La lucha sigue! By Isella Ramirez

EYCEJ member Isella Ramirez responds to Governor Jerry Brown proposal of a $176.6 million Exide Clean Up Plan and the impact Exide’s lead contamination has on her mothers health and the long struggle yet to come, ‘….organizing works! In any case, la lucha sigue’.

“From the time I was a pre-teen to the time I began my Masters program, my momma was a proud wrap-packer for Neimen Marcus. She packaged gifts, celebrity outfits, and everything in between with care. When she lost signifcant sight, she felt purposeless. That quickly changed when she became part of East Yard’s Cosecha Colectiva. I’m convinced she fed tomatoes to the entire Bandini Neighborhood some summers. Continue reading

Governor Jerry Brown Commits to Move the State Towards Zero-Emission Technologies

Last week, Governor Jerry Brown issued an Executive Order calling on state agencies to develop an action plan by July 2016 ‘that establishes clear targets to improve freight efficiency, transition to zero-emission technologies, and increase competitiveness of California’s freight system.’ 
This is a great step by our state administration on the path towards a sustainable and healthy environment. The Governor’s Executive Order joins CalTrans’ Freight Mobility Plan and CARB’s Sustainable Freight Strategy as statewide efforts to address the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.

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Unveiling of No Idling Signs in City of Commerce

This morning, the City of Commerce held the unveiling of No Idling Signs. A partnership between the City of Commerce, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the Department of Toxic and Substance Control (DTSC) and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice has focused on enforcing the no idling rule to ensure that trucks do not idle in our communities. Idling (a parked truck with the motor on, consistently releasing diesel emissions) consistently happens in specific corridors in the City of Commerce. Every day, approximately 47,00 diesel trucks drive on the I-710 freeway. Truck movements and activities exposes the communities of Commerce to large amounts of diesel exhaust, increasing the rate of cancer, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.   Continue reading

“A Conversation Deferred…Yet Again” by Taylor Thomas

“A Conversation Deferred…Yet Again” by Taylor Thomas 

“Last week, AQMD held a conference in Downtown LA to, in their words “highlight ways in which public agencies can better collaborate with local communities and improve coordination in responding to residents’ concerns. Participants will engage in direct dialogue with stakeholders from impacted communities, academic researchers, health professionals, and others focused on the need to protect and improve the region’s air quality.” As a resident under AQMD’s jurisdiction, and an environmental justice advocate, I was excited to have the opportunity to engage with AQMD and other agencies about the issues affecting my community. And I was not the only one; residents and community-based organizations sacrificed their Friday morning (and afternoon) for the chance to have their voices heard.

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EYCEJ Seed Bank: Queering Environmental Justice by Xugo Lujan

EYCEJ is launching a blog series, #EYCEJSeedBank, focus on highlighting leaders within our movement. This series is to lift up the passion that fuels our work. As communities committed to #FightingForLife we are constantly battling larger systems of power, whether they be the State or corporations. We hope this series is an avenue to shed light on the love and humanity of our movement by sharing the stories of organizers/community members/leaders.The personal is political, and we want to provide a space for our leaders to share the passion that fuels our everyday struggles and resiliency. We encourage folks to engage in our series and initiate conversation (comment, ‘like’, share, tag). 

This blog is place to hold space to share the narratives of our movement.

Queering Environmental Justice by Xugo Lujan

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Youth In Action! (YA!) takes a visit to USC

On Monday,Youth In Action (YA!) members from Bell Gardens High School participated in a USC student panel and campus tour.

The day began with a presentation provided by Professor Ed Avol from the Keck School of Medicine of USC and Carla Truax, Outreach Coordinator from USC Community Outreach & Education Core. Their presentation provided information on academic and community collaboration on air pollution issues.

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Moving Forward Network- Baltimore 2015

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“During the last week of January, activists, residents, policy makers, researchers and others gathered in Baltimore to build, connect, and learn how we can all work towards creating healthy and sustainable communities. For members of the Moving Forward Network, a nationwide network of community-based organizations committed to transforming port and freight communities into vibrant environments, the convening gave us the opportunity to bond with other participants, share strategies, and support regional work. The larger conference, the 14th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth, allowed for CBO’s to network with different industry and agencies and communicate how we could better work together to serve our communities.

It was exciting to be in a room with folks who were equally, if not more, passionate about environmental justice than myself. One of the best parts of our convening was the regional share out, where each region shared their goals, accomplishments, and struggles with the group.

