Colored: Environmental Injustice

byGwendolyn Gail Nixon


drawing by Matthew, 'Development', Spring 2023

Figure 1 Drawing by Matthew, “Development,” Spring, 2023, Nixon’s AP Language and Composition class.

Windows and Mirrors are terms that I will refer to though out this introduction; initially introduced by Emily Style for the National SEED Project, educators and scholars further the concept to explain how children see themselves in texts. This introduction also covers a great deal of research, so that I as the educator would have a critical race lens when selecting texts for this unit. That said, it is not necessary to share all of the research with students (Ss). However, I believe this research is invaluable as I, as instructor, consider racist and oppressive systems and policies; thus, I titled the unit “Colored” because I have the awareness to call out racism in various contexts/texts. Further, the term places what I learned into context of windows. “Colored” is a metaphorical window into the past, and how it shapes current circumstances. As I share with my Ss, knowing the context of texts is extremely important. Colored was a term used during the Jim Crow era, roughly 1870s-1960s: states sanctioned segregation; posted signs on water fountains, at swimming pools, outside schools, and on restaurant doors, and in theatres. These laws were meant to separate people into defined spaces.

“The wider society is still replete with overwhelmingly white neighborhoods, restaurants, schools, universities, workplaces, churches, and other associations, courthouses, and cemeteries, a situation that reinforces a normative sensibility in settings in which black people are typically absent, not expected, or marginalized when present. In turn, blacks often refer to such settings colloquially as ‘white space’- a perceptual category -and they typically approach that space with care.”1

In contrast, colored spaces are presented differently, as I share in this unit, which gives a perception of insignificance; thus, justifying why there is very little care when it is polluted and poisoned (see figure 1)2.  Matthew, a Ss in my AP Language class, drew figure 1 in response to an article that he read when I piloted a draft of this unit, Spring 2023. He read, Lee Sherman and the Toxic Louisiana Bayou, by sociologist, Dr. Arlie Hochschild, 2016. This text can be found online; it is a free Commonlit resource. The central idea: corporate interests and actions have an outsized negative impact on the environment and community health; typically, communities most affected are Black, Brown, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC).

Segregated communities and schools, a conundrum, as laws were passed that desegregated schools, but many of my Ss still live and learn in segregated spaces, some deemed to be in deplorable disrepair, such as Mosby, Creighton, and Gilpin Courts, three of the six projects in my school’s district; projects, slang for government own housing for low-income residents in Richmond VA (RVA); not all of my Ss are able to pick up and move. Gilpin Court impacted by highway development and crime is currently considered for demolition and redevelopment; my Ss aren’t newspaper readers, or news watchers; thus, some of them are unaware that they could be displaced; however, ripping down projects has been a long-standing issue. In 2006, journalist, Edwin Slipek wrote:

“The statistics are grim. Incomes in 80 percent of the neighborhood's households fall below the poverty line of $15,000; 65 percent of its adult population didn't finish high school; and 99 percent of its residents either rent or live in Gilpin Court, the city's oldest and largest public housing project. Gilpin was completed in 1943 to provide decent housing in the area. A 1941 article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch described the neighborhood: ‘Children play in the poorly-paved or unpaved streets. The backyards beggar description. While there is an occasional, fairly respectable looking dwelling the great majority are unfit for human habitation.’ Sadly, some 75 years after Maggie Walker's social and economic efforts and 63 years after Gilpin Court was built, this description is still apt for much of North Jackson Ward. But there's a difference now: The place is deadlier.”3

Demolition of Creighton Court began July 2016. Drawings, from the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA), online show that these new spaces for Creighton Court will be green with parks, tennis courts, and playgrounds. This sounds similar to the green dot proposal in New Orleans, that I will reference later, and similar to redlining, when federal governments drew maps then colored them, i.e., red for risky financial investments (alerting appraisers not to approve loans) because residents were Black; yellow markers on maps identified where Black people walked, as these neighborhoods marked potential danger. Black folk, in the past and currently, who desire to move to homes where there is less crime and cleaner streets can’t receive loans due to racist tactics. Just recently, Wells Fargo, 2022, using old discrimination tactics, rejected refinance applications of Black homeowners, while approving mostly white loans.

“Government housing policies such as redlining, have had lasting effects, from concentrating poverty, to stifling African American homeownership, and has contributed to the widening racial wealth gap. Even Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic has called out things like the impact of long-outlawed policies including how ‘redlining’ Blacks out of white neighborhoods continues to influence the ability of minority families to amass wealth. Simply put, redlining and other housing policies continue to undermine the accumulation of Black wealth.”4

Green areas on redlined maps denoted desirability, which sort of makes sense, as green symbolizes wealth and health, and most of the redlined neighborhoods, where my Ss live, lack green spaces: parks and trees, and shade that bring coolness and fresh air.

“‘Trees aren’t equitably distributed across all communities.’ As an urban reforestation advocate, Tanner Haid has seen lush, green trees line streets, providing shade in predominately-white, upper-class areas. Meanwhile, in neighboring ethnic and lower-income communities, the canopy of maples, oaks, and poplar trees is nearly absent.”5

I want my Ss to know that redlining are lines somebody else drew to exclude, but they do not define them. Reverend TD Jakes, preaches, while discussing his new book, Disruptive Thinking, and explains it this way:

“The lines that somebody else drew is auspices to which we have colonialism…is affecting our voting bloc in our contemporary society…has rearranged the continent of Africa…has given us colored fountains…redlining…determined how far you can go…say it’s inappropriate for you to be in this room and you feel out of place because you are not like them.”6

In this unit, I share the viewpoints of Reverend Jakes, and the voices of other BIPOC because these are voices that are rarely found in the literature books shared with me; I incorporate these voices to provide historical, authentic perspectives, or “windows” into the lived experiences of BIPOC. Environmental injustices impact not only the disenfranchised in Richmond, VA., it also impacts BIPOC in numerous states, and globally. For instance, in New Orleans, when Hurricane Katrina struck, thousands of human beings died and numerous others were displaced. The extreme-poverty neighborhoods in New Orleans were predominantly Black; thus, these racially and economically segregated areas bore the brunt of Katrina’s disaster. Leadership did not consider the lives of the people impacted; instead, “In January 2006, four and a half months after Katrina…the mayor appointed Bring New Orleans Back Commission…the committee presented a map that would become infamous, the ‘green dot’ map.”7 Solid green circles on the maps were areas, reserved for green spaces, that would displace numerous people in New Orleans. Greenspacing, gained interests from environmentally conscious people, and offered solutions for buffering lands from future flooding, but it ignored communities of color, and transparency about who would be allowed to return to the city. Mirrors, in texts, allow Ss to glimpse history, ancestry, and systemic practices that potentially could impact them.

That said, the importance of “mirrors” in texts, consider diverse voices and faces of people like Stacey Ryan, in Mossville, Louisiana, himself sick, trying to hold onto to his parents’ property, both of whom died of cancer. Stacey, the last buyout, in a town founded by free slaves: Mossville was impacted by decades of emissions spewed from petrochemical companies. The South African firm, Sasol, represents the “majority” and its racially discriminatory buyout, as they plowed over dead bodies, and ignored the living. In Flint, Michigan, two-year-old, Sincere Smith who was pictured on the cover of Times Magazine, February 2017, is covered in rashes that darken his skin; the rashes covering his body, resulted from bathing in poisoned water from the Flint River. Mostly, the poor and Black people in Flint were impacted by the “majority,” who decided to change the water source in Flint, and ignore the consequences of their decision. These stories and others like them are “windows” into knowledge that my Ss and I can build together. They make connections to prior knowledge and world knowledge that my Ss have of current and past contexts that ignore the rights and safety of BIPOC. I also know that the unit is one that will be interesting to my Ss and that will peak their curiosity about this topic, as I piloted it in several classes prior to writing this document.

