A Conversation on Health & the Environment – Seminar Debrief

Latinx & Environment & Health Seminar Debrief and Action Mindset

By Álex Quintero

As undergraduate students fill in the Ethnics Studies library, panelist begin to explain their work. Yolanda Park began by defining equality and equity but emphasized the need for justice over both. Working in the communities greatly impacted by environmental injustices, Yolanda sees the stress and damages it brings to the Latinx community in Stockton. Similarly, within an interest in serving, Dr. Marc Schenker speaks on his  research regarding heat impact on California farm laborers, hoping that the research produced has a more profound effect on health and wellness of laborers across the country rather than a single patient in an exam room. Through his work in conjunction with Latinx students, they exposed the disproportional disparities between documented and undocumented workers in the same industry and the need for authentic engagement in community organizing. While research helps families and communities bring their issues forward, Xavier Morales asserted the need to acknowledge the diversity of knowledge and understand that not all ‘knowledge’ has been created through the formalities of institutions but within communities as well, down to the household and family, even existing in the individual lived experience. To move forward and upward, Xavier believes there is a need for healing centered discussions and spaces that listen to community stories.


With a panel filled with social justice work, attendants of the Latinx and the Environment and Health seminar quickly engaged in discussion regarding actions steps to reach justice within our communities and the barriers that need to be torn down for change. Knowing the colonial and capitalist history that created the functioning systems of oppression in food systems, the school to prison pipeline, the transportation system, land use and distribution, and eurocentric and heteronormativity; we understood there is a great need for communication. We must communicate between policy, research, and community organizing to develop research needed for communities to combat issues of injustices. Panelist agreed that there must be more culturally appropriate presentations of data, so that communities can learn and become empowered through education, while driving policy makers to listen to the communities and their needs.


Although data and evidence can expose extreme truths of historical injustice, incredible greed and negligence, it may not move policy makers to lend their voice to communities when they have sold it to corporations. To drive people we must change their heart, reaching to them through lived experience and personal combats for justice. Communities need to be empowered to tell their stories and learn about the issues they face through people that experience it alongside them. Through the further dissemination of knowledge into our respective communities of color, immigrant communities, working families, and queer youth of color, we share the power needed for successful organizing. Communities must engage at the center of planning and decision making.


Finally, on behalf of everyone at the initiative, we would like to thank our three panelists for sharing their knowledge and all of our attendees for sharing in the discussion. If you were unable to make it to this seminar, we will have our second seminar of the fall on November 8th. We are excited to see you all there!!