Environmental Justice

Summit 2017 Plenary (Day 1)

Principled Community Based Research and Media Strategies: Aligning with the Grassroots for Clean Water Access


Grassroots leaders have deep knowledge of environmental injustices in their communities. Yet  too many times, they are dismissed by elected officials and regulators when they mobilize against forms of environmental racism and lack of access to clean water.  Often, mainstream media attention and public attention only develops when outside “experts,” politicians, or celebrities sanction a grassroots campaign as relevant.  In contrast, this panel envisions regional clean water campaigns where university based researchers, scientists, and media workers embrace the leadership of grassroots communities in the spirit of transformative justice.  Speakers will discuss the need for grassroots communities to lead research projects and work with media to develop  public narratives.  Participants in this session will also discuss resourcing equity and capacity building, and the principles of alignment that can bridge university, media and environmental justice communities to have a greater regional impact.  

Panelists include:

  • Debra Taylor, Co-Founder, We the People of Detroit
  • Yanna Lambrinidou, PhD, Department of Science and Technology in Society, Virginia Tech. 
  • Kim Wasserman-Nieto, Executive Director, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO)
  • Robin Amer, Deputy Editor, Chicago Reader

Moderated by:

Co-sponsored by the Midwest Environmental Justice Network


Summit 2017 Working Group (Day 2)

Environmental Justice Campaign Messaging, Story Production, and Grassroots Media


Grassroots-led media relies on the premise that communities on the front lines of environmental justice struggles, should craft the narratives about their communities. Grassroots-led media is a powerful tool to communicate with other communities, broaden support for a movement, and educate the public on issues of a community. Grassroots media encompasses editorials, publications, film projects, multimedia projects, and any type of media production where grassroots communities have a seat at the table in shaping the narrative.

Principles of aligning with grassroots communities to develop media content and strategies:

1. Front-line communities know best: non-profits should resource community members to take part in their media strategy and development; journalists should strive to include the perspectives of communities on the front lines on an issue.

2. Local media creation: local creatives (ideally, with a relationship to the issue) should be resourced to produce content when multimedia storytelling is deployed in service of a national movement, or when national news outlets feature a local story.

3. Grassroots Media does not reinforce stereotypes, false narratives, or factual inaccuracies.

4. Grassroots Media does not extract stories from communities without adding to that community’s capacity to seek change.

Examples of Grassroots led Media:

1. A collaboration between Detroit Recordings (Will See and Kate Levy), Take tha House Back is a music video that was used to develop a base of individuals resisting tax foreclosures in Detroit.

2. As part of their curriculum in Milwaukee Water Commons’ “Water School” summer education program, youth participants from True Skool wrote and produced a song and music video about their relationship to water.

3. Sacramento Knoxx works with Indigenous youth in Detroit to tell stories about issues that effect their communities.

4. Soulardarity, a climate justice organization in Highland Park Michigan, submitted a proposal to the city to install 1000 solar streetlights. To aid in their campaign, they worked with Kate Levy and Curtis McGuire to develop an interactive campaign platform.

Panelists include:

Facilitated by:

Co-sponsored by the Midwest Environmental Justice Network