Living Room Leadership

Living Room Leadership is a CHEJ webinar series aimed to continue sharing the stories of community activists and leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesdays at 12pm EST, CHEJ will be hosting community leaders from across the country to speak about their strategies, challenges, and wins as activists. The series is free and aimed to last about 45 minutes per event. The audience will have the chance to ask the leaders questions after they are interviewed by a CHEJ team member. This page hosts links to past Zoom recordings of the events.

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Previous Episodes

Wednesday August 25, 2021: Charles Utley

Join us for a conversation with Charles Utley, an environmental justice activist with Blue Ridge Environmental Defense Fund!

Rev Charles Utley grew up in Hyde park, a predominantly Black community adjacent to the predominantly white neighborhood of Piedmont. In the mid-1970s, after Charles had taken over his mother’s role as Community President, he found out about contamination in this industrial area of Augusta, GA by Southern Piedmont Wood Co. Both Piedmont and Hyde Park residents were employees at this site and suffered from the health effects, but while Piedmont received the help of the Superfund program for cleaning up their neighborhood, Hyde Park residents are still fighting for relocation today.

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Wednesday August 4, 2021: Jose Franco Garcia

Join us for an episode of Living Room Leadership on Wednesday, August 4th at 12pm ET, where we will have a conversation with community organizer Jose Franco Garcia!

Jose has over 15 years of experience with community organizing in the San Diego area, where he currently focuses on environmental justice issues, working to ensure that his community is safe & healthy. After graduating from University of California at San Diego with a B.A. in Political Science, he spent four years as the Community Building director at the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils in San Diego. In 2010, he began work with the Environmental Health Coalition (EHC), where he now serves as their organizing director.

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Wednesday July 14, 2021: Georgette Gomez

Join us for a Living Room Leadership conversation with environmental organizer and local representative Georgette Gomez!
Georgette is a woman rooted in her community in San Diego, where she grew up with her two immigrant parents, received her degree in Environmental and Natural Resource Geography, and acquired over 13 years of experience as an environmental organizer at the Environmental Health Coalition. At EHC, she spearheaded a new community plan for Barrio Logan and worked on other important environmental justice campaigns. Georgette left her position as Associate Director for Policy at EHC in 2016 when she was elected as a city council representative. During her time in office, Georgette continued to fight for environmental justice, alongside other issues of equality such as immigrants rights, affordable housing, and universal healthcare.

Wednesday June 23, 2021: Olinka Green

Join us for a Living Room Leadership conversation with Olinka Green, a local activist in Dallas, TX fighting for the clean up of Lane Plating’s Superfund site!

In 2018, Olinka discovered that there is a Superfund site only a few blocks from her home. Although the EPA had been investigating the site since 2015, Olinka had never heard anything about it, and she soon learned that neither had many of her fellow community members. Using deep experience she had in previous social justice work, and banding together with other neighbors, Olinka began to fight to improve communication between the EPA and the community and to achieve a full clean-up of this site.

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Wednesday June 9, 2021: Gillian Graber

Join us for a conversation with Gillian Graber, the cofounder and president of Protect PT, a community organization working for security, safety, and quality of life for people in Penn Township!

In 2014, Gillian Graber received a letter from an environmental monitoring group warning her about a proposal to frack for shale-gas in her neighborhood. She knew she had to take action. In just a few short years, by talking with neighbors and organizing with fellow community members, Gillian went from stay-at-home mom to a full-time organizer. What started as a fight against fracking in her community has grown to encompass more initiatives over time. Today, Protect PT’s most recent focus is a fight against a local Injection Well that is threatening the safety of drinking water in the area.

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Wednesday June 2, 2021: Lee Ann Smith

Join us for a conversation with Lee Ann Smith, a local leader in her community in Asheville, North Carolina!

When Lee Ann Smith’s 11-year-old son was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer, her primary focus became helping him get better. But a few years after the initial diagnosis, she began digging into it more. What she uncovered was an environmental mess responsible for a public health crisis. She discovered that contaminants were reported at an upstream site within a mile of her home, and that several other community members had also been diagnosed with lymphoma and various kinds of cancer.

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Wednesday May 12, 2021: Darryl Malek-Wiley

Join us for a Living Room Leadership conversation with Darryl Malek-Wiley, an environmental activist with over 30 years of experience!

