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The Environmental Justice Seminar

The next online iteration of the Environmental Justice Seminar, “Indianapolis and Climate Change”, will occur on Nov. 5, 2020 from 5:00-6:30 p.m.  register here: 
HTTPS://IU.ZOOM.US/MEETING/REGISTER/TJYOCUGQQZMSE9BTVJVZMOMHFL3H31TZJBPC

The upshot of the inaugural Environmental Justice Seminar titled “Environmental Justice/Environmental Apartheid” is that systemic racism isn’t just limited to issues like policing and urban housing. 

This seminar, the first of six scheduled through January, took place virtually over Zoom on Aug. 18.

The legacy of systemic racism is quite literally, in the air, water, and soil.

Public Domain Kaiser Aluminum Plant emits corrosive fumes. Industrial waste is dumped in landfill area in the foreground.

This is especially true if you live along the banks of the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, in an area dubbed “Cancer Alley.” In some parts of this predominantly Black region, cancer rates are 50 times higher than elsewhere in the country.

In the first seminar, organized by the IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute and the Kheprw Institute, participants were invited to consider how they think about the environment and whether or not they factor justice into the equation. 

IUPUI Arts & Humanities director Jason Kelly talked about the concepts undergirding the seminar during his introduction to the seminar.

“When I think about the themes of this seminar, I think of the main tenets of critical race theory —  the idea that racism is a system embedded everywhere and every day in the contemporary US. That’s a fundamental starting principle of critical race theory —  that race and racism are historically constructed, historically constituted systems of oppression in this country, and they are written into the economic, social, and political systems in which we live. Our environmental systems reflect this reality.”

While the IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute tries to build bridges between scholars in different areas of expertise as well as opening up avenues of communication to Indianapolis residents, Kheprw is more focused on the next generation. 

As Imhotep Adisa, one of the founders of Kheprw and its current director has explained in an interview with NUVO, “KI is really a classroom on training community members. We train primarily young people but also some of our elders in the art of the start; how to start something with little or no material resources:  and how to provide a service to the community, and also how to run a business…  So a lot of the enterprise is not just about monetary value, but creating social capital and skill development for folks.”

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