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May 03, 2013

North Minneapolis Earth Day Event Brings Together Environmental Justice Coalition

EJ Earth Day drummers
On Earth Day two weeks ago, Sierra Club Minnesota held a great community event in North Minneapolis with coalition partner Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota.

Sierra Club Environmental Justice Organizer Karen Monahan has longed worked with the North Minneapolis community to address the disproportionate pollution and health impacts the community faces.

The Earth Day event was meant for celebration and education for the neighborhood, and it included some amazing activities. Here is Karen's recap from the Sierra Club MN website:

Sierra Club's Environmental Justice and EJAM’s 2013 Earth Day Event
by Karen Monahan, Sierra Club Environmental Justice Organizer. Photos by Les Barry.

The Sierra Club North Star Chapter's Environmental Justice program and EJAM (Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota) came together to create an amazing earth day event. It was a success on many levels.

Kwanzaa community church opened their doors and provided space for the community to celebrate mother earth. We had Congressman Keith Ellison (seen below on the left) keynote and give history on EJAM and Sierra Club's long standing relationship along with valuable information on environmental justice issues and our community. Three State Representatives (Rep. Bobby Joe Champion, Rep. Raymond Dehn, and Rep. Joe Mullery) who are working on environmental justice legislation joined the event and supported the work we are doing.


The MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) had a table with information and a questionnaire for the community. The questionnaire is one tool MPCA is using to help cultivate relationships with our community and find ways to work together. Four staff were present from the MPCA; including Commissioner John Linc Stine. He was one of the speakers who gave a compelling story on why he feels environmental justice is relevant and a must if we are going to correct the issues we face in our environment.
Sierra Club has worked with the High School for Recording Arts for several years now. They performed two amazing songs about bike safety and pumped up the crowd. These are some talented young leaders who tell environmental justice stories through song.
Louis Alemayehu emceed the event and is a major leader, teacher and mentor in the environmental justice movement. Louis is currently working with youth as part of EJAM’s Together Renewing Our Urban People’s Environment ("TROUPE"). Troupe youth spoke to audience members about the Compressed Earth Block (adobe) technology they have been learning about in front of a demonstration project at the event for folks to see. Rashad Wallace, Hamdi Abdulkadir, Andre Griffin, and Hodan Abdiqadir are leading "Troupe" youth with EJAM.
We wrapped up the formal part of the event with ceremonial dance by the  Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc dancers. This was moving and provided the spiritual space for those who do this work from that lens. They tell a story that is very different than many mainstream environmental groups as to why we should save mother earth. They bring the spiritual aspect in, that is more powerful than words. It moves your heart and when the heart is moved anything is possible.
This event wouldn't have been possible without all the community folks who showed up, somewhere around 100. The vendor tables shared information around issues that many folks in the Twin Cities are working on. We supported Cafe Racer who provided amazing Latin cuisine. They are a family-owned business who provides sustainable food. The Minnesota Spokesman Recorder, a community newspaper committed to serving the news and information needs of African Americans, supported the event by providing free space their newspaper to advertise and showed up to cover the event as well. Their coverage will be in their next newspaper. We will be working with the Spokesman on other events to highlight environmental justice issues in our community.

Kwanzaa church provides community gardens. We did a service project after the event and helped clean out the gardens to get ready for planting. We hope those who volunteered will come back when it is time to plant vegetables and flowers.

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