A newly founded San Bernardino nonprofit group aims to protect public health across the Inland Empire.
For the past two years, People’s Collective for Environmental Justice has been creating programs that address pollution, systemic racism and encourage the community to advocate for its right to live in a healthy environment. The organization formed in response to what it saw as a lack of conversations about environmental justice in the Inland Empire.
The group partners with many organizations in the region looking at the various aspects that make up a healthy community — including education, housing and advocacy. This involves coalition work and programs in the Bloomington, San Bernardino and Colton communities.
In March, the organization hosted 60 community members on a “Toxic Tour.” Participants took a bus tour of the region, exploring air-quality issues and sites that contribute to pollution. Research compiled by the organization and its partners points to the increase of warehouses in the Inland Empire affecting the air quality in cities such as San Bernardino. According to its data, people of color are disproportionately affected by this pollution and People’s Collective hopes to educate the community and give residents the tools to advocate for a healthier environment.
“We try to challenge power dynamics … when we work with community,” Alicia Aguayo, the group’s communications manager said. “We want to make sure the people we work with know that we will be working with them for the long run.”
People’s Collective for Environmental Justice has also built relationships with UC Riverside. Youths are interested in doing environmental justice work, according to Aguayo. The organization is working on a youth water testing program with a year-long curriculum that includes research, advocacy and video projects. Working with UCR professors, more than 50 San Bernardino City Unified School District students will test the water at their schools and learn about water systems.
“Our life expectancy shouldn’t be dependent on where we live,” Aguayo said. “We are pushing for protection and mitigation to a lot of the exposures.”
Currently, the group has eight staff members and works with community volunteers. It has been able to sustain and grow its work through fundraising, supporting a $500,000 budget. People’s Collective has built its structure from scratch and applied for grants geared toward the work it is doing.
Recently, the organization received a grant from the Community Impact Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The organization will need continuing support from grantors and the community to grow its impact. Community members interested in learning about environmental justice can get involved by reaching out to the organization through its website.
Ideally, People’s Collective envisions a larger staff and increasing the number of community initiatives it supports. It is also looking to provide resources for the community to assist residents in addressing regional and neighborhood issues. This could involve supporting needs such as purchasing a computer for community organizers or providing them with other items that will help them succeed.
The organization wants to see new leaders grow and rise out of their programs throughout the Inland Empire. Ultimately, it envisions community members working toward environmental justice in every city.
“The impact to our health matters,” Aguayo said. “It’s possible to have a better future because the community has the power to make change and we are here to give them the tools to advocate for it.”
Information: 909-248-3885, firstname.lastname@example.org or https://pc4ej.org/
Inland Empire Community Foundation works to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy.