California Environmental Justice Alliance

Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

Highlights of our 2020 Congreso: Rising Up for a Just Recovery

Thank you to all who joined CEJA’s #2020Congreso: Rising up for a #JustRecovery! More than 200 powerful EJ leaders came together virtually from August 11-12 to experience over two days of inspiring speakers, uplifting performances, skill-building workshops, and celebrations for our EJ Leadership Awardees. Read below for highlights from our 2020 Congreso!

Day 1: Grounding us in the Current Moment 

We kicked off Day 1 with words by movement leader and elder Dolores Huerta, and poet activist Dominique Christina, to ground us in the current crises of structural anti-black racism and the global pandemic. Through their speeches, they explored how we can learn from the past in order to have strength and fortitude to persevere through our current and future challenges. 

Our first workshop of the day on “COVID & EJ” highlighted long-standing inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic, and how residents and organizations from across the state are organizing and advocating for solutions that create a stronger, healthier, and more resilient state for everyone. 

Our next workshop on “Kicking off the 2020 Elections” presented by CEJA Action featured EJ Champions Esther Goolsby and Georgette Gomez. Together they inspired participants on how to make sure our vote counts, and that CEJA and our member organizations are at the center of political decisions in California.

Our final event of the day was a “Documentary Screening and Discussion” on CRPE’s Green Zones Community Tour. Together we viewed a 10-minute documentary presentation, and engaged in discussion to celebrate our environmental justice victories, and learn how the Green Zones framework moves us closer to our north star of just transition.

Day 2: Inspiring us to Rise Up for a Truly Just Recovery

Congreso’s Day 2 began with a powerful performance by Taina Asili, followed by an uplifting keynote speech by Mari Copeny, also known as “Little Miss Flint.” This session bridged the previous days’ stories of perspective and strength from our elders, and the hope and vision of future generations, to help us realize that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” 

Our first workshop of the day on the “Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program” revealed how we fought for the policy which is now a successful program we have continued to shape, to advance access to energy equity and clean jobs in our communities.   

For many, our “Just Recovery Workshop” was a highlight of Congreso. During this session, we gained an understanding of what the just recovery framework is, and how to use it as a tool for local-to-statewide organizing and advocacy.

Honoring our 2020 EJ Leadership Awardees

Congratulations to all our 2020 Environmental Justice Leadership Awardees! We were proud to honor the following leaders through a community-nominated process:

  • Community Organization Award:  Concerned Citizens of West Fresno
    Mrs. Mary Curry chairs the Concerned Citizens of West Fresno (CCWF), a Black-led community group of Fresno residents who fought and won a multi-generational battle to end the illegal operations of the Darling meat rendering plant in the Black community of West Fresno.  
  • Community Leader Award: Tasha Williamson
    Tasha Williamson is an activist and leader for racial justice in San Diego, who has founded organizations and ran campaigns that address issues of domestic violence, police brutality and poverty.
  • Decision-maker Award: Carmen Ramírez, Oxnard Mayor Pro Tem
    Oxnard Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramírez has made environmental justice the hallmark of her public service, successfully fighting polluting projects in Oxnard, championing the transition to renewable clean energy in Oxnard and restoration of an industrialized coastline, as well as social and economic justice for her constituents. 

Appreciations & Resources

We thank all of the community leaders, member and partner organizations, supporters, and allies who made our 2020 Congreso a success! 

Check out all the photos on Facebook

View the 2020 Congreso Program Booklet here in English and here in Spanish