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I think most of us agreed that being on the East Coast in the dead of winter was less than ideal, but that didn’t stop several groups from braving the elements to extend our communing. We frequently dined in groups, and on the last day of the Moving Forward Network convening, all of us gathered for a family style dinner at a local restaurant. This was the highlight of the trip for me. I was able to spend a few hours breaking bread with and learning about my brothers and sisters in the movement. I’m very much looking forward to working with my comrades on transforming the impacts of the goods movement system!” -Taylor Thomas, EYCEJ Community Organizer 

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“EYCEJ has been a leader in community driven, solution-oriented grassroots organizing focused on combating the negative effects of the goods movement system.  As part of the Moving Forward Network, we have much experience to share and much more to learn from our partners across the country.  As we work to resolve issues that impact our communities, we push locally, regionally, statewide, and now nationwide.  The impact our members have had up to date is now being combined with efforts across the nation in communities like ours.  We are a force to be reckoned with and we look forward to building stronger communities and lifting up solutions with our partner communities.  We are also excited about working to bring youth leaders together from all of our communities to share, learn and grow our movement with a new generation.” -mark! Lopez, EYCEJ Executive Director

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MFN Spot Light ~ Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS)

“Through the MFN, EYCEJ has had the opportunity to share our work with multiple communities. We have been able to dialogue and engage with many communities across the US also dealing with Environmental Justice issues, linking us together. This year, we met Yudith, a Community Organizer, and Jose Olmedo Martinez, a community member of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) located in Houston, Texas. Yudith and Jose shared that refineries and the transport of chemicals are two of the biggest threats to their community health. As refinery central, Houston attracts many trucks transporting oil and other dangerous chemicals in and out of their neighborhood. This is why Yudith finds it important to begin engaging youth in local high schools on these issues, bringing youth leaders such as Jose into the movement.

Additionally, we learned that TEJAS is currently dealing with issues regarding the Keystone pipeline, which would transport oil extracted from the tar sands in Canada all the way down to Houston, Texas  refineries. Just like Texas, Long Beach California may also become a destination for tar sands oil, increasing the already present issues regarding the refineries in Wilmington and West Long Beach.

Through this dialogue, it became evident that communication with members and organizers like Yudith and Jose in Texas, as well as other communities dealing with refineries, is imperative. As an organization increasingly engaged with stopping the Keystone pipeline from coming into Texas, we have much to gain from their expertise and knowledge around impacts and implications of such projects.”-Hugo Lugan, EYCEJ Community Organizer 

For some insight on what has been going on with local refineries in Houston, Texas: http://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/news/design-flaws-led-to-poison-gas-leak-at-dupont-plant-in-la-porte/

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“The Baltimore,  Moving Forward Network convening  was a moment in time for the environmental health and justice movement. The convening was a place to connect and build a family of comrades to fight for justice. We came to an agreement to launch a policy campaign at the federal level to bring freight to the forefront of the clean air struggle and reduce pollution to zero emissions, while democratizing the community planning process.
We will build a local, statewide and national movement for environmental health and climate justice in freight communities.”
- Angelo Logan, EYCEJ Research & Policy Analyst

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Long Beach City Council voted on their 2015 Federal Legislative Agenda

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“The proof of the pudding is when these things get covered. They can ‘blah, blah, blah” (talk) all they want but it is when they get it covered [the coal and petcoke rail cars] that we can see they did something. It takes all these back and forth for things to get done. You see politics going all around you. It is a lot of unneeded energy. This is something we need to have but we need their help [LB City Council].” – Linda Kamara-Kay’s reflections on the process of passing the Federal Legislative Agenda 2015 (Long Beach Resident & EYCEJ member)

Community Organizers Jan Victor Andasan and Taylor Thomas report back on Long Beach City Council that took place Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 and their vote on approving the 2015 Federal Legislative Agenda:

Tuesday night, Long Beach City Council voted on their 2015 Federal Legislative Agenda which included covering the coal and petcoke rail cars. The inclusion of this issue on the 2015 Long Beach Federal Legislative agenda is the follow-up from the hearing that happened Summer 2014 regarding if it was okay for these coal and petcoke rail cars to traverse into our city and ports. While these coal carts are allowed to go in and out of our city and port, a major concern that was brought to the attention of council  was the fact that they were uncovered and polluting not only the city of Long Beach but all the cities the rail cars traveled through. Although they approved the coal and petcoke rail cars transport, a suggestion was made to find ways to minimize the environmental impact of these coal carts by having them covered.

The agenda was passed with a vote of 6-2. The 2 votes “No” was not necessarily around the coal and petcoke issue but rather the larger agenda itself. There are more than 100 issues in this Federal Legislative Agenda ranging from affordable housing to immigrant issues and even the marijuana industry. It is a major step for the entire city council to agree on one singular document they will pushing on the federal level.

