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ReGeneration: Young People Shaping Environmental Justice

Movement Strategy CenterBy Julie Quiroz-Martinez, Diana Pei Wu and Kristen Zimmerman

In October 2002, hundreds of activists converged in Washington, D.C. for the largest and most diverse gathering of environmental justice leaders ever in the United States: The Second National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, or Summit II. Coming from all over the country and the world, these activists gathered to build on the victories and strengthen the roots of their movement. On the second morning of the gathering, the Summit Planning Committee took the stage for the day’s opening plenary with an audience of more than 1400 people. Just as the session was about to start, a group of mostly young people streamed into the room, wielding signs and chanting “No Justice, No Peace!” They were greeted by applause from the entire audience, including those onstage. Seconds later, the protesters themselves took the stage and surrounded the plenary table, making it clear that the Planning Committee was the target of their protest. While some committee members recognized what was coming, others were surprised to be the focus of this mobilization. A large number of the youth attending the Summit had organized to present carefully crafted demands to the Planning Committee, which Introduction Introduction was mostly (but not entirely) adult led. The protesters were partly insisting on more equitable inclusion and support of youth in the environmental justice movement. However, like much youth organizing, the demands were not limited to youth-specific issues. They addressed much broader concerns, such as the tension between professional/academic and community-based leaders in the movement.

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