East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice info@eycej.org 323.263.2113

“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.

We had the pleasure of hearing a rousing speech given by Dr. Bullard, a real pioneer in Environmental Justice Activism in the South.

With a program titled “A Conversation with the Community,” we were hopeful. I was sorely disappointed at the close of the event, and, judging by how many residents left early out of frustration, I was not the only one. The program began with a nice short documentary about air quality and its impacts on health and community. What followed was several panels –  punctuated by a few key speakers –  that discussed hypothetical issues in communities and ways agencies could better address them. As you can imagine, many of us were confused. “Why are hypotheticals being analyzed when we have real, pressing circumstances that need addressing?” Thankfully, a few folks on the panels went to bat for impacted communities, but these impacts were not discussed as the forum was tightly moderated.

Who was this conference for exactly? A ‘conversation with the community’ was never had. We did not have any opportunity for meaningful engagement or dialogue. This is a shame because time and time again when agencies move forward on projects and proposals, they say they want community input and involvement, they say they want us to come to them with issues, they say that they exist for the public good. But when we show up at the table to dialogue or to express our concerns, we are met with turned backs.

We will, however, continue to fight for our communities in every venue, from Board Rooms to the streets.”