30th Anniversary: The First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit
The First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit has been described as one of the most important events in the history of the environmental justice movement. The four-day Summit sponsored by the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice began in Washington, D.C., on October 24th, 1991. With around 1,100 persons attended from all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico, Chile, Mexico, and the Marshall Islands, the inclusive breadth of participation allowed for the environmental justice movement to coalesce in re-defining the very meaning of “environment.” No longer did the word connote remote wilderness areas and pristine natural landscapes as was often the case for largely white environmental organizations. The environment was now where one lived, worked, studied, played, and prayed. As such, it encompassed a range of issues from housing and transportation to worker safety and toxic pollution. Ultimately, the Summit became the embodiment and the celebration of self-determination and leadership from communities of color. A lasting testament to the Summit can be found in the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice that participants discussed, debated, and delineated before their adoption on the final day of the Summit.
Resources and Reflections
The United Church of Christ welcomes reflections from participants in the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit. Please contact the Rev. Brooks Berndt, Minister for Environmental Justice.
The First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit was a moment of extraordinary convergence of persons who had a profound and lasting impact on the environmental justice movement. The United Church of Christ seeks to remember and honor those participants who have since died. Those participants include Dana Alston, Nan Freeland, Jeanne Gauna, Hazel Johnson, Andrea Kidd Taylor, Wilma Mankiller, Gwendolyn Patton, Syngman Rhee, Jean Sindab, Damu Smith, and Connie Tucker. Please let us know if there are others whose participation should be remembered.