Not all people, in positions of power, turned their backs. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician, reported elevated lead levels in her Flint patients. The water in Flint, “colored” with iron and lead impacted hundreds of Black residents’ lives. The “majority,” i.e., Michael Prysby of the Michigan DEQ Office of Drinking Water, Mayor [Dayne] Walling, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Gov. Snyder' and his chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, and others in numerous cities and countries line their own pockets and profit while ignoring the health and safety of others. The “majority” also includes scientists and policymakers who have known for decades about environmental issues and have done nothing.

Texts in this unit refers to both print and nonprint. I try to alleviate the trauma that some of these stories might trigger by mixing essays with documentaries, poetry, music, videos, art, and project-based learning. I want to summon courage and solutions through conversations and creativity, prompting my Ss to impact change to how we treat people and the planet. Environmental justice is also linked to climate change. Spring 2023, Ss read and listened to Greta Thunberg’s passionate speech that she presented to the United Nations; they participated in Socratic discussions; they listened to actor’s personify the voices of nature, i.e., Julia Robert’s speaking as Mother Nature, Penelope Cruz and Jason Momoa as Water, Joan Chen as the sky, Harrison Ford as the Ocean, Shailene Woodley, as the Forest, Edward Norton as the soil, and so forth in videos online from Conservation International. Ss used these videos as motivation to create their own videos, which I plan to continue 2023-2024. While climate change is an important topic, it is one that often ignores the lives of people impacted by the fallout of what happens to nature, as racism is a more difficult topic to address.


Vocabulary matters, as in this unit, marginalized include the voices of sometimes scared, sometimes courageous BIPOC. The “majority” consist of mostly those who covet positions of power and exploit the powerless. “There is a deep failure of political leadership in our country, and our leaders’ cowardice at a time when courage is needed most.”8 Historically this context is not new; it is buttressed by the lack of legitimacy given the bodies and minds of BIPOC.

“Since the 1600s, when adventurers from European nations explored and conquered lands in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, the powerless have experienced environmental pollution and the abuse of natural resources. For centuries Native Americans filled their basic needs through the sustainable use of natural resources. Tribal groups hunted, fished, planted crops, and gathered from the land in ways that did not deplete the environment, taking from nature only what they needed at the time. This way of living in harmony with the natural environment was reflected in laws of the Iroquois Confederacy, which stated: ‘In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.’”9

This is not a narrative that many would want my Ss, and especially white Ss to learn; In fact, recently, according to National Public Radio, Vice President Kamala Harris, in a July 20, 2023 speech, condemned Florida, as they made what they considered pivotal curriculum changes.

“The divisive revisions came just months after the state rejected an Advanced Placement course on African American studies…Arguably the most criticized change was the guidelines for middle school students, which state ‘Instructions includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.’ Harris called the assertion not only insulting, but absurd- pointing to how slavery entailed torture, separating families and enforcing the belief that some people are less than human.”10

Vice President Kamala Harris did not name, DeSantis, governor of Florida, and presidential hopeful in her speech, but it was in response to his administration’s desire to change what is taught in schools. In Virginia, “Colored” would fall under DeSantis-like legislative proposal to Stop W.O.K.E Activism and Critical Race Theory. Virginia is on the precipice of such legislation, as some say Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration is collecting reports of ‘divisive’ topics being taught in schools. “He ordered the Department of Education to conduct a review and even started a hotline so aggrieved parents could provide tips and examples of its implementation in the classroom.”11 

None the less, Robert Bullard, et al state that “Hardly a day passes without the media discovering some community or neighborhood fighting a landfill, incinerator, chemical plant, or some other polluting industry.”12 Robert Bullard is a sociologist. “He compiled the data …for a middle-class black community in suburban Houston, Texas, charging discrimination in the placement of municipal landfills.”13 Landfills produce gaseous odors, such as methane and carbon dioxide that move through soil, and are often placed in BIPOC communities because they are seen as communities who don’t have the voice, or the power to resist; thus, these communities become sacrifice zones.

“Industries also target some groups for potentially hazardous jobs because the groups are stereotyped as submissive. The electronics industry in California, for example, seeks Asian women-primarily immigrants from China, Hong Kong, Korea, and Vietnam- for assembly work, believing that such workers will not make waves and, regardless of the health hazards, will accept jobs that involve exposure to highly toxic chemicals.”14

Accordingly, Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, educator, former executive director of the NAACP, and a long time civil-rights community organizer and activist, in a1987 study, Toxic Waste and Race in the United States, defined Racism as:

“Racism is the intentional or unintentional use of power to isolate, separate, and exploit others. This use of power is based on a belief in superior racial origin, identity, or supposed racial characteristics. Racism confers special privileges on and defends the dominant group, which in turns sustains and perpetuates racism. Both consciously and unconsciously, racism is forced and maintained by the legal, cultural, religious, educational, economic, political, environmental, and military institutions of societies. Racism is more than just a personal attitude; it is the institutionalized form of that attitude.15 

Environmental racism

Environmental racism is also insidious, and Chavis coins it this way: “Environmental Racism [ER] is racial discrimination in the deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste facilities, the official sanctioning of the presence of life-threatening poisons and pollutants near communities of color and the history of excluding people of color from leadership of the environmental movement.”16 In order to treat spaces as unimportant, or as sacrifice zones, the people in those spaces have to be considered unimportant, too. This is done by weaving a single narrative that BIPOC are responsible for their own deaths and hardships. “Why don’t you move?” This comment implies that BIPOC have the resources to move, and ignores history of redlining. Blaming tactics, are illustrated in cartoons, such as Dutch Boy, accusing Black people of being ignorant and ineducable.17  Others say, “…they wouldn’t be poor if they worked harder, and wouldn’t be sick if they were educated and simply took better care of themselves.”18 Comments such as these ignore the voices of real people and real problems.

“Climate change is not an equal-opportunity killer. It goes after the most vulnerable among us: children. Heat stress and air pollution can lead to preterm labor and increased risk of low birth rate. Zika can pass from mother to fetus, causing deadly birth defects. Children inhale more pollution in proportion to their body weight, which can have permanent effects on their development…Four million kids world-wide develop asthma each year simply because they have the misfortune of living near a major roadway. Shame on us who could be doing something about it.19

That said, environmental racism deliberately targets marginalized communities. We can research the problem, study the problem, speak on the problem, create committees about the problem, and pass the problem to someone else who will research the problem, …forever creating narratives that don’t address the problem! Justice is needed for people and the environment.

Environmental Justice

When considering windows and mirrors for this unit, it was important that I considered perspectives: who is telling the story? Do they have what is needed to speak on behalf of BIPOC? Who are poets, artists, and others who might tell these stories? What are their values? What stories are told that marginalize people, and place them in boxes?  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in her TEDGlobal 2009 addresses how people are diminished, “So that’s how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that’s what they become.”20 Once people are seen as unimportant, it appears it is easy to ignore their concerns.  “A 2017 report exposed ‘hundreds of excess deaths’ of fetuses in Flint, Michigan, between 2013 and 2015 after the city switched to lead-poisoned Flint River water. Health economists…found that between 218 and 276 more children should have been born, and that these ‘missing children’ succumbed to fetal death and miscarriages caused by waterborne led exposure.”21  The “majority,” mentioned earlier, Flint officials, ignored residents who were hospitalized and complained of rashes and sicknesses. They ignored doctors who reported lead poisoning in children and Legionnaires disease in adults, as they said there wasn’t proof that the contaminated water was to blame; they devalued people.