While this is a win for the community in getting Long Beach City Council to find ways to cover the coal and petcoke rail cars, we as community members must continue to hold them accountable throughout the year in their efforts in DC around the uncovered coal and petcoke issue as well as larger environmental justice issues. These may be small strides for environmental justice in the Long Beach community but it is a step in right direction in holding our elected officials accountable in protecting our right to safe & healthy environment. We need them not only to commit on paper or agendas but to real, concrete action! -Jan Victor Andasan, EYCEJ Community Organizer 

Tuesday evening, the Long Beach City Council was set to vote on approving the 2015 Federal Legislative Agenda. This agenda contained many different elements, from medical marijuana to affordable housing. Most relevant to our work  involved language surrounding measures to cover rail cars that carried petroleum coke products through Long Beach. Some council members expressed a need for more information before approving the agenda in its entirety. As a resident and organizer, I fully support this idea. Too often, legislation or measures are passed without being given proper consideration. This in turn creates half-baked policies that are detrimental to communities. We will continue to follow this agenda, and support a community-based and research driven outcome. -Taylor Thomas, EYCEJ Community Organizer 

From Guatemala to Los Angeles; Transnational Platica on Environmental Justice

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On Tuesday, February 2nd East Yard Environmental Justice invited Concepción Santay Gómez to give a presentation regarding megaprojects and human and indigenous rights in Guatemala with a focus on the arrival of hydroelectric dam in his community. He participated in a Toxic Tour throughout the goods movement corridor between East Los Angeles and Long Beach and talked with members of EYCEJ on transnational environmental justice movements.

Concepción Santay Gómez a member of the Alcaldía Indigena of Cotzal, which emerged in 2008, was at the forefront of a pacific resistance movement against the construction of a hydroelectric dam owned by an Italian company. The dam was constructed without the consent of the Ixil communities of Cotzal, which violated the Ixil’s rights. On January 2, 2012, the community placed a blockade on the road leading to the site where a dam would be built. Police and military forces were sent to remove the protesters, but the communities pushed back, keeping the blockade for four months. The dam was eventually built despite the communities’ resistance.  Although the dam in Cotzal is one of the largest in the country, approximately 70 percent of Cotzal’s inhabitants do not have access to electricity.Concepción spoke about the current indigenous rights violations in Cotzal.

EYCEJ Toxic Tours take participants to various toxic sites that are adjacent to homes and communities, demonstrating the negative impacts on our local communities (and entire region) in the form of health & quality of life issues. As we drove down the 710 freeway over the ports and refineries near Long Beach, Concepción shares, “It benefits companies but pollutes the environment, the government does not care. They do not live in these places, those living here suffer from the impacts. It is good what you do, it all has it’s results”.

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Overlooking Long Beach, executive director mark! Lopez shares with Concepción about the impact the ports have on the air, soil and water, “It is a struggle to live in Los Angeles, we have to re-imagine new forms of survival”.

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Later in the afternoon, EYCEJ leaders had the opportunity to have a dialogue with Concepción and Giovanni Batz, a Phd Student at University of Texas at Austin. Giovanni began the talk by providing members context on Guatemala, to provide background information and details that contribute to the battle in Cotzal, such as the Spanish invasion and the politics around the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996), that left 200,000 people murdered and/or disappeared.

As Concepción described the details to the organizing efforts for their four month blockade he shared with members, “I need to defend my land, territory, Mother Earth because of her we live. We are risking our lives, even if they tell us we are terrorists, we are conscious of what we do.”

A significant part of this dialogue focused on identifying the connections between Guatemala & LA. Hugo Lugan, EYCEJ Community Organizer, clearly notices, “This reminds me of the 710 meetings, it is about money but invaders are the industries, here and there.” Connecting both struggles was a pivotal moment to not only learn from each others struggles but also stand in solidarity with each other. Javier Hernandez, member of EYCE,J brought up his concerns with the lack of visibility about the fight against megaprojects in Guatemala. Javier shared, “I am Mexican and I am sad to know of these problems, where the government takes advantage of indigenous people. Why does the media not cover what is going on in Guatemala? We hear about the 43 students in Mexico but how about Guatemala? ” making it clear that he notices the lack of attention this fight in Guatemala is receiving from media sources.

Concepción is also a co-founder of the Ixil University, a three-year educational program that seeks to instill  Ixil ways of knowing in students, values and respect and defense of their territories and natural resources. He hopes people understand his reality, where they have many worries but are happy for the creation of the Ixil University, the recovery of their culture and language. They are sure they are forming new leaders in their communities. As Giovanni looks across the room, he is glad to see a room full of adults and youth members engaged in this conversation. He shared that we can make change with the energy of our ancestors and the youth.

For more information on Concepción’s work, find his community on Facebook “Alcadias Indigenas Region Ixil’ or email Giovanni at batzgio@yahoo.com.

*Photo Credit to Giovanni Batz

710poster Circle