Johanna Bozuwa on Designing Communities for Justice

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Isaiah J. Poole:

"This week we are discussing how to design communities for justice, in particular as communities seek to respond to challenges of climate change, with new projects from transit to infrastructure. Isaiah J. Poole hosts a panel featuring The Next System Project’s Johanna Bozuwa, the Institute for Policy Study’s Basav Sen, and We Act for Environmental Justice’s Michael Velarde.


Today we’re talking about designing our communities for justice. There have been issues of gentrification and displacement that have risen to the top of community concerns in cities around the country. As cities experience an economic renewal, we’re finding that renewal is hurting rather than helping millions of people who are affected by such consequences as being unable to afford to continue to live with the communities that are being revived—which raises a question: What if development decisions were made based on a commitment to their social impact, shared prosperity, and community voice rather than narrow outside interests?

I have three people here who are going to grapple with those questions.

With us today is Michael Velarde, who’s the director of special projects at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. He is a Chicano organizer, writer, and strategist from El Paso, Texas. Before he joined WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Michael was a community and labor organizer in housing, healthcare, police accountability, and immigrant rights campaigns.

Johanna Bozuwa is a research associate here at the Democracy Collaborative. Her focus is on climate and energy. And most recently, she was the author of a report, “Building Resiliency through Green Infrastructure: A Community Wealth Building Approach.” Her argument in that report is that building climate resiliency, the things that we need to do to protect our communities against the effects of climate change, can be done with an approach that lifts up marginalized communities and communities of color.

Finally, we have Basav Sen, who is the climate justice project director at the Institute for Policy Studies. His work focuses on climate solutions at the national, state and local level that address racial, economic, gender, and other forms of inequality. Thank you all for joining us."