BIPOC who are historically placed in colored spaces are more likely to find themselves in precarious situations, driven by money and power grabs that ignore their well-being: “In 2016 a national spotlight fell on the Dakota Access pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe soon became the most visible victim of the Trump administration’s disastrous changes in environmental policy. When he reversed the Obama administration’s decision to deny a permit to drill beneath the Missouri River, some wondered whether the $500,000 to $1 million Trump had invested in the pipeline provided motivation.”22 While others ignore problems, many have tried to confront issues of environmental injustices, and understand it.  Collette Pichon Battle, from South Louisiana in her essay, An Offering from the Bayou, also delivered in a speech, TEDWoman, 2019, speaks candidly about erasure, discrimination, and mass displacement of people.

“We must have courage to admit we’ve taken too much. We cannot close our eyes to the fact that the entire world is paying a price for privilege and the comfort of just a few on the planet. It’s time for us to make society-wide changes to a system that incentivizes consumption to the point of global imbalance.  Our social, political, and economic systems of extraction must be transformed into systems that generate the Earth and advance human liberty-globally... It is ego to think that we can continue this unjust and extractive approach to living on this planet and survive…we must honor the rights of nature. We must advance human rights for all.”23

School Demographics

This unit is timely, and relevant. Huguenot High School (HHS), a Title-1 urban public school is located in Richmond, Virginia; it is the largest of eleven in the district. 61% of Ss are Black. 30% are Hispanic. 7% white, and 1% of one or more races; 75% come from low-income families. All Ss receive free, and or reduced meals. While this information sufficiently “colors” our school, it doesn’t coherently describe my Ss. They are intelligent, creative, and most of the time, hilariously fun and funny. Ss have also experienced traumas and setbacks. 2022-2023, we returned to in-person learning, after Covid19 sent the world into a spiral, and schools teaching online; many Ss worked, and continue to work to support their families. October 22, a gun was found in one of the high school’s bathrooms then in April, two Ss were shot in the same school’s parking lot. June 2023, a mass murder occurred outside HHS’s graduation. It was National news.24  Some of my Ss live in public housing. “Public housing’s original purpose was to give shelter, not to those too poor to afford it, but to those who could afford decent housing, but couldn’t find it because none was available…Many projects were attractive low-rise (six-story) developments, with trees, grassy areas, and park benches.”25 Lack of tree equity is not an issue my Ss have brought up in  conversations, but (while not listed in the Demographic information about my Ss, found online) it is relevant.26


Some of my Ss may not see the relevance of what happened in Flint and at Standing Rock, nor the College Board and the district’s core reading, writing, speaking, and listening objectives. I know that many of the Ss in my classes are assigned to my AP courses, though they have made it clear that they neither like to read nor write. It is my job to build relationships, guide their learning beyond what they believe they might accomplish, as well as showcase the joy and resiliency of BIPOC. I provide texts that explain why BIPOC are a resilient group. Too, this unit is hefty with numerous activities because my thinking is some Ss will need abbreviated work, while others will need extension assignments. There are no hard lines about how to teach this unit, except when I introduce Socratic seminars, and practice with Ss the expectations. The learning is mostly project-based, and easy for me to tier. Tier 1, is what every Ss should know and be able to do, at grade level. Most Tier 1 Ss receive extension assignments, and or independent work. Tier 2 Ss demonstrate some proficiency, but may need some assistance; whereas, Tier 3 Ss, do not demonstrate reading, writing, and or speaking proficiency, and often need remediation. This unit provides multiple ways to access learning, as tiering is an instructional strategy that provide Ss an opportunity to meet grade-level standards. Too, I am aware of the influences that impact many of their lives: low prior learning experiences, gun violence, drug- abuse, single-parent households, many of whom live with grandparents, as some of their parents are incarcerated. I also know that this is not the lived experiences of all Ss and that identities are fluid, and with support and guidance, Ss learning can be successful and they may prosper, especially when they see themselves in the literature in ways that empower them.  

Planning Learning

First, before I teach any unit, Ss are taught class norms and routines. For instance, I write and post Agendas, as my Ss are more motivated to work if they know the plan, posted in the Google classroom and on the class whiteboard. Agendas provide information such as date, standard(s) that that Ss are learning, activities they will participate in and homework assignments; they make learning visible and create a safe environment, as it is a concrete reminder of essential lessons and class routines. This is where I began to sequence assignments, and the planning is more structured. Ss understand overarching mirror and window questions:

“How is my community dependent upon other communities, human and non-human? What are the ecological and social consequences of my choices and actions? How does one live responsibly in the local, national and global community? How can we balance ecological integrity and economic development? In what ways does the environment affect the health of my family and me, and how do our actions affect the environment? In what ways can my family and community minimize our “ecological footprint” on the planet? What is the environmental problem or issue we want to explore? For a given environmental issue (Ss) can identify: both the human and non-human impacts; key stakeholders and their points of view; alternative solutions and their potential consequences; whether information is reliable, and how to separate fact from fiction; common misconceptions.”27

Activity 1

The first task of the day is the appetizer: Do Now, meant to access prior knowledge and/or spark Ss’ interest. This activity occurs during the first 10-15 minutes of class. Example 1: Ss write Quick Writes, such as: 1. What is environmental justice? 2. How did this term originate; what are its historical foundations and causes? 3. How is pollution related to inequality? 4. How can maps and graphs help us see where injustice exists?  5. How do humans and the natural world interact?  6. How does where we live impact how we live?  7. What does nature teach us about diversity? 8. How does the health of a community influence its future?

Another Do Now assignment: Ss doodle while watching audio/videos such as Malaysian Chinese artist Kristiana Chan, Bodies of Water.28 Afterwards, Ss play Tragedy of the Commons, “fishing activity”. Ss learn about how shared resources can be depleted/issues of sustainability. There are lots of videos online that teach this concept as well. Another Do Now assignments: Ss listen to music, such as Michael Jackson’s Earth Song; and respond to prompts, such as: make observations about the images that you see. How can we link or relate them? Are the images adversarial? Explain. Is there a historical context suggested by the images? Are the images from a certain place: Africa, Afghanistan, America? How do you know? Ss formulate tentative conclusions: i.e., according to Jackson, what have we done to the world? Ss draw inferences from observations: i.e., does the video begin and end with the same message? If there is a shift, when does it happen? What is the message? How would we categorize images in the video? Is the title of the song significant? If so, in what way(s)? Ss draw conclusions: how strong is the evidence for global climate change? In his book, Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken connects climate change and environmental justice; he writes,

“Every single particle, thought, and being…is the environment, and what we do to one another is reflected on earth just as surely as what we do to the earth is reflected in our diseases and discontent…It’s because of this split between people and nature that the social justice and environmental arms of the movement have risen as separate, each with its own history.”29

Beneath Do Now assignments, I post Performance Tasks, the main menu, nonnegotiable, assignment(s) that everyone must compete. These assignments run from 30-50 minutes. Example 1: Ss review, define and illustrate key words in the unit, see Figure 2.

word wall example, creative writing

Figure 2: Word Wall Example, Creative Writing, AP Language and AP Literature, Spring 2023

Activity 2:  Word Walls

Figure 230 represents an advanced panel of work Ss created after I piloted lessons, 2022-23. Word walls foster word-consciousness and provide access to essential vocabulary, concepts and skills. Word walls build content literacy. Word walls help Ss see relationships between words and ideas. In Colored, I dedicate class time to introducing, reviewing, and interacting with words. Initial Performance Tasks for creating Word Walls include mini-lessons; I provide direct instruction for 5-10 minutes incorporating effective models to enhance visualizations, such as the Frayer Model, a graphic organizer which help Ss clarify the meaning of words encountered when reading, listening, and viewing texts. Ss write the definitions of words, provide examples, and identify synonyms and antonyms for each word. Ss create charts, diagrams, and sketches to drive data visualization. The Word Wall, developed over the course of the unit, provides multiple opportunities for Ss to share more detailed knowledge, as Table 2 illustrates.

Details on the wall (pictures, color, and definitions) assist Ss’s use of words during Socratic discussions, and support Ss’s understanding of differences between types of information. For instance, in Figure 3, Ss are introduced to the online Equity map. Maps permit Ss to identify specific patterns and structures. Extending this assignment to the Word Wall for the purpose of comparing and contrasting, I provide Ss printed maps that they color, which support Ss in understanding similarities and differences between types of data that reflect possible socio-cultural beliefs, socio-political and socio-economic dynamics; this type of lesson provides context for what Ss need to know and understand. Other review activities using the wall, include Quizlet and Kahoot.

Activity 3: Socratic seminars

In a Socratic Seminar, the topic of discussion is often a controversial and permit Ss to have opposing viewpoints. For this reason, I gradually release responsibility to Ss. Initially, I identify texts that I’d like Ss to read, write, speak and listen on. For the first few seminars, I model expectations. Ss come to the seminar prepared, having read text(s). Initial texts are what  Gloria Ladson-Billings define as culturally relevant texts (CRT); they include: Jasiri X’s, Don’t Let Them Get Away with Murder.31 This is a call-to-action narrative about the wave of police brutality that took the lives of numerous Black and Brown citizens, which is followed by Now is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About, 2016, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie32: she states at the end of her essay, “Every precious ideal must be reiterated, every obvious argument made, because an ugly idea left unchallenged begins to turn the color of normal. Another essay, for analysis is, The Color of Injustice, by Kelefa Sanneh, 2019.33 The last essay is Saint Pauli, by Kathryn Schulz, 2017.34 This essay is coupled with a poem that they wrote, Mr. Roosevelt Regrets:

“What did you get, black boy,

When they knocked you down in the/gutter,

And they kicked your teeth out,

And they broke your skull with clubs

And bashed your stomach in?

What’d you get when the police shot

You in the back…

What’d the Top Man say, black boy?

‘Mr. Roosevelt regrets….’”35

Incorporating CRT pedagogy insists that I provide texts that serve as both windows and mirrors for readers’ engagement.  Mirrors reflect my Ss’ lives, and/or validate their lived experiences; thereby, supports Ss engagement.  Windows include the experiences of others’ lives. I provide graphic organizers, or what some teachers call: Claim Trackers. Throughout each seminar, Ss keep track of the different claims made in texts that we read. They cite evidence from text(s) that introduces an author’s claim, and they identify and explain line of reasoning.

Once Ss are ready to conduct their own seminars; I divide seminars into three sections: Before the Seminar: I introduce the seminar and the purpose; I provide time for Ss to read text(s); Ss intentionally annotate (mark the texts with questions, insights, and observations). I provide speaking stems, such as, the hardest part of talking about racism is, or I understand environmental injustice because. Ss review discussion norms that I provide: i.e., Ss don’t have to raise their hands when answering questions; Ss are expected to listen carefully; Ss are expected to address each other, respectfully and call each other by name.

During the Seminar: Ss sit in circles (inner and outer). The purpose of seminars is to achieve a deeper understanding about important ideas and values in text(s). For instance, in The Color of Injustice, by Kelefa Sanneh, questions that begin the discussion are asking for answers directly from the text: Who is the speaker? Other questions aren’t as closed, i.e., What is the occasion for which the book is written? For whom is the text written? What is the purpose of the text? What is the speaker’s background, biases, potential political views/motivations? What is the tone of the text? I model thinking and expectations for responding to and asking questions. Sample key/or essential questions include: what is the main point, or underlying value in the text? What is the exigence, or what prompted this particular text to be written, song, performed, etc.?

Seminars are sometimes extensions of Do Now assignments: For example, during Do Now, Ss watch a short video about Afeni, Darwin, and other teens from Grassy Narrows, in western Ontario, Canada. These youngsters share health conditions that they faced when the government, in 1960, dumped ten pounds of toxic mercury into surrounding rivers. Fifty years later, according to Darwin, “It has been a half of century since ten tons of mercury was dumped into our rivers. It poisoned the fish and had a devasting impact on our people. I have trouble speaking. I have speech impairments. I have learning disabilities.”36 

During seminar, Ss identify speakers, the purpose of the video, the audience, and the bulk of our discussion covers context and exigence. Ss answer literal, interpretive and evaluative questions. Ss interpret what they hear the youngsters in the video say. Again, Ss quote text(s) when providing their responses. Sample questions include: What happened in Grassy Narrows? What specifically is mercury doing to the water? People? Who knew about the pollution? What values do the Anishinabeg share? Ss infer value placed on the people of Grassy Narrows.

Lastly, agendas also permit me to list homework assignments that link to seminars, and or Do Now assignments. I provide additional videos to watch, 5-20 minutes, such as, Poison People37. This time, adults explain what happened in Grassy Narrows. Ss create Jamboards, YouTube videos, and blogs. They collaborate using Padlet, Google Meet, FlipGrid, and/or textchat. While I don’t entirely agree with Mark Bauerlein who states in his book, The Dumbest Generation, “(Ss)…are latter day Rip Van Winkles, sleeping through the movements of culture and events of history, preferring the company of peers to great books and powerful ideas and momentous happenings,”38 I do believe that Ss need guidance and structure. In this unit, I incorporate a variety of learning tools and texts to choose from, and I intentionally guide Ss to other sources. 

Activity 4: Choice Boards

The second objective, also highlighted in the Agenda, is that my Ss read and view multiple assigned text(s), as I know the subject that I teach and how it can be applied to numerous medias. Ss select from a Tic Tac Toe Choice Board. I create it linked with essays, speeches, books, songs, videos, websites, pictures, and so forth as they become critical readers of texts in numerous medias. The board is made up of a 3 x 3 grid of squares. It has three rows of three squares. Ss select three assignments; one assignment that everyone must select, is the one in the middle. Vertically, one assignment, left of the middle, in my choice board states: Go online to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), click through the links that match the headings. You are going to teach this information to your peers. Prepare your presentation slides with the following headings: 1. General Information about Lead in Drinking Water. 2. How does lead get into drinking water? 3. Health Effects? 4. What can you do? 5. Cite source.

I include links, and grade rubrics for all assignments. The middle assignment, that all Ss must complete is: read the essay: Justice at the Tap: For Jackson, Flint, and the Navajo Nation, clean water shouldn’t be a pipe dream, by Torsheta Jackson, from Yes Magazine, Summer 2023. After reading, write a justifiable claim about the essay, and follow it with one line of reasoning. The third assignment is read Water is Life by Goldfinch60. After reading, Ss are directed to create their own poem about the importance of Water. Other assignments include: what is environmental racism? Ss watch a linked 6-minute video: Race and Environmental Justice. In it, Texas Southern University professor, Robert Bullard talks about the interplay of race and income in addressing environmental justice. Afterwards, Ss create a visual drawing of what he is saying. Additional assignments: Ss read the children’s book: We are the Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, and create a diorama of a scene from the book. Going down the choice board, Ss watch the 21:16, YouTube video, The Story of Stuff, and identify listed components. They are expected to watch it a second time, after reviewing Aristotle's philosophies on rhetoric, and identify appeals. Last, Ss watch the 2:00 minute YouTube video, Proud to Be (Mascot), or The first, by the National Congress of American Indians, shares a narrative through pictures and words of who Native Americans are; this video is in response to the Red Skin mascot. The second is website, of over 562 federally recognized tribes- a photo-documentary, meant to change the narrative of how people see Native Americans, it is by Matika Wilbur, from the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribe.

Ss listen to songs about the environment, such as the Michael Jackson song; others selections include: Childish Gambino’s song, Feels Like Summer. Sample lyrics: “Every day gets hotter than the one before/Running out of water, it's about to go down/Go down/Air that kill the bees that we depend upon/Birds were made for singing, wakin' up to no sound/No sound.”39 The song, Somethings in the Rain by Tish Hinojosa, whose parents are Mexican immigrants, is about a boy’s little sister poisoned by pesticides. I include artwork, such as Sergio Maciel and Provoke Culture, which illustrates structural racism in Chicago: in the painting two children stand back to back facing different environmental scenarios.40 These are extension assignments.

Activity 5: Independent Reading

What is Environmental Justice by Brian Roewe is a full outline of what it is; how it impacts BIPOC, and a video is included. Beth Gardiner’s book: Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Pollution, 2019 is offered for a possible research project. Unequal Impact: The Deep Links Between Racism and Climate Change, 2020, published at Yale School of Environment 360, is about Elizabeth Yeampierre who focuses on the connections between racial injustice and the environment and climate change. Eric Holthaus, The Climate Crisis is Racist, the answer is Anti-Racism, refers to the George Floyd murder, racism in Minneapolis, and systems that cause climate change. The Assumption of White Privilege by Bryan Massingale, revisits the Amy Cooper fiasco. EarthBeat Politics, put out by the National Catholic Reporter, June 2020 include these tests. Samuel Cohen’s 50 Essays,41 include: William Buckley’s essay, pp. 72-78, Why Don’t We Complain? Ss write essays that reflect their own political beliefs. What is it that they care enough to complain about? Ss read, Stephanie Ericsson’s essay, The Ways We Lie, pp. 159-168. Questions include: What are the different kinds of lies Ericsson catalogs? Make a connection to what Ericsson might say about the kinds of lies told at Standing Rock, Flint Michigan, or another text that we read.

Ss read Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence, pp. 193-201, and ask and answer questions: Are there any human rights ignored in Cancer Ally, Flint Michigan, and/or Standing Rock? If so, what are they and how do they apply to what is written in the Constitution? Are the following rights commented on or inferred in the Constitution: the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to life, the right to health, the right to an adequate standard of living and cultural rights? If so, quote exact passages. If not, should they be? Explain. Doing some research, Ss answer questions such as, are there any law suits that have used the Constitution to argue environmental justice/ racism? What does this phrase mean: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? What does it imply? What happens when the Constitution falls short of the ideals that it claims? What specific passage in the Declaration called Grievance 27 includes an offensive racial slur to describe Native Americans? Explain how this piece of the Declaration fits into our nation’s history and the story of the country’s founding. Does this type of language justify stealing of land, and genocide of Indigenous people?

Ss read, Our Vanishing Night by Verlyn Klinkenborg, pp. 216-219, and answer questions: does this writer believe in the possibility of change? Does he consider the differences between individual action and social movements in bringing about change? Conduct a mini-research (1 text, 1 page): What is light pollution? What are other ways that humans have polluted the planet? Ss draw: what will the planet look like in a hundred years? In a thousand? Ss read, Jonathan Swifts, A Modest Proposal, pp. 353-361. Where are other places in the world where poverty and hunger are rampant? Ss note parallels. Swift’s proposal is satire, but does he include suggestions for improving Ireland that are applicable? Explain. Ss read Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, pp. 369-391. What specifically was Thoreau unhappy about? What happens, according to Thoreau, when laws fail to uphold justice? For each essay listed, Ss also answer questions on rhetoric and style.

Activity 6: The Arts

The third objective is for Ss to demonstrate their understanding. Ss demonstrate learning writing This I Believe Statements, or Environmental Credos. Ss to build cities using dioramas. They layout elements: parks, homes, libraries, waste facilities and industrial plants that spew environmental hazards. Ss compare their city with those in texts that we’ve read. Ss create their own Constitution, Socratic seminars, Tic-Tac-Toe choice boards. Ss read articles, such as: “Indigenous Youth Are Building a Climate Justice Movement by Targeting Colonialism,” by Jaskiran Dhillon. Ss see themselves as activist, similar to youth in the article; they confront those who destroy ancestral homelands; they address ways to prevent further exploitation. This text is a window, reminding Ss that youth are typically the ones who rally for change.

A sketch that I found online by Katie Douglass, “Violence on our Earth,” and “The Land is Ceremony,” by Erin Marie Konsmo is the type of imaginations that I encourage my Ss to share in their drawings because the understanding is that the earth and the human body are linked; what is done to the earth affects the body is not a foreign concept, especially in Indigenous communities. Many African and American Indian communities still weave baskets as a cultural activity, and fish for sustenance; but when a forest service sprays grasses and reeds with pesticides, or industries pollute, these activities are altered. Transient workforces move through BIPOC communities, and disrupt lifestyles and traditions, or what many Indigenous people call “harm reduction,” as man camps, temporary housing, built in communities, bring violence and rape. My hope is that when I share information such as this, Ss presentations acknowledge further research/fact finding; Ss provide PPT and speeches. Matthew’s art, Figure 1, also demonstrates learning.

Activity 7: Mapping Learning

Last, Ss research using online tools to map communities using RVAgreen 2050 Equity Index, created by the City of Richmond Office of Sustainability.”42 Ss also select topics they’d like to know more about.

RVA green heat index for mosby court

Figure 3: RVAgreen Heat Index for Mosby Court.

Ss research communities such as in the documentary: Mossville: When Great Trees Fall.43 Another text Ss may research is 1978, the problem in Emelle, Alabama Home of the Nation Largest Hazardous Waste Landfill. “In Sumter County one of the country’s most impoverished regions, one-third of the residents live below the poverty level. Over 65% of the residents are Black and over 90% of the residents near the landfill in Emelle are Black.44  I want to know Ss reactions and insights to what they read.

