Congratulations to the recipients of the 2020 Community Sentinel Award!
Edith Abeyta of North Braddock, Pennsylvania. North Braddock Residents for Our Future. She/her pronouns
As an artist and volunteer community organizer, Edith has spent over six years fighting repeated attempts to drill in her community, a densely-populated environmental justice district already inundated with over a century of industrial pollution. She led changes to zoning code twice both in North Braddock and East Pittsburgh, which prevented drilling in 2014-2016, and again 2017-2020. In addition, she’s led successful fights against expired conditional use permits. In all her work, Edith’s approach is highly collaborative between a wide variety of stakeholders.
Edith has mobilized hundreds of residents to be civically engaged and make their voices heard. Recently, her work with North Braddock Residents for Our Future led to the East Pittsburgh Zoning and Hearing Board rejecting a permit appeal from Merrion Oil & Gas, the company seeking to drill a fracking well at the US Steel plant. This historical victory shows the power of unyielding grassroots organizing, and surely would not be possible without Edith’s unwavering commitment.
Yvette Arellano of Houston, Texas. Founder, Fenceline Watch; Board member, the Center for International Environmental Law, Backbone Campaign, Greenlatinos, and Peak Plastic Foundation. They/them pronouns
Yvette Arellano is a gulf coast organizer and emerging leader from Houston dedicated to environmental and racial justice. Yvette has served as a policy research and grassroots advocate with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services and recently founded Fenceline Watch, a community-run effort.
In 2015, they led the campaign against H.R. 702, which opened the floodgates to U.S. crude oil exports. They were instrumental in the publication Double Jeopardy in Houston, Air Toxics and Health in the Houston Community of Manchester, and Plastic and Health: The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet. This report highlights the disproportionate toxic impact of the petrochemical industry on communities living on the fenceline.
Throughout their work, Yvette emphasizes that access to clean water, air, land, and food is a fundamental human right best pursued through vigorous intersectional thinking and organizing. They understand the importance of a multi-pronged approach that embraces various advocacy methods, including policy development, litigation, research, direct actions, coalition building, and crisis response.
Currently, Yvette is leading efforts in Houston, home of the largest petrochemical complex in the nation, to help the city’s most vulnerable communities on the petrochemical expansion fueled by plastic production.
Theresa Landrum of Detroit, Michigan, 48217.* The Original United Citizens of Southwest Detroit; 48217 Community and Environmental Health Organization; Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice; Sierra Club Detroit Chapter, MEJC Clean Air Council; Michigan PFAS action response team. She/her pronouns
A lifelong resident working in Michigan’s most polluted zip code, Theresa has educated hundreds of advocates, residents, and elected officials on the true costs of industrial pollution and environmental racism. Theresa has led a number of public pressure campaigns to decrease harmful emissions and other impacts from industrial sites such as oil refineries, coal-fired power plants, steel manufacturers, and frac sand mines. She leads countless numbers of Environmental Justice tours that educate and inspire others to take meaningful action.
Theresa is a tireless advocate for environmental justice whose efforts ensure that residents in impacted communities are rightfully recognized as experts in determining what’s best for their health and well-being.
Brenda Jo “BJ” McManama
Brenda Jo “BJ” McManama of Fairmont, West Virginia. Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Save Our Roots Campaign Organizer. She/her pronouns
Brenda Jo “BJ” has worked with Indigenous people and frontline communities to promote climate, racial, and energy justice for over 25 years. She brought Native Americans from Standing Rock and beyond to Pittsburgh, where they conducted a Water Ceremony and led a demonstration of resistance against the convention of the Marcellus Shale Coalition in October 2019. BJ also has a long history of working with state agencies in opposition to mountaintop removal and strip mining in West Virginia.
BJ has worked for the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) in different capacities for 16 years, in recent years as a campaign organizer working under the banner of Save Our Roots, an organization promoting forest protection. She also contributes to IEN’s Keep It in the Ground campaign as Native Energy and Climate Program Coordinator. She serves on the POPCO steering committee as a West Virginia representative.
Throughout all of her work, and out of a deep commitment to an equitable future for all and our Next Seven Generations, BJ skillfully connects people from distant geographies and diverse backgrounds in support of those suffering from poverty and pollution of the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries.