With the resources available to this effort we wonder why no one followed up with the people interviewed to give them a first draft for comments or corrections. Bianca Encinias, along with Michael Sarmiento, from Los Angeles, form the leadership team that co-leads the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (SNEEJ). SNEEJ is a multicultural, multiracial network that represents over 60 organizations in the southwest and the northern states of Mexico that border the US.
SNEEJ and the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) were the only two networks that existed at the time of the First People of Color Leadership Summit. The Asian Pacific Islander Network (APEN) and Southern Organizing Committee (SOC) formed right after the first Summit. Many more have formed since.
To correct your writing, Bianca Encinias did not take a year-and-a-half off work. Rather, she took a 6-week maternity leave from her duties at SNEEJ, and continues to work and raise a family like most of the working class. She is also working on an advanced degree in Community and Regional Planning at the University of New Mexico. As you know, maternity leave has been a hard-fought right for families in this country.
Julio Dominguez, another young person from the Mountain View community, is crafting a promising career and works hard to support his family. His parents still live in Mountain View. He began to work on environmental justice issues when he was in the ninth grade in high school. Currently he is working with others to build a new group that offers an alternative to the neighborhood association. There is a long history of activism and victories in this community. Why would you imply that he thinks organizing and being informed is unimportant and a waste of time? Should he be ashamed because he has chosen to live in a different, less polluted neighborhood? Isn't this what most Americans want for their families? Should we be disappointed or critical of Mr. Dominguez's success?
Richard Moore made an unfortunate decision to drink and drive, and in a tragic accident caused injury to a young man who is recovering. On the day of Richard's sentencing the young man walked into the courtroom with his family and was compassionate and forgiving. Richard does not need to be defended. He is paying, and will continue to pay, for this devastating accident. However, he continues to be a visionary leader. He is healing, re-habilitating, reflecting. When he is able, he will once again speak for himself. He will continue the work to which he has committed his life -- social and environmental justice. I believe this experience has strengthened him as a leader and a life partner. His family and friends all know about his trials and now, you too, know. I do not know why you chose the language you used; only you can answer why the few words chosen were condemning.
It is my opinion that the white folks fared much better and even got more play in your story. You mentioned Ms. Painter's husband, for example, rather than Dr. Magdalena Avila, who has a history with EJ. Is it because you are more comfortable with those who most look and sound like you or whose activism you prefer?
Ms. Painter's comments of feeling like an outsider in the community might give her and others insight into how a majority of poor people of color have always felt in this country. We do not go into white communities thinking that we are going to bring justice and become leaders in these communities. We go in, if at all, to do service, including teaching, but not to speak for you. You wouldn't or shouldn't let us, and neither will we let you.
The Environmental Justice Movement may have been institutionalized by Clinton's Executive Order on Environmental Justice, and then co-opted by government institutions and many who write, publish and have some control over resources. However, in communities throughout the US and the world people continue to organize in their best interest. And we collaborate in principled efforts with white allies.
I have not always been in accord with your perspective. I was hopeful and excited to read your series on EJ then disappointed. We have yet to deal with the color line a century later and every day we are reminded of who has the power to construct, to publish, and to disseminate information. So what is it that you fear - is it our leaders, our communities, our movement? Do you fear the unity of people of color? Do you feel excluded because you are not at the leadership of this movement? Is it xenophobia? Are you fearful of the power that we do have -- speaking truth to power, our lived experience, our sheer ability to survive, and our integrity? Or is it the threat that a multicultural, multiracial movement without whites in the leadership could exist? In the end, this series may provoke an interrogation process for mainstream organizations and funders, an opportunity for education and renewed discussion in EJ circles.
*For copies of these primary documents please go to: sneej.org. Most EJ networks may have them on their websites.