“In 1977, a small company called Resource Industries, Inc. purchased a 300—acre tract of land just outside Emelle in Sumter county. It seemed that political ties allowed Resource Industries, Inc. to turn the 300-acres into a landfill. One of the original owners James Parson, is the son-in-law of former Governor, George Wallace. The political connections enabled the company to obtain the necessary permits to operate the dump from the Health Department.”45]

My Ss participate in research because I want to create independent creative readers and viewers. When Ss come to me with “I don’t know what to research,” I provide resources, such as paired texts: The Water Princess by Susan Verde; We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, the video: The Fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline Explained and "The Candor and the Eagle" (2019). Paired Texts include the easily assessible online United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Ground Water and Drinking Water and the Book Flint: What the Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hana-Attisha- this assignment is Tier 1. Tier 1 Ss might also be interested in reading: Flint Fights Back: Environmental Justice and Democracy in the Flint Water Crisis (Urban and Industrial Environments) Kindle Edition by Benjamin J. Pauli, or courage personified: Moving Mountains by Jacqueline Pratt-Tuke. Other texts include: Justice at the Tap: For Jackson, Flint, and the Navajo Nation, clean water should be a pipe dream, by Torsheta Jackson, whose essay appeared this summer in Yes Magazine. “Water is the first medicine…We come from water. It nourished us inside our mother’s body. As it nourishes us here on Mother Earth. Water is sacred, she said.”46 Ss may read information about 12-year-old Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny, a Flint, Michigan resident who wrote then-President Barack Obama encouraging him to do something about the water crisis in Flint. She states, “’Flint is not unique,’ Copeny tells Vox, ‘There are dozens of Flints across the country. Cases of environmental racism are on the rise and disproportionately affect communities of people of color and indigenous communities.”47

Ss map the stories using plot lines and data walls to show patterns and similarities and differences between stories. I may pair this short reading with a Commonlit 360 assignment, Moving Mountains.48 One group of Ss might read the illustrated children’s book: We are the Water Protectors.49 I pair this book with a short video: The Fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline Explained.50 As such, Ss complete a research project (primary, secondary or environmental action plan). Ss submit research paper (group). Ss receive progress reports: submitted in paper or by conferencing with me, or peers for feedback. Ss submit journal/notebook (individual).


1 Anderson, Elijah, The White Space, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 2015, 10.

2 Figure 1 Drawing by Matthew, a student in my AP Language class when I piloted this unit, Spring 2023.

3 Slipek, Edwin, The Lost Neighborhood, Style Weekly, 2006.

4 Hale, Kore, Wells Fargo Is Taking A Hard Pass, Forbes, 2022.

5 Spencer, Alexa, More Trees. The Observer, Words in Black, 2023.

6 Jakes, Thomas, and Lenard McKelvey. “Disruptive Conversations,” YouTube, 2023.

7 Johnson, Ayana, et al. All We Can Save, One World, 2020, 158.

8 Ibid, 189.

9 Gay, Kathlyn, Pollution and the Powerless, 16.

10 Kim, Juliana. “VP Harris Says Florida’s,” NPR, 2023.

11 Barakat, Matthew and Sarah Rankin, Youngkin looks to root out, Associated Press, 2022.

12 Bullard, Robert and Glenn Johnson, Environmental Justice, 555.

13 Gay, Kathlyn, Pollution and the Powerless, Impact Books, 1994.

14 Ibid, 21.

15 Chavis, Benjamin, Toxic Waste and Race, Commission for Racial Justice, 1987, ix.

16 Ibid

17 Cooper, Candy, Polluted, 2022, 62.

18 Villarosa, Linda, Under the Skin, 37.

19 Johnson, Ayana et al, All We Can Save, 2020, 158, 225.

20 Ngozi Adichie, Chimamanda, The Danger, TED, 2013. 

21 Washington, Harriet, Terrible Thing, 172.

22 Ibid, 152.

23 Ibid, 331-332

24 Salahieh, Nouran and Lauren Mascarenhas, 2 killed, CNN, June 7, 2023.

25 Washington, Harriet, Terrible Thing, 174.

26 Public School Review, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Department of Education.

27Roth, Charles E., Earthlore Associates and the Center for Environmental Education of Antioch New England

Institute, 2002.

28 “Anx B Filmed in House Kristiana Chan Bodies of Water Video Installation.” YouTube, 2021.

29 Hawken, Paul, Blessed Unrest, New York, 2007. 23.

30 Figure 2, Word Wall, Spring 2023, AP Language and Composition

31 Rostock, Suzanne, dir. “Don’t Let Them Get Away,” SANKOFA. Accessed July 27, 2023.

32 Cobb, Jelani and David Remnick, The Matter of Black Lives, HarperCollins, 2021, 99-103.

33 Ibid, 106-118.

34 Ibid, 247-263.

35 Murray, Pauli, Mr. Roosevelt Regrets (Detroit Riot, 1943), Poetry Foundation.

36 Amnesty International, The Youth Rising, 32.

37 Korol, Todd, et al. “Poisoned People, YouTube, 2016.

38 Baurlein, Mark, 2008. The Dumbest Generation, Penguin Books, 234.

39 Glover, Donald, Feels Like Summer, YouTube.

40 Howell, Zaria, et al. In Segregated Chicago, 2020. 

41 Cohen, Samuel, 50 Essays, Bedford, 2017.

42 RVAgreen 2050 Climate Equity Index.

43 Glustrom, Alexander, When Great Trees Fall, PBS, 2020. 

44 Emelle Alabama, Home of the Nation’s Largest Hazardous Waste.

45 Ibid. 

46 Lindstrom, Carole and Michaela Goade, we are Water, 2020, 2-3

47 “7 Young Activists,

48Pratt-Tuke, Jacqueline, Moving Mountains.

49 Lindstrom, Carole, and Michaela Goade. We are water, 2020, 5-8.

50 The Fight over the Dakota, YouTube, 2016.

Annotated Bibliography

Anderson, Meg, “Racist Housing Practices from the 1930s Linked to Hotter Neighborhoods Today,” National Public Radio, Jan., 14, 2020. hotter-neighborhoods-today.

Anderson is the assistant producer on NPR investigation team. This audio and print text, 3-minute listen, was shared on NPR’s All Things Considered. She shares a group of researchers’ data of 108 urban neighborhoods nation-wide, the racist housing practices from the 1930s linked to hotter neighborhoods. 

Amnesty International, The Youth Rising, This YouTube video is 4:39, told through the voices of youth impacted by the mercury found in water in western Ontario, Canada. Darwin and Afeni are from Grassy Narrows, Canada, a first nations reserve that has been devastated by mercury poisoning. In the 1960’s, the government allowed 10 tonnes of toxic waste to be dumped in the river system that sustains the community. The fish were contaminated with extremely high levels of mercury, causing decades of severe health problems and eroding their unique way of life.

“Anx B Filmed in House Kristiana Chan Bodies of Water Video Installation.” YouTube, April 28, 2021. Bodies of Water is a multimedia, colorful visual and sound installation that explores the ancestral and biological heritage of water posted on Chan’s webpage, but can be accessed via YouTube: 4:41.

Barakat, Matthew and Sarah Rankin, Youngkin looks to root out critical race theory in Virginia, Associated Press, 2022 Feb. 19. Everyone made a big deal out of Youngkin signing this first Executive Order; it is written in numerous networks, and accompanied by a picture of him with pen in hand, and several folk hovering close by and smiling. Notably two African Americans flank him, one on his left and one on his right.

Baurlein, Mark, 2008. The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future. New York: Penguin, 234. This book is about the intellectual life of youth and how the impact of technology is dulling minds. I downloaded this pdf and plan to read it more closely, later. Basically, it is a report about the intellectual life, or lack thereof, of young people and a lengthy warning about the impact of their behavior on American culture.

Bullard, Robert and Glenn Johnson, Environmental Justice: Grassroot Activism and Its Impact on Public Policy Decision Making, Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 56, No.3, 2000, 555-578. This is a lengthy essay. It was assigned reading; it defines environmental justice, p. 558; it shares that the EPA is mandated to enforce the nation’s environmental laws; it lists the general characteristics of the Environmental Justice Framework; it shares that environmental racism is one form of environmental injustice; it speaks to the impetus for change; hence the title, grassroots. It shares numerous court cases, such as Mothers of East Los Angeles, El Sereno Neighborhood Action Committee, El Sereno Organizing Committee, et al v. California Transportation Commission, et al. challenges the extension of a above ground freeway through a mostly Latino neighborhood while most of the freeway in El Sereno (white area) will be below ground; hence they would not have to deal with the noise, air and visual pollution that state agencies had said they’d address. Dumping in Dixie, a book that Bullard wrote is also summarized in this document. Three and ½ pages of references are provided. 

