Angeles d’Angeles Section Social and Environmental Justice (ESJ) Book Club

The Angeles Section staff hosted our second Social and Environmental Justice (ESJ) Book Club last week on Wednesday June 2nd. For this meeting, we have chosen the Toxic Communities of Dorceta Taylor. The book draws on a range of historical and contemporary case studies to explore controversies over racist disparities, inequalities and discrimination that affect our communities of color.

We had ten participants this time, some new, some who attended our first meeting. In small groups, we addressed questions such as: Why do communities of color suffer from the burden of living in toxic and polluted areas? Why are these communities often poorly informed and uninvolved? What systems / policies continue to contribute to racial discrimination and these “areas of sacrifice”. Our intention was to create open discussions shaped by personal and shared experiences. Each participant brought a unique perspective related to the central themes of the book. One fascinating element observed in the group discussions was that the participants were building on the knowledge gained from the first book club, Sweet Hay Weaving. It was certainly an exciting time to see first-hand participants sharing their awareness of environmental social justice issues and bringing it with them in other ESJ topics and events.

During the last thirty minutes of the meeting, we returned from the breakout rooms to form a large group. There each person had the opportunity to share their takeaways from the text regarding our work as conservationists and organizers. As the event closed, participants were challenged to continue to think about what they can do in their communities to ensure that all voices are represented and to imagine a world where everyone has its place at the table.

Main takeaways from the group:

  • The movement for social and environmental justice has grown and is more inclusive (of issues and people).
  • Toxic exposure is often communicated to communities of color long after the fact. Validates the dynamics of Power and health. That power structures, socio-economy and race have an impact on public health.
  • Existence of internal colonialism and why Native Americans remain on their reserves while living near hazardous waste sites.
  • How the perception of BIPOC housing as “slums” has led to the displacement of communities of color-ex. manhattan beach and Santa Monica.

We cannot express enough how much we appreciate the space that participants have helped us to create. Everyone, despite their knowledge of the issues, leaned in and contributed significantly. Thank you to those who continue to show up and participate in our little book club community.

The Angeles Chapter Book Club will meet again on Wednesday, August 25 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the acclaimed author of science fiction Octavia Butler’s Parable of the sower. A classic of Afro-Futurism, Butler’s work is a major source of inspiration for us as we go through these strange times we find ourselves in today. From climate change to socio-economic disparities to mistrustful government, all of these topics were issues for the main character’s Lauren world.

“The Parable of the Sower,” published in 1993, takes place in a dystopian future in Los Angeles in 2024. In a future not so different from ours, global warming has resulted in drought and rising sea waters. sweet is rare, as precious as silver. Fires are frequent. Police services are expensive, yet few people trust the police. The book unfolds through the diary entries of its main character, a fifteen-year-old black girl named Lauren Oya Olamina. “People have changed the climate of the world,” she observes. “Now they are waiting for the good old days to return. We hope you can join us for the third book club of the year. This is a FREE event and everyone is welcome and invited so feel free to share with your family and friends!

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