The Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) is a 38 year old nonprofit working on social justice change through the lens of environmental health and justice. The primary focus of our work is to build power within low income communities of color. Through community capacity building and leadership development we seek to change the political and social landscape of the Inland Valleys of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The work of CCAEJ consistently focuses on those most affected by environmental health hazards: low-income communities of color and recent immigrants who live, work, learn and play closest to rail yards, industrial areas, toxic waste facilities, intermodal facilities, freeways and other areas at greatest risk for environmental health hazards.
CCAEJ’s mission is “to bring people together to improve their social and natural environment”. We view the “environment” as everything around us. This includes three segments:
- our natural environment— the way in which we as human beings interrelate with the planet, its resources and the creatures that inhabit it;
- the built environment – the things we create, develop and build that surround us and influence our quality of life; and
- the social environment -- the rules, norms and culture we put in place so that we can live together in a civil society. Holding all these elements together in a society are key questions. How are priorities set? How are decisions made? And how are resources allocated? And, even the more important questions of: Who sets priorities? Who makes the decisions? And who receives the resources? The answers to these questions determine the conditions under which we live; the quality of life that we have; and outcome to our health and well-being within our society. This is the social justice piece of environmental justice that seeks equity and fairness and voice for those that have not been at the table.
Our work within the Inland Valley is particularly strategic in advancing the goals of the environmental health and justice movements in California. We work to train future generations of leaders, particularly women of color, whose voices would otherwise not be heard. With our Community Empowerment Program and our connections to other environmental justice and social justice leaders throughout the country, we intend to increase community awareness and leadership around environmental health issues and hazards; increase understanding the of intersections with other social justice issues; increase proficiency among community members in addressing local environmental health issues and policies, and expand the civic engagement of residents through voting and interactions with local elected officials on the critical issues and policies affecting their lives.