This Changes EVERYTHING – Faithful Responses to Climate Change

March 18, 2015, 6pm to 8:30pm
Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ
615 W. Wellington Avenue, Chicago

The evening will include a panel of representatives from communities on the front lines of the struggle for environmental justice (see biographies of panelists, below).

Prexy Nesbitt, African activist and educator, renowned for his work in the anti-apartheid movement, will moderate the panel. Organized by Pam and Lan Richart, Eco-Justice Collaborative, and Dan Dale, Senior Pastor, Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ. Questions? Call Pam at 773.556.3418.

Photo by Kari Lyderson, Midwest Energy News

Photo by Kari Lyderson, Midwest Energy News

Meet Our Panelists
Jerry Mead-Lucero
Jerry Mead-Lucero, former lead organizer with Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform (PERRO). PERRO is a grassroots community group of Pilsen residents that formed in 2004 to fight the disproportionate amount of pollution in Pilsen, a working class, Mexican immigrant neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. Jerry, who lives in Pilsen, was involved in the 2001 initiative to clean up Chicago’s coal plants, and then represented PERRO during the 2009 through 2012 campaign that ultimately resulted in the closing of these plants – two of the oldest and dirtiest in the country.

Jerry also is a long-time Chicago labor activist and host of WLUW’s Labor Express radio program. He has worked extensively in the Latin American solidarity movement since the late 1980s, the immigrants rights movement since the mid-1990s, and active in anti-gentrification and environmental justice struggles in Pilsen.

For more information, visit:

Cheryl Johnson
Cheryl Johnson is the Executive Director of People for Community Recovery, located in Altgeld Gardens, in the heavyily industrialized Lake Calumet region on Chicago’s southeast side. In the late 1970’s, Cheryl’s mother, legendary Hazel Johnson (now known as the “mother of the environmental justice movement”) labeled the area surrounding their community the “toxic donut”. Hazel’s research found that Altgeld Gardens was surrounded by 50 landfills, 382 industrial facilities and 250 leaking underground storage tanks, making it the most toxic concentration of wastes in the country. Hazel organized residents to confront corporate polluters to stop their pollution and call on city officials to enforce regulations.

Today, Cheryl continues the legacy of her mother, organizing residents around the issues of the environment, health, housing, neighborhood safety, and economic equity that continue to plaque this region. In 2012, PCR became one of the founding organizations of the Environmental Justice Alliance of the Greater Southeast Chicago. Through Cheryl’s leadership, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA)agreed to a series of lead reforms and more recently agreed to develop a master plan for the finishing of the Altgeld redevelopment plan.  CHA wanted to demolished 648 vacant apartments and now their plans are being reassessed to ensure community participation.

For more information, visit:

Photo by Kari Lydersen for Midwest Energy News

Photo by Kari Lyderson, Midwest Energy News

Tom Shepherd
Tom Shepherd currently serves as president at Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF) on Chicago’s far-southeast side. This is an area where steel once was king, and where there is an abundance of environmental degradation, garbage dumps, and contaminated land. SETF believes that southeast Chicagoland will one day serve as a national and international model for the integration of industrial, residential and natural areas into a productive, green, and environmentally sustainable urban community.

Tom was recruited and groomed beginning in 1999 by local environmental icon, Marian Byrnes, who was one of the Southeast Environmental Task Force founding members.
Through his leadership, SETF has helped lead the fight to get the County’s solid waste ban extended; mobilized the community to fight back against the coal gasification plant that Leucadia proposed; and sounded the alarm on the petcoke piles blighting the neighborhood—and while that fight is far from over, they forced action from City, State and national leaders and pressured the Beemsterboer company to remove petcoke piles next to the 106th Street Bridge.

For more information, visit:

Organizer from the Niger Delta (TBD)
Nigeria has become West Africa’s biggest producer of petroleum. But oil spills, waste dumping and gas flaring are endemic in the Niger Delta.

This pollution by multi-national corporations such as ExxonMobil and Shell Petroleum Development Co. has affected the area for decades. It has damaged or destroyed the soil, water and air quality of one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. Gas flaring alone is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. “Some children have never known a dark night even though they have no electricity”, wrote one environmentalist after a visit.

Hundreds of thousands of people are affected, particularly the poorest and those who rely on traditional livelihoods such as fishing and agriculture. Clean-up of oil pollution in the Niger Delta is frequently both slow and inadequate, leaving people to cope with the ongoing impacts of the pollution on their livelihoods and health. The human rights implications are serious, under-reported and have received little attention from the government of Nigeria or the oil companies.

About Our Moderator
Prexy Nesbitt
The panel will be moderated by Prexy Nesbitt, an educator and labor activist whose influence stretches from Chicago to southern Africa.

In his hometown of Chicago, he worked as a social worker, union organizer, special assistant to Chicago’s mayor Harold Washington, and a senior program officer with the MacArthur Foundation. He fought South African apartheid and the effects of colonialism in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibi from within the US and also during over 100 trips to Africa, including secret excursions into apartheid-torn South Africa.

The author of a number of works, Nesbitt has published the book, “Apartheid in Our Living Rooms,” and articles in 25 international journals. He was interviewed for several documentaries, including “The End of the Nightstick,” a 1993 piece on police brutality in Chicago, and “Soft Vengeance,” a 2014 piece on the life of the South African High Court Justice, Albie Sachs.

Although his own accomplishments are far-reaching, those who know Nesbitt well cite his proudest achievements as working with key figures in civil rights and anti-apartheid movements, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

Nesbitt teaches African history at Chicago’s Columbia College. He continues to organize cultural and political tours to Africa through Making the Road, an organization he helped found.

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