Within the ENVS program we methodologically view our work within our own vocabulary and system, one way we view things is via breaking down the “what”, “how”, and “who” of whatever we are investigating. Here I will be discussing the “who” within the context of our ongoing collaboration with theCenter for Diversity and the Environment (CDE). The concept of “who” is fairly straightforward: the “who” identifies the actors involved in the studied situation. We are working to identify the “who” of our proposed project with CDE which is to support a program that would engage LC students and members of CDE in advocating for a historically Black and underserved neighborhood: the Albina district of Portland. The actors of our project include: the community members of the Albina district, members of CDE, and finally the Lewis and Clark students who take on this project.
The residents of the Albina district are historically people of color, however given initiatives that have fostered gentrification within the community Black residents are slowly being pushed from the area, “In the 21st century, the gentrification of Portland’s eastside has continued to take a toll on Albina: The neighborhood that was once 68% percent black in 1990 was 28% in 2010.” This means that the actors within the neighborhood are variegated and each demographic of residents holds a different goal. The district itself was enriched from internal investment from its own Black residents who were barred from business elsewhere in the 60’s, “Independent, black-run organizations like the Albina Corporation and the Albina Art Center were formed to create jobs and enrich the cultural and intellectual life of Albina” (Ackerman 2016). These residents that are being pushed from their homes through city gentrification initiatives are the actors that we emphasize and advocate for in this project. The goal of this project is to create green space within the district and in order to achieve this, we need direct input and coordination with the underserved members of the community.
We chose this project because of its relevance to the mission of our partner organization, CDE. The goals of CDE are to “power of racial and ethnic diversity to transform the U.S. environmental movement by developing leaders, catalyzing change within institutions & building alliances”. Because the Albina district has historically been an area of disenfranchisement and is directly impacted by sources of pollution, this is an ideal project for CDE to engage their leaders and catalyze change within their own city and advocate for a diverse neighborhood. Because the organization has had years of experience beyond our own as students they would be providing valuable resources and input in working within the system, or perhaps against it, to implement green spaces in Albina. CDE’s contribution to the project will allow students to move beyond the theoretical aspects of environmental justice and experience what it means and takes to create change.
The priority of ENVS 295 is to allow students to actively “engage” in environmental studies in ways that move beyond the classroom. While this project is being proposed by us students our participation in the project is not as a leading role but instead a learning one. We see this partnership not as an opportunity to influence CDE but to learn from the organization as project partners. Since CDE has experience in operating within the field of environmental justice students will work under the organization’s resources and expertise to build a more specific “how” to implement the project goals. It is the student’s role to bring together the knowledge from both the organization and the ENVS program to implement effective engagement in the Albina district.
Ackerman, L. (2016, March 19) Albina, Portland, Oregon (1870- ). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/albina-portland-1870/