Pictured left to right: Ciara Thrower, Atenas Mena, Diamond Spratling, Zoe Temple, Iesha Baldwin, Agustin Angel Bernabe, Katia Carranza, Alec Castellano (Photographed by Michael Fortunato, UC Davis ITS)
Pictured left to right: Ciara Thrower, Atenas Mena, Diamond Spratling, Zoe Temple, Iesha Baldwin, Agustin Angel Bernabe, Katia Carranza, Alec Castellano (Photographed by Michael Fortunato, UC Davis ITS)

Making Diamonds: Celebrating Our Environmental Justice Leaders

Featuring Keynote Speaker Martha Guzman, EPA Region 9 Administrator

On the evening of May 19, 2023 beside the California State Capitol, over 60 graduate students, faculty, directors, and other environmental justice-focused personnel gathered to celebrate the newest cohort of Environmental Justice (EJ) Leaders.

Hosted by the UC Davis Feminist Research Institute and Institute of Transportation Studies, the celebration spotlighted each of the eight Leaders from around the United States who presented their visions and work in EJ within their communities.

Ciara Thrower speaks in front of poster
Pictured: Ciara Thrower (Photographed by Michael Fortunato)

“[I’m] very, very lucky to be surrounded by the wealth of knowledge and passion by my fellow EJ leaders and directors. This experience has continued to shape both my career and personal growth and I am forever grateful.” – Ciara Thrower

In hopes of connecting community leaders with UC Davis researchers, the EJ Leaders program was created to bridge the gap between academia and grassroots work and expertise. The second cohort of the program is already showing progress and celebrating their success only a few months into their fellowship.

Current Projects

Agustin Angel Bernabe speaks while holding microphone
Pictured: Agustin Angel Bernabe (Photographed by Michael Fortunato)

From air pollution in the Central Valley of California to Cancer Alley in Saint James Parish, Louisiana, each Leader is dedicated to an EJ cause or injustice that is close to their hearts. Current projects focus on health-based community engagement programs in Southern California, justice-oriented curriculum for students, clean technology manufacturing, educating Black, Indigenous women of color, rail transportation policies for health equity, and media campaigns for clean air in San Joaquin County.

Keynote Speaker

Martha Guzman, EPA Region 9 Administrator
Pictured: Martha Guzman, EPA Region 9 Administrator (Photographed by Michael Fortunato)

Martha Guzman, a former Aggie and current Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Region 9 Office of the Pacific Southwest, spoke on the victories of EJ. She said that events such as this, where we celebrate the future of EJ, represent these victories. Having advocated for labor rights with the United Farm Workers and for clean water and energy for disadvantaged communities, Guzman demonstrated a great passion for the work of our emerging leaders. Guzman’s warmth and dedication was felt by all attendees as she continued to inspire and left the Leaders with a list of federal EJ contacts.

Making Diamonds

Diamond Spratling speaks while holding microphone
Pictured: Diamond Spratling (Photographed by Michael Fortunato)

As coined by Program Manager, Juan Carlos Garcia Sanchez, “making diamonds” refers to the training and empowerment of black, brown, and marginalized individuals to fight for EJ in a scene where they have historically been overlooked. Diamond Spratling, one of the eight Leaders, describes the mission of her non-profit organization, Girl Plus Environment, to uplift black and brown women and non-binary individuals in climate justice, encouraging future leaders and gems that will last forever.

What to Expect

Zoe Temple smiles with group of others
Pictured: Zoe Temple (Photographed by Michael Fortunato)

“This [event] was one of many amazing opportunities I’ve had already through this program to learn from my mentors and fellow leaders and grow as a leader.” – Zoe Temple

Throughout the summer, the Leaders will be working and collaborating on their respective projects involving research and/or policy to ultimately produce a deliverable and spread their newfound knowledge and resources to their communities. The cohort will return to Sacramento and Davis in October to commemorate their work and graduate from the program. Keep an eye out for our Save-the-Date posting!

Sponsor Logos: Feminist Research Institute, Environmental Justice Leaders Program, Institute of Transportation Studies

For more information, contact Program Directors, Sarah McCullough (smcc@ucdavis.edu), JC Garcia (jcgarciasanchez@ucdavis.edu), & Selika Talbott (selika@avevcar.com) or current graduate student researcher, Ruchika Jaiswal (rujaiswal@ucdavis.edu).

Secondary Categories

Environmental Justice Leaders