Cobb, Jelani and David Remnick, Editors, The Matter of Black Lives: Writing from the New Yorker, HarperCollins, New York, 2021, 99-103. An essay about Donald’s Trump’s divisive rhetoric. 106-118, 247-263. This is an 828-page anthology of New Yorker’s writing: stories, essays, memoir, etc. on race in America. It includes essays originally published in the New Yorker, with date of publications; writers include: James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Jamaica Kincaid, Henry Louis Gates, Jelani Cobbs, Te-Nehisi Coates, and Elizabeth Alexander. It is edited by Jelani Cobb, a historian and professor of journalism at Columbia University, and David Remnick, editor at the New Yorker since 1993. He has written Pulitzer Prize winning books.

Cooper, Candy and Mark Aronson, Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint Michigan Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation, New York: Bloomsbury Publishing Inc., 2020. Cooper is a Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigating reporting and Aronson has a PhD in history. 

Chavis, Benjamin, Toxic Waste and Race in the United States, Commission for Racial Justice, 1987, 1-10. This pdf is printed by The Commission for Racial Justice: United Church of Christ. It is a national report on racial and socio-economic characteristics of communities with hazardous waste sites. Based on the map, exhibit 13 there are numerous. Based on my reading, they are sprinkled in mostly Black and Hispanic communities; the report urges the President of the United States write an executive order mandating the federal authorities to consider the impact of then current policies and regulations on racial and ethnic communities. They urged the creation of the formation of an Office of Hazardous Wastes and Racial and Ethic affairs regarding hazardous waste and cleanup of uncontrolled sites, as well as additional concerns. The report included demographics of communities with uncontrolled waste sites. They stated that Los Angeles California had more Hispanics living in communities with uncontrolled toxic waste sites than any other Metropolitan area in the United States.

Davis, Mariah and Queen Zakia Shabazz, “Opinion in Virginia, the Fight for environmental Justices Continues,” The Washington Post, July 2, 2021. Mariah Davis is the acting director of the Choose Cleaner Water Initiative and Queen Zakia Shabazz is the coordinator of the Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative. This article is about a proposed mega-landfill near VA school, Pine Grove Elementary in Cumberland County, more of whom 30% are Black.

Emelle Alabama, Home of the Nation’s Largest Hazardous Waste Landfill, This website provides a clickable Table of Contents: Problem, Background, Key Actors, Demographics, Strategies, Solutions, and References. This is an Environmental Justice Atlas that illustrates this particular story.

“The Fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline, Explained.” YouTube, December 5, 2016.  This is a short video, 3:01; detailing the stop of the oil pipeline; alternate route. Construction had already disrupted of burial grounds and consultation (their legal right) was ignored. President Trump was president at the time... There is an additional YouTube video: The Untold Story of The Americas Before Columbus | 1491: Full Series | Timeline; that is a worthy watch, also; includes creation stories.

Gay, Kathlyn, Pollution and the Powerless: The environmental justice movement. Impact Books, New York, 1994. 16, 21. I found this book in my school’s library. It also describes the impact of situating dangerous toxins in poor, powerless, and often minority communities. This is a good book for Ss to begin their research. 

Gilio-Whitaker, Dina, As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock, Boston, Beacon Press, 2019. The voices of Indigenous people beginning with Dina Gilio-Whitaker, indigenous researcher and activist who shares stories of a history of treaty violations, struggles for food and water security, and protection of sacred sites. She highlights the important contributions of Indigenous women; of course, Standing Rock is addressed in this book. 

Glustrom, Alexander, When Great Trees Fall, PBS, 05/25/20, This documentary is about a centuries-old black community in Louisiana, contaminated and uprooted by petrochemical plants, comes to terms with the loss of its ancestral home, one man standing in the way of a plant’s expansion refuses to give up. Sasolburg (in Africa) dealing with a similar issue. This is a very sad documentary; throughout I was hoping for someone to come forth and support Stacey, last buyout, but it did not happen. He spent most of his buyout money on medical bills.

Hawken, Paul, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being, and Why No One Saw It Coming, Viking, New York, 2007. 23. This book is about the goodness of people which Hawken believes is at the core of people; however, it is also about a number od systemic problems that are global in scope and that are impacting the earth. 

Hale, Kore, Wells Fargo Is Taking A Hard Pass On 53% Of Black Mortgage Applicants, Forbes, July 7, 2022. pass-on-53-of-black-mortgage-applicants/?sh5ac258243135. This is not surprising news. This Forbes article details how the nation’s third largest bank returned to redlining (illegal) tactics of the past. A Bloomsburg analysis stated that Wells Fargo 47% approval rate gave it the worst record among major lenders when considering refinancing for Black homeowners. 

Jakes, Thomas, and Lenard McKelvey. “Disruptive Conversations with Charlamagne Tha God.” YouTube, July 18, 2023. This talk is about Jake’s book, and reclaiming one’s power to change things.

Johnson, Ayana Elizabeth and Katharine K. Wilkinson, ed., All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, One World: New York, 2020, 158. This book consisting of essays and poems from women who write about climate change. 158, 189, 225

Kim, Juliana. “VP Harris Says Florida’s New Black History Curriculum Replaces “history with Lies.” NPR, July 21, 2023: This article is Vice president Harris’s speech in response to Florida governor Ron DeSantis’ Stop Woke Agenda, and the new high and middle schools’ social studies curriculum standards.

Korol, Todd, Davis Bruser, and Jayme Poisson. “Poisoned People: Steady Drip of Mercury Damaging Lives.” Edited by Kelsey Wilson. YouTube, July 19, 2016.

Lindstrom, Carole, and Michaela Goade. We are water protectors. Solon, OH: Findaway World, LLC, 2023. This is a children’s book. Lindstrom is the author, and Goade is the illustrator. The book was inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America; it is told through colorful pictures and issues a warning cry to safe guard the Earth’s Water. It is told from a child’s perspective. “Water is the first medicine,” it begins. 

Paul Mahai and Robin Saha, Which Came First, People or Pollution? A Review of Theory and Evidence from Longitudinal Environmental Justice Studies, Environmental Research, 2015. Assigned reading. Longitudinal environmental justice studies. Searches for why disparities exist- disproportional environmental burdens on Black and Brown communities. Different methodological approaches: disparate siting and post siting. Sociopolitical explanation given for why industries dump on BIPOC – least resistant, residents perceived to lack resources and political clout. Numerous studies provided. 

Murray, Pauli, Mr. Roosevelt Regrets (Detroit Riot, 1943), Poetry Foundation: I discovered that I was eating in the Pauli Murray cafeteria, and had no idea the dorms were named after this woman. She was incredible, but not often seen in the history books. She wrote this poem about the 1943 Detroit Riots. It could easily be retitled and written today about any major city.

Nakate, Vanessa, A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring A New African Voice to the Climate Change, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2021. This is a memoir by the founder of the Rise Up Movement. She addressed a tweet to the Associated Press who cropped her out of a photo, which sparked a conversation about diversity in the environmental movement.  Luisa Neubauer, Greta Thunberg, Isabelle Axelsson and Loukina Tille, all white remained in the photo. Nakate is Ugandan. Her book is about climate justice; it is her first book. She shares how he community bears disproportionate to the climate crisis. She believes that African nations and the global south; inspired by Thunberg, she became Uganda’s First Friday’s for Future protestor. She has a Business Administration degree from Makerere University Business School. She talks about the rules that are placed on women in Uganda, and how at the boarding school she attended, girls were taught to be demure. She is the eldest of five. She shared her frustration with holding a public demonstration in her country, the permits, her gender….

