacy services for legally underrepresented community members.
Anna Clark is a journalist for ProPublica who lives in Detroit. She is the author of "The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy," which won the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism and the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award. She has been a Fulbright fellow in Kenya and a Knight-Wallace journalism fellow at the University of Michigan. Anna is a nonfiction faculty member in Alma College’s MFA Program in Creative Writing
Matt Coyle is the local food systems coordinator for the Piedmont Environmental Council. Before joining PEC, he founded a local online food hub, The Fresh Harvest, which delivered fresh food from local farmers in Virginia's northern Piedmont region to local consumers, supervised production at the nation’s largest soil-grown microgreens farm and was a cattle farmer at Lakota Ranch in Culpeper County. Before becoming passionate about our local food system and agriculture, Matt worked in communities across the country as a community organizer, interned on Capitol Hill and served as a special assistant to the Mayor of Connecticut’s largest city. He is a George Mason University graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in National Security Policy and was a writer for GMU’s Fourth Estate student newspaper and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. In his free time, Matt likes to cook, work on his small 10 acre farm in Culpeper and spend time with his wife, their hyper-active 2-year-old Australian Shepherd and their 4 month old daughter.
Dr. Michael Gilmore
Dr. Michael Gilmore is an Associate Professor in George Mason University’s School of Integrative Studies (SIS). Dr. Gilmore is an ethnobiologist with over twenty years of experience working with the Maijuna indigenous group of the Peruvian Amazon on environmental justice issues and has a deep appreciation and understanding of their traditional culture and ancestral lands. He has published over 30 peer-reviewed articles in a variety of scholarly journals spanning the fields of ethnobiology, geography, ecology, and policy. He is also the producer of the award-winning documentary film Guardians of the Forest (2020), which chronicles the Maijuna people’s fight for their biologically rich ancestral lands and cultural survival. Dr. Gilmore developed and regularly co-teaches Conservation and Sustainability of the Amazon Rainforest, a field course that takes place in Maijuna lands. In addition to his work at George Mason University, Dr. Gilmore also founded and is president of OnePlanet, a non-profit organization that partners with the Maijuna.
Elenor Hodges has served as EcoAction Arlington’s executive director since 2000. She has been integral to EcoAction Arlington's 42-year legacy in the community and oversees all operations including program development, community outreach, fundraising, and public relations. Elenor led the organization’s successful rebranding effort in 2018, changing the organization’s name from Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (ACE) to EcoAction Arlington. She is passionate about building collaborative partnerships, empowering young environmental leaders, and engaging stakeholders around the three pillars of sustainability: people, planet, and profits. Elenor has more than 25 years of experience in the environmental field, including consulting with DynCorp, developing the Animal Tracks environmental education program for Walmart and program management at the National Wildlife Federation. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia and a Masters of Education from George Mason University. Elenor has roots in Montgomery County, Maryland and now lives in the Bluemont neighborhood of Arlington with her husband and two daughters.
Jolene is the Virginia Organizer with Food & Water Watch. Prior to FWW, she was the Food and Agricultural Fellow for the national environmental organization Friends of the Earth. At FOE, she was part of the campaign that successfully banned the use of chlorpyrifos in New York, a pesticide documented to harm pollinators and its exposure can negatively harm human health. At her current position at FWW, she campaigns to commit Virginia to a just transition to a 100% clean renewable energy grid and works to stop fossil-fuel projects across the state. She helped lead the campaign to stop the Header Injustice Project which proposed to build a fracked gas pipeline and compressor station in environmental justice communities. Jolene is also a volunteer with Sunrise Virginia, a youth-led movement to stop climate change.
R. L. Martens
RL Martens is a research-based, transdisciplinary artist based in Baltimore, MD. Martens’ work slips between geologic and human timescales, telling stories grounded in the earth but entangled with the social. They combine historical and place-based research with hand-sourced materials like clay, soil, and industrial waste to ground expanded meditations on history, ecology, and justice. The objects they produce act as mnemonic devices and tools for thinking with, and are activated through dialogue and participation. Recent work includes Perfect Knowledge of the Ground, a knowledge propagation project that began at the Washington Project for the Arts, and an essay on the plantationocene published in the journal Edge Effects. Martens is also a founding member of the Urban Soils Institute’s Art Extension Service, and helped design Project: Soils, a collaborative initiative between artists and soil scientists.