“Cancer Alley” is an 85 mile stretch along the Mississippi River that got its name from the many industrial plants that have caused severe health issues among surrounding residents. Since his arrival in New Orleans nearly 30 years ago, Darryl Malek-Wiley has been fighting alongside the primarily African-American, low income communities affected by “Cancer Alley” for clean water, air, and land, and to prevent more industrial plants from being built. His most recent projects include working with community groups in St. James & St. John the Baptist Parishes to stop the proposed Formosa Plastics Complex, another industrial plant that would add to the cluster in Cancer Alley.

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Wednesday April 21, 2021: Melissa Mays

Join us for a Living Room Leadership conversation with Melissa Mays, an activist with Water You Fighting For in Flint, MI.

The Flint water crisis began in April 2014 when the city of Flint, MI switched its municipal water source to the Flint River to save money. Residents began noticing the horrid colors and smells coming from the water running in their homes. The water people were drinking, bathing in, and using every day caused Melissa Mays’ family, and other Flint residents, to develop rashes and begin losing hair. Melissa developed seizures and a respiratory infection, became antinuclear antibodies (ANA) positive, and her liver began to fail. Flint water is contaminated with lead, E. coli, total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), copper, and many other heavy metals.

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Wednesday April 7, 2021: Lois Gibbs

Join us for a Living Room Leadership conversation with Lois Gibbs, Founder of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ).

This year marks the 40th anniversary of CHEJ. In 1981, Lois Gibbs founded the Center for Health, Environment & Justice to ensure that no other community would have to face a toxic health threat alone. Since then, she has been working tirelessly to prevent harm to human health by providing technical and organizing support to individuals and communities facing environmental injustices.

Learn about her journey to activist and leader and how she has helped over 15,000 groups—comprising roughly 2.25 million people—successfully fight environmental health threats across the country!

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Wednesday March 31, 2021: Andrea Amico

Join us for a Living Room Leadership conversation with Andrea Amico, the Co-Founder of Testing for Pease in New Hampshire.

In May 2014, Andrea Amico became an activist after reading about the high level of contamination in a well which supplied drinking water to the Pease International Tradeport, located in Portsmouth, NH. Previously, the Tradeport was an Air Force Base, now, it is a booming business park. Because her children attended daycare and her husband worked at the Tradeport, they were among those who were drinking PFAS contaminated water every day.

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Wednesday March 17, 2021: Penny Newman

Join us for a Living Room Leadership conversation with Penny Newman, the founder of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), to hear about her experience living near the Stringfellow Acid Pits and leading a movement for environmental justice in her community.  Penny Newman organized other residents in a fight that was one of the catalysts for the creation of the Superfund Law (CERCLA) in 1980 and resulted in the state awarding the community $114 million in reparations.

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Wednesday February 17, 2021: Phyllis Glazer

Join us for a Living Room Leadership conversation with Phyllis Glazer, an activist featured in People Magazine, the Houston Chronicle, CNN/Time News Magazine’s Earth Day 2000 Special, NBC Dateline, and more.

One day, as she was driving her son to school in Winona, TX, they passed a commercial hazardous waste injection well facility that was surrounded by dark reddish clouds and intense fumes caused by an explosion. In just a few days, Phyllis had developed multiple health issues. As a result, Phyllis and her group, Mothers Organized to Stop Environmental Sins (MOSES), went to war with the company.

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Wednesday February 10, 2021: Nina Morgan

Join us for a Living Room Leadership conversation with Nina Morgan, a Climate and Environmental Justice Organizer with GASP in Birmingham, Alabama. Nina is fighting for communities located near heavy industry who are suffering from pollution-related illnesses like asthma and cancer. These communities have been unlawfully restricted to these unsafe areas due to a history of racially discriminatory zoning laws.

After years of community organizing and hard work, GASP has recently achieved a settlement to address ABC Coke pollution in the area. Join us to hear about this important victory!

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Wednesday December 16, 2020: Charlie Powell

Join us for a Living Room Leadership conversation with Charlie Powell, an environmental justice activist from Birmingham, Alabama who has been working on getting his community relocated since 2012 from a facility that produces high grade coke for industrial furnaces.

Coke production is notoriously dirty, and the emissions produced are dangerous to inhale: it’s created by essentially baking coal. If a facility doesn’t have proper scrubbers and air purification technologies installed, exposure to emissions can result in cancer.

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Wednesday December 2, 2020: Pam Kingfisher

“Everyone told us we wouldn’t win. I refuse to have that attitude and will continue to fight.”

This week, join us for a Living Room conversation with former CHEJ board member Pam Kingfisher, an experienced community organizer and advocate for Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Pam has over 30 years of experience in organizing and policy work, and has led the fight in shutting down 23% of the world’s uranium supply and fighting off unwanted poultry CAFO in her community.

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Wednesday November 18, 2020: Maria Lopez-Nuñez

Join us for a conversation with Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director, Organizing and Advocacy of Ironbound Community Corporation. We will discuss how her group, along with the help of other activists, achieved the passing of S232, the strongest environmental justice law in the United States.

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Wednesday November 11, 2020: Jerry Ensminger

This Veteran’s Day, join us for a Living Room conversation with Jerry Ensminger, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who led the fight for justice at Camp Lejeune, a military base in North Carolina where severe water contamination went unaddressed and unresolved for over 30 years.

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Wednesday October 28, 2020: Roxanne Groff

Join us for a Living Room conversation with Roxanne Groff, a formidable activist with 20 years of experience as an elected official in Athens County, Ohio!

“I decided to run for public office because I thought it could make a difference being on the inside of the political arena. If you stick to your own beliefs, tell the truth and don’t get caught up in the political game of being re-elected, then YES, you can truly make a difference.”

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Wednesday October 21, 2020: Esther Portillo

Join us for a conversation with Esther Portillo, an experienced community organizer, leader, and the current Interim Executive Director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) in Jurupa Valley, CA. Esther has over 20 years of experience in organizing and empowering communities of Color across the region, state, and nation. As Organizing Director and now Interim Executive Director, Esther has led CCAEJ’s grassroots efforts to bring lasting environmental justice to communities in the Inland Empire.

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Wednesday October 7, 2020: Rebecca Jim

Join us for a conversation with Rebecca Jim, Founder and Executive Director of Local Environmental Action Demanded, Inc,  to learn more about her work leading her Native American community’s fight for environmental justice and remediation of the Tar Creek area, one of the largest and most polluted Superfund sites in the United States.

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Wednesday September 30, 2020: Pamela Miller and Vi Waghiyi

Join us for a conversation with Pamela Miller and Vi Waghiyi of Alaska Community Action on Toxics, to learn more about their work tackling toxics, protecting health and achieving justice for Alaska’s wildlife and people.

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Wednesday September 16, 2020: Ranjana Bhandari

Join us for a conversation with Ranjana Bhandari, founder and Chair of Liveable Arlington, to learn more about her work to oppose fracking expansion in Arlington, Texas, and her group’s recent groundbreaking victory against big oil.

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Wednesday August 12, 2020: Hilton Kelley

Join CHEJ for a conversation with Hilton Kelley, the Executive Director and Founder of CIDA, Community In-Power & Development Association.

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Wednesday August 5, 2020: Kaniela Ing

Join CHEJ for a conversation with Kaniela Ing of People’s Action Institute to learn more about his experience in campaign organizing and bringing justice to communities nationwide.

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Wednesday July 29, 2020: Tom Kilian

Join CHEJ for a conversation with Tom Kilian of Citizens for Clean Wausau to learn more about their work on monitoring polluters and bringing justice to their community.

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Wednesday July 22, 2020: Jackie Young

Join CHEJ for a conversation with Jackie Young Medcalf, the founder and Executive Director of THEA, to learn more about Houston’s 5th Ward Cancer Cluster and THEA’s work to bring justice and environmental saftey to their community.

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Wednesday July 15, 2020: Linda Robles

Listen to a podcast-style conversation with Linda Robles, the founder of the Environmental Justice Task Force in Tucson, AZ. This recording is an offshoot of our Living Room Leadership programming and discusses Linda’s community leadership and the progress that the EJ Task Force has made over the years.

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Wednesday July 15, 2020: Lou Zeller

Join CHEJ for a conversation with Lou Zeller and key chapter leaders from BREDL to learn about their recent success in helping cancel the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and how they continue to push for environmental change during COVID-19.

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Wednesday July 8, 2020: Dawn Champman & Karen Nickel

Join CHEJ for a conversation with Dawn Chapman and Karen Nickel: community activists and leaders of Just Moms STL to learn from their successes in bringing awareness and environmental change to their community.

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