The Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ) was founded in 1992 in collaboration with community environmental groups and other universities within the region to address environmental justice issues. DSCEJ provides opportunities for communities, scientific researchers, and decision makers to collaborate on programs and projects that promote the rights of all people to be free from environmental harm as it impacts health, jobs, housing, education, and a general quality of life. A major goal of the Center has been the development of minority leadership in the areas of environmental, social, and economic justice along the Mississippi River Chemical Corridor and the Gulf Coast Region. The Center has become a powerful resource for environmental justice education and training.
The DSCEJ has developed and embraces a model for community partnership that is called “communiversity”. This model emphasizes a collaborative management or partnership between universities and communities. The partnership promotes bilateral understanding and mutual respect between community residents and academicians. In the past, collaborative problem-solving attempts that included community residents and academicians were one-sided in terms of who controlled the dynamics of the interaction between the two, who was perceived as knowledgeable, and who was benefited. The essence of this approach is an acknowledgment that for effective research and policy-making, valuable community life experiences regarding environmental insult must be integrated with the theoretical knowledge of academic educators and researchers. Either group alone is less able to accomplish the goal of achieving environmental equity, but the coming together of the two in a non-threatening forum can encourage significant strides toward solutions. The DSCEJ has advanced the communiversity model with the formation of the Mississippi River Avatar Community Advisory Board (CAB). The board consists of representatives from grassroots organizations and leaders of affected communities in the corridor and Gulf Coast Region. The Center has been involved in valuable environmental research aimed at providing technical assistance.
The essence of this approach is an acknowledgement that for effective research and policy-making, valuable community life experiences regarding environmental insult must be integrated with the theoretical knowledge of academic educators and researchers.
The DSCEJ has the following objectives:
(1) the development of minority leadership in environmental justice;
(2) the development of culturally sensitive training models for minority residents in at-risk communities;
(3) the development and distribution of culturally sensitive environmental justice education materials and training modules;
(4) the increase of environmental justice literacy among college students at HBCU/MI’s;
(5) the development of a pipeline for creating a new generation of environmental justice leaders at HBCU/MI’s;
(6) the development and implementation of a K-12 teacher training program in environmental justice;
(7) the conduct of research to determine the impact and extent of toxic exposure for minority communities as it affects health and the environment,
(8) the investigation of means to address these problems (i.e. Brownfields redevelopment, toxic reduction, climate change, clean production, green chemistry, food security, land use and sustainable housing and economic development, natural disasters and internal displacement of residents) and
(9) the creation of linkages between impacted communities, scientific researchers, and government officials to address environmental justice issues as they impact health, jobs, housing, and a general quality of life.
The Deep South Center has three components for reaching these objectives:
(1) research and policy studies
(2) community outreach assistance and education and
(3) primary, secondary, and university education.
The Center conducts and acts as the manager for projects that assess or address problems related to environmental, social, and economical justice along the Mississippi River Chemical corridor and the Gulf Coast Region. The Center coordinates research projects and relationships with other academic institutions and organizations. Both basic and applied investigations, as well as, technology transfer activities are pursued. The Center has been involved in valuable environmental research aimed at providing technical assistance to communities in the Chemical Corridor and the Gulf Coast Region. Research areas addressed include but are not limited to: hazard mitigation, coastal restoration, waste management, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), community resilience, clean production and green chemistry, relocation, Brownfields redevelopment, smart growth and equitable development, environmental justice and climate change, just transition, and economic impacts of pollution and toxics reduction.