The Piedmont Environmental Council launched the Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows in 2019 to help improve access to fresh, sustainably-grown produce in Loudoun County. We are achieving this mission by donating 100% of what is grown at the Community Farm to Loudoun Hunger Relief. Dana joined the Piedmont Environmental Council in October 2018 as the Community Farm Manager. A native of Frederick County, Virginia, Dana grew up surrounded by agriculture and developed a passion for horticulture at a young age. Prior to joining PEC she worked in a variety of roles throughout the industry, from greenhouse production to orchard management, and every step in between. Prior to joining PEC she worked for Virginia Tech as a Field Research Specialist where she managed peach, apple, and cherry orchards as well as vineyards. Dana earned a Bachelors in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado. After a transformative experience studying subsistence agriculture in Samoa, she went on to pursue a Masters in International Agriculture at Oklahoma State University. While at Oklahoma State she worked with a local food bank to develop a garden and production plan to supplement their programs.
Dr. Jennie Stephens
Jennie C. Stephens, PhD, is the Director of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the Dean’s Professor of Sustainability Science & Policy at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. She is also the Director for Strategic Research Collaborations at Northeastern University’s Global Resilience Institute, and is affiliated with the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, the department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and the department of Cultures, Societies & Global Studies. Her research, teaching, and community engagement focus on integrating social justice, feminist, and anti-racist perspectives into climate and energy resilience, social and political aspects of the renewable energy transition, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, energy democracy, gender in energy and climate, and climate and energy justice. Her unique transdisciplinary approach integrates innovations in social science and public policy with science and engineering to promote social justice, reduce inequalities and redistribute power (electric power, economic power and political power). In her book Diversifying Power: Why We Need Antiracist, Feminist Leadership on Climate and Energy published by Island Press in 2020, she argues that effectively addressing climate change requires diversifying leadership, redistributing wealth and power, and moving beyond mainstream male-dominated technocratic solutions to climate change. Throughout her career she has explored institutional and cultural innovation in the energy sector, including gender diversity, energy democracy, and technological optimism as well as the “usability” of climate science in climate resilience efforts. Professor Stephens was a 2015-2016 Leopold Leadership fellow, and her book “Smart Grid (R)Evolution: Electric Power Struggles” (Cambridge University Press, 2015) explores social and cultural debates about energy system change (co-authored with Wilson & Peterson). Before coming to Northeastern, Professor Stephens was on the faculty at the University of Vermont (2014-2016) and Clark University (2005-2014). She did post-doctoral research at Harvard’s Kennedy School and she has taught courses at Tufts, Boston University, and MIT. She earned her PhD at the California Institute of Technology in Environmental Science & Engineering and her BA at Harvard University in Environmental Science and Policy.
Dr. Jennifer Sklarew
Dr. Jennifer Sklarew brings 25 years of experience in energy and environmental policymaking and analysis to her research and teaching. Dr. Sklarew coordinates ESP’s MS Concentration in Energy and Sustainability Policy and Science, which she developed. She also teaches graduate and undergraduate energy policy and food-energy-water nexus courses she developed for ESP. Her published and funded work examines how institutional relationships and catastrophic events drive energy and environmental policymaking and change. Specific areas of focus include energy and water system transitions, sustainability and resilience challenges in the food-energy-water nexus, and solutions that leverage energy-water interdependencies. Dr. Sklarew currently leads two community-level projects. The first is to design, build and deploy hydropower micro-turbines on Mason’s Fairfax campus and analyze technological, ecological, geographical, socio-economic and institutional challenges. Her faculty-student team will use this data to develop potential solutions and lessons learned, to which they will add as they conduct additional pilots in overseas communities facing severe energy and water insecurity. The second project, a collaboration with faculty in food/nutrition and engineering, involves research on food, energy, water and climate challenges facing low income, rural communities. Through needs assessments, the project enables collaboration with communities to determine their food, energy and water needs and develop potential solutions and implement their programs.
Currently the Senior Director of Environmental and Climate Justice at the NAACP, Jacqui Patterson, MSW, MPH, has worked on gender justice, racial justice, economic justice, and environmental justice, with organizations including Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, IMA World Health, United for a Fair Economy, ActionAid, Health GAP, and the organization she co-founded, Women of Color United. She serves on the Boards of Directors for the Institute of the Black World, the American Society of Adaptation Professionals, Greenpeace, National Black Workers Center Project, Bill Anderson Fund and the Advisory Boards for the Center for Earth Ethics and the Hive Fund.
Josephus Allmond is an associate with SELC in the Charlottesville office, and his work has focused on air and energy issues as well as environmental justice issues. Josephus began his work with SELC in April 2020 after receiving his J.D. from Duke Law School in the fall of 2019. During law school, Josephus worked summer associate positions with two large law firms in their environmental departments. In addition, Josephus worked with Duke's Environmental Law and Policy Clinic during his last year and helped petition the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission to reduce carbon emissions in North Carolina. Before attending law school, Josephus received his B.A. in Political Science and M.S. in Climate Science and Solutions from Northern Arizona University. Josephus also worked for a term as a legislative policy intern at the Arizona House of Representatives after receiving his M.S. degree.
Izzy Moody has been involved with DC Fair Food since her participation in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' Freedom Fast in 2018. Her recent focus as a community organizer with DCFF has been to establish and strengthen partnerships of solidarity with local food justice organizations in the DMV. Beyond DCFF, Izzy manages farmers markets and eats good food with good people.
Carlos Izurieta is a DC community organizer and has been involved with DC Fair Food since 2013, he has participated in local as well as national actions involving the Coalition of Immokalee workers, as well as doing outreach in the local DC community with presentations and workshops at various Universities and High schools in the DC area. (Standing on the left side of image.)
Dr. Komwa is Assistant Professor at George Mason University. He has more than 8 years of experience teaching and advising students in the Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science. His research interests include geospatial analysis for natural resources conservation and environment, sustainable development, sustainable food systems, Geographic Information Systems, and infectious disease epidemiology.
March 27, 2021
This conference will focus on environmental justice issues in Virginia. The conference consists of three sections, environmental justice in action, a food, water, and energy nexus panel, and ways to engage beyond the classroom.
9:00- 9:20 am Event Login
9:20-9:30 am Event Introduction
9:30 - 10:30 am Keynote Speaker - Jacqui Patterson
10:45 - 11:45 am EJ in Action (Breakout Sessions)
Environmental Justice Developments in the Commonwealth - Josephus Allmond
Piedmont Farm and Food Access - Dana Melby and Matt Coyle
First Alliance Consulting LLC - BeKura W. Shabazz
Film Screening of Guardians of the Forest - Dr. Gilmore and Elizabeth Schierbeek
11:45 - 12:30 pm Lunch break & virtual social hour
12:30 - 2:00 pm Food, Water, and Energy Nexus Panel
Dr. Jennifer Sklarew (moderator)
Dr. Jennie Stephens
Dr. Maction Komwa
2:15 - 3:30 pm Community Action in Practice Workshops
Online Campaigns During Covid19 - Carlos Izurieta and Izzy Moody
College Activism - Mason Environmental Justice Alliance
Using Art for Justice - R.L. Martens
Organizing Strategic Campaigns 101 - Jolene Mafnas
3:30 - 4:00 pm Action Item Wrap Up
Interested in Sponsoring the Event?
We'd love to have you on board and have several options for your participation!
Email to get started or request more information.
Organizational Sponsorship Levels
Tidewater Level | $300
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Piedmont Level | $500
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Blue Ridge Level | $750
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This conference will not be possible without support from passionate leaders and supporters like you.
We would be greatly appreciative for all donations you are able to make, at any level. In recognition, we'll include your name in the list of supporters at the Summit. At this time, we can only accept donations in the form of checks.
To donate or receive more information, please email
Special thanks to our Piedmont Level Sponsor:
To learn more, please subscribe. If you have additional questions, please email the project team at .
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