Race, Poverty, and the Environment

Introduction: Catalyst or Catastrophe?

From the Editor
By B. Jesse Clarke

Climate Change Cover imageI started this issue as a skeptic of climate change. I didn’t doubt its reality, the human contribution to it, or the threat it represents to the ecological health of the planet but I doubted that this crisis created an organizing moment that could benefit low-income people and communities of color. When Race, Poverty and the Environment covered this topic in 2006, [Clarke] efforts within the United States to organize in response to climate change were scattered and largely led by white environmentalists. We had to turn to a Canadian author to find a succinct description of a framework for green economics. [Milani]

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Wanted: Community Jobs Policy For San Francisco

A POWER demonstration in Bayview-Hunter’s Point. Courtesy of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER).For decades, San Francisco has had a goal of using a workforce that is at least 50 percent local resident on its publicly-funded construction projects. But the city has always relied on the “good faith efforts” of contractors to deliver on this objective. Now, a report released in August of this year by Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Brightline Defense Project (“The Failure of Good Faith: Local Hiring Policy Analysis and Recommendations for San Francisco”) shows that the good faith approach has not worked.[1]  In fact, based on a survey of 5.3 million job hours, the report confirms something that community advocates have known anecdotally for years.

For the seven years since 2003, the average local hire figures on city-funded construction is less than 25 percent and actually dipped below 20 percent for 2009. Clearly, say community leaders and job advocates, it is time for San Francisco to come up with a Community Jobs Policy.

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Weaving the Threads

17-2 Cover pngFrom the Editor

By B. Jesse Clarke

As RP&E enters its 21st year of publication, we bid a fond farewell to Juliet Ellis, our publisher, who has been Executive Director of Urban Habitat for the last nine years and with whom we have worked since 2005.  Each of those years has brought new developments to the journal and this year is no exception. We are changing our format from a single thematic focus for each issue of the journal to broader continuing coverage of racial and gender justice, economic justice, environmental and climate justice, and regionalism. With this expanded capacity we will be able to track the advances, setbacks, solutions, and conundrums facing our movements on the ground without the long hiatus between special issues that has sometimes left our readers asking, “When will you be doing another special issue on…?”  We will now be covering jobs, transportation, housing, and environmental health in every edition.

Women Re-energize the Movement: Panel Discussion

As part of RP&E’s 20th anniversary commemoration, we decided to review the origins of key social movements over the past few decades and their trajectories into the future. The ensuing panel discussion with three generations of women activists looks at the intersection of race and class with gender, and how women’s participation in social justice movements has (or has not) empowered women workers, especially working class women of color and immigrant women.


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Aileen Clarke Hernandez is a union organizer and civil rights activist. In 1964, she became the first (and at that time, only) woman member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She is a past president of the National Organization of Women (NOW) and the State Chair Emeritus of the California Women’s Agenda (CAWA). She is a founder of Black Women Stirring the Waters and Chair of the Coalition for Economic Equity, which advocates for increased government contracting opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses.
Catherine Tactaquin is the executive director and a co-founder of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Her commitment to immigrant rights is motivated by her experience as the U.S.-born daughter of immigrant farm workers from the Philippines. She was involved for many years in grassroots organizing and advocacy in the Filipino community on issues of discrimination and foreign policy.
Juliet Ellis is executive director of Urban Habitat, an organization that builds power in low-income communities and communities of color by combining education, advocacy, research, and coalition-building to advance environmental, economic, and social justice in the Bay Area. She is also a member of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.


Rinku Sen: Organizing for Racial Justice

"Gender constructions themselves are racialized. Our overarching notion of what is a good man and what is a good woman, are based on white people being good people and people of color being bad people."

Now  2010

Rinku Sen is the president and executive director of the Applied Research Center (ARC) and publisher of ColorLines magazine. A leading figure in the racial justice movement, Rinku has positioned ARC as the home for media and activism on racial justice. She has extensive practical experience on the ground, with expertise in race, feminism, immigration, and economic justice. Over the course of her career, Rinku has woven together journalism and organizing to further social change. She also has significant experience in philanthropy, as vice chair of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, and Advisory Committee member of the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity. Previously, she was the co-director of the Center for Third World Organizing.

20 Years of Social and Environmental Justice

20 Years of  RP&EFrom the Editor

In this issue we celebrate our 20th anniversary with reflections on the social and environmental justice landscape from 1990 to the present. When the journal was founded, the EJ movement was just beginning to be heard on the national stage. A succession of intense local struggles around the siting of toxic facilities in communities of color had brought the impacts of racism back into public view.

The movement welcomed a publication that could, in the words of founding editors Carl Anthony and Luke Cole, “strengthen the networks between environmental groups and working people, people of color and poor people.” In these times of multiple crises, as racial and economic justice seem ever more elusive, we are proud to play a part in reporting on the valuable thinking and work of this crucial coalition. In addition to a sampling of reprints from the last two decades, we share speeches and interviews from a cross-section of today’s engaged activists.

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