Climate justice work — Black, white, local, national — earns award nomination
The United Church of Christ and a regional partner are up for an award for their work on faith, earth care and justice.
“Climate heroes, activists and changemakers” is how ecoAmerica described the UCC, the PJC and 29 other award semifinalists. They come from many sectors of society: health, faith, local communities, youth, indigenous and business.
All of them, ecoAmerica said, are leaders in:
- “Best practices” in “advocacy and action.”
- Building “political resolve.”
- Putting “diversity, inclusion and justice” at the center of their work.
Ten of the 30 will learn they are finalists on March 15. Each of those 10 will receive $10,000 toward their work. A winner ($50,000) and a runner-up ($25,000) will be named April 27 during the annual, three-day American Climate Leadership Summit.
An example for others
The Rev. Brooks Berndt, UCC minister of environmental justice, said he believed the nomination honors a way of working together.
“We have created a model of local-national partnership that we believe can be replicated by other organizations,” Berndt said. Part of it is who they are: the local PJC, started by African Americans, paired with the national Environmental Justice Ministries of the predominantly white UCC. And part of it is how they work: joining forces, he said, “in a way that embodies the values of inclusion and equity.”
“Energizing the South for Energy Justice” is the motto of the Alabama-based PJC. It works for “a world that is equitable, sustainable, and just, and that connects people with policy.”
“Our beloved community consists of those that have been downtrodden, demeaned and disenfranchised,” its website says, “along with those who want to do something about it.”
“The People’s Justice Council is a Black-led, startup, faith and environmental justice nonprofit,” said the Rev. Michael Malcom. He is the founder and executive director of PJC and its sister organization, Alabama Interfaith Power and Light. He is also pastor of Rush Memorial Congregational UCC, Atlanta. “The ability to partner with the United Church of Christ on an effort to provide tools and access to build power that is just and equitable has been a blessing and lifeline.”
The partners’ recent joint projects include:
- A monthly Creation Justice Webinar Series, hosted by Berndt and Malcom.
- A Creation Care Voter Pledge, created with the UCC Council for Climate Justice.
- A Kairos Call to Action, also with the climate justice council, offering local churches 10 ways to mobilize “on climate and inequality.”
“All of our past work has created the foundation for more opportunities to act,” Berndt said. One priority, he said, is “seeking to advance climate justice legislation in Congress.” Another is looking for ways to “amplify the voices of those working on the front lines of climate justice.”
Long history of environmental justice
Berndt said the UCC-PJC partnership carries on a long tradition that started with a UCC agency’s 1987 report, “Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States.”
“The historic work of the UCC Commission for Racial Justice inspires and informs our model,” he said. “UCC leaders effectively bridged the local and the national as they played a central role in launching the movement to address environmental racism in the 1980s.”
“Our nomination for the American Climate Justice Award is truly a blessing and helps validate our work together,” Malcom said. “I look forward to our continued work.”
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