Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

A Message of Solidarity with Survivors of Sexual Violence and the Environmental Justice Community of the Inland Empire

A Message of Solidarity with Survivors of Sexual Violence and the Environmental Justice Community of the Inland Empire

The California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) stands in solidarity and strong support of women who recently shared their allegations publicly of sexual harassment and rape by former CCAEJ Executive Director, Allen Hernandez.  We are grateful to Ericka Flores and Mina Barragán for their bravery in empowering themselves and other survivors of sexual violence, and in holding the environmental and social justice movement accountable. We are outraged to learn that their bodies and rights to safety and dignity were violated, and wholeheartedly offer our support toward their healing and obtaining justice. It is also abhorrent that these acts are attributed to someone in leadership in our movement and Alliance, and join Ericka’s and Mina’s calls for full accountability. We appreciate the swift action taken by the CCAEJ Board of Directors to investigate and remove Hernandez from his position of leadership and trust to prevent further harm. We call upon others, especially within the environmental justice movement, to believe and stand with these and other women who courageously come forward to denounce acts of sexual violence, oppression, misogyny, and abuse of power.

As an Alliance, CEJA member and partner organizations commit to proactively work to dismantle systems of oppression, including racism, sexism, and heteropatriarchy, and to make our work and the environmental justice movement just. 

Our member organizations commit to engaging in principled work, including upholding the Principles of Environmental Justice and overall ethical behavior, and are expected to bring these values to our work as an Alliance. This includes requiring that our own policies and work be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination and oppression. Our individual and collective commitment also affirms the right of all workers to a safe, healthy and dignified work environment. 

It is our utmost responsibility to create healthy organizational cultures, supported by systems and practices, that respect the rights of all team members to be free of gendered and racial discrimination and violence, and all forms of heteropatriarchy and white supremacy that are expressed in various forms in our own organizations and work, as it is in the broader community. We are disheartened to also learn of other CCAEJ former employees’ experiences with dysfunctional organizational matters and frustrations with lack of responsive organizational leadership, and regret that dynamics degenerated to the point that six staff members made the difficult decision to depart from CCAEJ. We hope that they, too, can find healing and restoration so that they can continue to exercise their leadership in the EJ movement.  

We are saddened that our member organization, CCAEJ, which for 40 years has worked to achieve environmental justice in the Inland region, is undergoing a difficult transformational time. CCAEJ is a pillar in the Inland region and continues to challenge and defeat environmental racism and injustices in the region. We appreciate the willingness of CCAEJ and community to carry forth the challenging work in rebuilding, and hope that CCAEJ and its work emerge stronger. 

These communities deserve a robust ecosystem of health advocacy and environmental justice infrastructure to protect their right to clean air and a sustainable, healthy, and just environment. Communities under siege from pollution need deeper investment in this work. 

Communities of color are experiencing major trauma and pain from the multiple crises of COVID-19, white supremacy, climate change and Trumpism. As our nation as a whole is experiencing a surge in state-sanctioned violence and oppression against human and civil rights, we also see new opportunities for systems change. In order for our movements to truly achieve systemic change, we need to double-down on our commitment for internal systems and culture change, and do whatever we can to rid our own organizations of sexism, misogyny, racism, hetero-patriarchy, and all forms of gendered and racial violence.

Our racial and social justice movements cannot and will not genuinely shift systems or achieve liberation until we shift our own cultures to be the change we want to see.

As environmental justice organizations, we must reflect the healthy, just, sustainable, and liberated world we so zealously work to achieve. There is no other way, as unhealthy, dysfunctional organizational cultures simply breed further dysfunction externally. CEJA recommits to actively opposing oppression and violence in all its forms, and to continuing to elevate our work for environmental justice while sustaining our own health and well-being.