Ngozi Adichie, Chimamanda, The Danger of a Single Story, TED, 2013. Ngozi-Adichie, shares her own prejudices as well confronts the prejudices that keep people from seeing each other, the single story. She I also featured in the book, The Matter of Black Lives. 

Oliver, John, Environmental Racism: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, HBO, 2021. I don’t watch this show on a regular, but I did find the episode that I watched, interesting. He shared the same information about disparities that impact BIPOC, and he used humor and lots of charts. He said racism is one of the few things in this country, more powerful than money then he shared Five Power Rankings. Check it out. 

Page, Elliot and Ian Daniel, There's Something in the Water, 2019. This is a Canadian documentary film. It attempts to examine environmental racism, the disproportionate effect of environmental damage on Black Canadian and First Nations communities in Nova Scotia. The film takes its name from Ingrid Waldron's book on environmental racism, There's Something in the Water. This story is similar to the documentary that I watched, When Great Trees Fall. Again, a Black person is telling the story (Page, an actor, is white), the people in the community have died or are dying of cancer, everyone is powerless to help, someone is documenting slow deaths.

Public School Review, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Department ofEducation,,1%25%20of%20students%20are%20Asia. This website provides additional information about HHS demographics.

Pratt-Tuke, Jacqueline, Moving Mountains, Pratt is a science and humanities teacher based in Washington, D.C. her informational text shares the hard work of five impactful young people.

Rostock, Suzanne, dir. “Don’t Let Them Get Away with Murder by Jasiri X (Ft. Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Deanda).” SANKOFA. Accessed July 27, 2023. This is a rallying cry through music, written and performed by new millennium artist/rapper Jasiri X. It’s an arresting, poignant call-to-action about the wave of police brutality that has taken the lives of a growing number of citizens, especially black and brown youth, across this country. I’d like to see how my Ss might connect it to the number of Black lives lost to environmental racism. They may not make the connection and I’ll just move on.

Roth, Charles E., Earthlore Associates and the Center for Environmental Education of Antioch New England Institute (2002). A questioning framework for shaping environmental literacy. Rothstein, Richard, The Color of Law, New York, Liveright Publishing, 2017. “USA: Environmental Racism in ‘Cancer Alley’ Must End – Experts.”, March 2,2021. I keep reading the same stories over and over about Louisiana, it seems. Original called Plantation Country where slaves sweated and labored, now site of a petrochemical site along the lower Mississippi River. Another example of environmental racism. Largely an African American community’s water and air is polluted. Cancer, respiratory diseases, and other health concerns is prominent. Federal environmental regulations again fail to protect Black people. Formosa Plastics' petrochemical complexes take over. People continue to die. Ancestral burial grounds of enslave Africans, uprooted…

RVAgreen 2050 Climate Equity Index, Self-explanatory.

Salahieh, Nouran and Lauren Mascarenhas, The2 killed in mass shooting after Virginia high school graduation ceremony were an 18-year-old graduate and his stepfather, CNN, June 7, 2023, wednesday/index.html.

Segregated Chicago, Art Puts Environmental Racism on Display: If the General Iron plant too dirty for the city’s North Side, it’s also too dirty for the Southeast Side. Natural Resources Defense Council, Dec. 22, 2020.

Spencer, Alexa, “Why We Need More Trees in Black Neighborhoods,” The Observer, Words in Black, April 19, 2023, This is a short article about tree equity, and environmental issues facing Black Americans.

Slipek, Edwin, Jr., “The Lost Neighborhood: Within sight of downtown but invisible to most,” Style Magazine, Nov. 8, 2006. This is an article about Gilpin Court, 2006, a project in RVA that is currently slated for demolition. It tells some of the history of redlining, violence, and so forth.

Spencer, Alexa. “Why We Need More Trees in Black Neighborhoods,” Soul NOLA, Spring, 2023. This is about the disparities of where trees are planted.

Thomas, Leah, The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to Dismantle Systems of Oppression to Protect People + Planet, New York, Little Brown and Company, 2022. This writer coined the term intersectional environmentalism. The idea is there is a link between privilege, environmentalism, racism, and the idea the planet cannot be saved until the voices of the unheard are uplifted.

Tabuchi, Hiroko and Michael Corkery, Countries Tried to Curb Trade in Plastic Waste. The U.S. Is Shipping more, New York Times, March 12, 2021. This article is here because it tells stories that take place overseas – still environmental racism.

Washington, Harriet, A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and its Assault on the American Mind, New York, Little Brown Spark, 2019. 152, 172, 174, 331-332, Again the story of the consequences of environmental racism are shared. Washington is a science journalist who shares the story of polluted water in Flint, Michigan, Puerto Rico's slow recovery from Hurricane Maria, ways that mostly poor people of color often suffer disproportionate harm from environmental crises. She believes that cognitive damage is the result of these crises. She writes about Anniston, Alabama where when industries polluted the area, they failed to warn the people that there was PCP in their water. Children were dying of heart and kidney diseases; which adults typically get. People were poisoned over decades. Several lawsuits followed the exit of the companies when they found people were dying. Johnny Cochran did get a settlement, which helped the resident establish a health center, but the money ran out, the center was closed. Black people couldn’t plant vegetables normally, so they planted them in huge drums; they couldn’t simply move out of the area because…

Villarosa, Linda, Under the Skin: The Hidden Toil of Racism on Health in America, New York, Anchor Books, 2022, 37. This book is about racial disparities in health care.

“7 Young Activists Working at the Intersection of Environmental and Racial Justice.” Accessed July 24, 2023. This activist believe you can’t separate the fight for racial equality from the fight against climate change. Each of the seven activists are listed, pictures and their activism shared.

Appendix on Implementing District Standards

Virginia is not a Common Core state; thus, the following VA Standards provide examples of reading, writing, speaking, and research standards for grades

9-12. Ss read: Standards: 9.5, 10.5, 11.5, and 12.5: Ss read and analyze nonfiction. Ss cite relevant and contextual evidence. Determine a central idea and analyze the ideas over the course of the text(s). Ss read fiction, and recount events, and/or character actions related to the theme. Determine how people, or characters change over the course of the text. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices and tone. Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance.

Ss write: Standard 9.6 Write Cause and Effect papers: describe the interconnectedness of issues (basic human needs, population, consumption, resources, poverty, conflict etc.) and explain how changes in one part of the system can lead to positive or negative impacts to other parts of the system. Standard 10.6, Ss write research and Social Issue Essays. Standard 12.6: Ss write argumentative essays. Ss understand the Writing Process, and grammar is taught in a contextualized way. Ss participate in shared research and writing projects. Ss gather information from primary and secondary sources.  Ss cite relevant and contextual evidence. Ss support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. 

Ss speak and listen: Standards: 9.1, 10.1, 11.1, & 12.1: They make planned presentations -follow discussion rules, draw on preparation, pose questions that connect ideas, and acknowledge ideas and information shared by others. Demonstrate understanding while actively engaged in text and listening. Ss research: 9.2, 10.2, 11.2, and 12.2: Plan, produce and organize media research and presentations: Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other sources to explain relationships between locations of places and regions. They use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information.

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