Miami Law Participates in Creation of Conversation Series Focused on Anti-Racism and Climate Justice

Drawn image of someone sick sleeping (Artwork created by Catherine Villalonga with (F)empower)

(Artwork created by Catherine Villalonga with (F)empower)

A University of Miami team was awarded a social justice grant from the University of Miami Laboratory for Integrative Knowledge (U-LINK) to address the intertwined issues of historic racism and climate justice from different disciplinary vantage points. Miami Law's Abigail Fleming, Fredman Foundation Practitioner-in-Residence of Miami Law's Environmental Justice Clinic, and member of the antiracism/climate justice team, helped coordinate the “Climate and Racial Justice Talk Series.”

Developing a Climate Justice Course

Members of the U-LINK Climate and Racial Justice team hoped the discussions, which cumulatively drew nearly 800 students, faculty members, and advocates, would provide a framework for a new climate justice course.

Slated to be offered next fall, the experiential course will place up to 24 students with organizations that already are working on the front lines of the climate crisis. “We’ll match the students based on their interests, background, and experience,” said Fleming.

“They’ll learn about different forms of advocacy, whether that’s providing public comment to elected officials as a citizen advocate or evaluating the impacts of a potential policy as a professional advocate. The idea is to help local organizations build capacity and advance their initiatives.”

Goals of the Talks

The talks aimed, in the short-term, to inspire a community of climate justice scholars and researchers who can partner with local organizations. In addition to the creation of the climate justice course, the team’s longer-term goals include the creation of a community of climate justice scholars and researchers who can collaborate with community partners already engaged in addressing these complex issues.

Members of the antiracism/climate justice team hope the conversations they spearhead will not only provide a needed space to elevate the voices of the University’s and the community’s Black, indigenous, and people of color, but compel policymakers to consider their uneven starting points when creating strategies for adapting to or mitigating the adverse effects of climate change.

The Four Topics and Speakers

This series comprised four talks and recently culminated on November 1, 2021. Topics and speakers included:

  • February 1, 2021: Harriet A. Washington – Cascading Disasters at the Intersection of Underserved Communities - The inaugural event for the series took an in-depth look at climate change and racial injustice, and how they impact underserved communities. The featured speaker, Harriet A. Washington, is an award-winning science writer, author of A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind.
  • February 22, 2021: Miami Climate Justice Leadership - The second event featured a discussion focused on the role that institutions play in our community’s journey to address climate and racial injustices. Dwight Bullard, who served as an elected official in the FL House and Senate, and is the current political director of The New Florida Majority, led a conversation with Dr. Henri Ford, the dean of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine; Dr. Cheryl Holder, associate professor at Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Listen to event recording Passcode: CRJTS22221.
  • March 22, 2021: Miami Climate Justice Activism - The third event in the series featured leaders from grassroots organizations who are working to support and empower the members of our community, including Mayra Cruz from Catalyst Miami, Santra Denis from The Miami Workers Center, and Valencia Gunder from Make the Homeless Smile and New Florida Majority. Listen to event recording Passcode: CRJTS32221
  • November 1, 2021: Energy and Housing Justice in a Changing Climate -The final webinar event in the dialogue series explored the interconnections between energy and racial justice and topics such as a just transition and the energy, built environment, and housing nexus. Coming together in conversation were Denise Abdul-Rahman, Field Organizer for the NAACP Environmental Climate Justice Program; Sanya Carley, energy economics and policy professor at Indiana University; and Khalil Shahyd, Senior Policy advisor on equity, environment, and just communities at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Members of U-LINK’s Climate and Racial Justice Team

In addition to Miami Law’s Fleming, the series was created by members from across The University of Miami including: Scot Evans (Associate Professor, School of Education and Human Development) who focuses on community-engaged action research, Margo “Mars” Fernandez-Burgos (Ph.D. student, Department of Educational and Psychological Studies program in counseling psychology), Armen Henderson (Assistant Professor of Medicine, Miller School of Medicine) and community organizer, Katharine Mach (Associate Professor, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science) who founded the Climate Risks and Preparedness lab., Jennifer Niemann (Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science), and Lynée Turek-Hankins (Abess PhD program in environmental science and policy).

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