The Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy Announces the 2014 Gulf Guardian Fellows


The Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy Announces the 2014 Gulf Guardian Fellows

The Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy proudly announces its 2014 Class of Gulf Guardian Fellows. Five leaders submitted ideas that make progress toward restoring the humanity of marginalized communities in the Gulf South while honoring the work that strengthens the broader Gulf South ecology.

The Gulf Guardian Fellowship is a 12 month program that aims to strengthen social and ecological equity in the Gulf South. Fellowship awards are meant honor and support community members working to address root-causes, immediate consequences or long-term impacts of inequality or climate change in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

The Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) is a non-profit, public interest law firm and justice center with a mission to build, serve and advocate for structural shifts that promote equity in law, society and community. GCCLP’s long-term work addresses intersecting visions of Climate Justice, Migrant Rights, Land Sovereignty and Economic Opportunity for Gulf Coast communities on the frontlines of climate change. Through human rights-based legal services, community leadership development and advocacy, GCCLP promotes structural equity in the laws, policies and practices that impact Gulf South communities on the frontlines of climate change.

As part of GCCLP’s community leadership development initiative the Gulf Guardian fellowship aims to support various approaches to building social and ecological equity by honoring community leaders working to address the long-term impacts of inequality and climate change. Support for the 2014 Gulf Guardian Fellows is made possible by a generous grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Leaders from the five Gulf South states made up the regional Selection Committee that met in Louisiana in early September to select five fellows from nearly 300 applications submitted. To be selected, applicants had to be 18 years of age or older and residing in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, or Florida. Selection priority was given to Individuals working on climate, environment, economic justice, or social justice issues for at least two years and to those who showed a history of collaborative work. Selected fellows receive a $40,000 stipend and attend training and retreats designed for collective learning, cross-sector networking, collaborative strategy and leadership development.

The Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy is pleased to announce the following 2014 Gulf Guardian Fellows:
Pandwe Althea Gibson
EcoTech Visions
Miami, Florida
In order to create jobs and impact climate change, EcoTech Visions will serve as an incubator for green manufacturing start-ups. EcoTech Visions creates and offers innovative programs and services that address both climate change and systemic poverty and ultimately further economic development in the regions it serves—low-income, blue collar, underdeveloped areas. Leveraging the growing market and funding for green products, servicing and manufacturing processes, as well as the growing pot of resources designed to address income inequality, EcoTech Visions’ programs develop and support local green businesses and jobs. Successful implementation of this project will reduce landfill plastics by 20%, reduce unemployment rates in Liberty City, Florida by 50%, and create new advocates for green businesses.

Gibson is making going green cool, practical and profitable. After founding a network of schools and proving herself an effective educator, Gibson dove into the business world where she started, led and scaled three successful companies. Her experience and passion for lifting up the underserved, combined with green industry are what drive her forward.

Joel Lewis
University of South Alabama
Mobile, Alabama

In association with the University of South Alabama, native Mobile resident Joel Lewis uses her documentary, Mobile in Black and White, as a teaching tool to educate audiences in Mobile, Alabama and beyond about race and inequalities. The documentary is a project that addresses racialized disparities and outcomes in Mobile, Alabama and examines how race remains a fundamental issue in American life, but also how it can be addressed without assignments of guilt or blame. Lewis will use the fellowship to further the educational outreach of this film by interviewing and sharing the stories of people who are included in the statistical disparities seen in diversity data. From the interviews, Lewis will create relevant videos to be used for training, education, and community awareness. Discussion fostered by the film will be used to design an online learning module that will be available on the Mobile in Black and White website.

Because Lewis is a part of this community, her relationships and experiences have helped her recognize that there is a collective responsibility of stakeholders, community leaders, and citizens to examine root causes, understand levels of engagement, and identify community-developed success indicators. This project will be used as a tool to educate, empower, and move toward equity.

Ya-Sin Shabazz
Hijira House
Biloxi , Mississippi
Working with Hijira House, whose mission is to cultivate, advocate, and facilitate faith-based solutions to distinct, economic and social challenges of low to moderate income citizens and low to moderate income areas, Shabazz’s project will educate, organize, and mobilize low-income, minority members of utility cooperatives. First, Shabazz will generate broad, grassroots civic engagement amongst traditionally disengaged minority and low-income cooperative member-owners at Coast Electric Power Association in Hancock County, Mississippi and Singer River Electric Power Association in Jackson County Mississippi. Finally, he will address and advance a grassroots developed and led climate justice initiative regarding energy distribution, pricing, and production policies as well as Coastal Restoration priorities and activities associated with the BP Oil disaster.

Raised along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Shabazz has long had an interest in both economic development and community development in and for small town, rural, and economically distressed areas. Furthermore, having previously been an unengaged member/household of an energy cooperative, Shabazz would now like to increase participation and engagement in these entities that have unused potential to transform many of the unwanted, economic realities across the United States.

Bette Billiot
United Houma Nation Tribe
Houma, Louisiana
Bette Billiot’s project focuses on inequality in the Gulf South. Her plan is to construct and organize a task force consisting of a small number of dedicated indigenous community members from the Houma region affected by inequalities, such as poor representation from others in understanding the importance of their daily lives and culture. The community taskforce members would be instrumental for making sure the unheard voices of their otherwise unheard community are heard as well as received. The members would share responsibility of attending meetings, trainings and workshops hosted throughout the Gulf South that explore changes and future projects that would directly affect their communities. They would be responsible for collecting information to bring back to a committee in order to collectively discuss plans of action, responses, and/or strategy.

As a member of the United Houma Nation herself, Billiot is dedicated and fervent about this work. She knows how important it is that indigenous people of the Houma area speak for themselves. This project not only makes the community members responsible for their own knowledge and representation, it also allows them to travel to different areas in the region to see first-hand how inequality is affecting them.

Jorge Lugo
Houston, Texas
Jorge Lugo uses art to raise awareness of and motivate involvement in issues of climate change and inequality in the Gulf South. His project focuses on environmental justice issues in the Manchester community of Houston, where Lugo has lived most of his life, and will create a space that encourages education on local issues by working on alternative solutions for the community, providing services (or giving back to the community), hosting communal events, skill shares, teach-ins, and work-shops. The use of art will serve as a form of creative, direct action public presentations to raise awareness of environmental and inequality issues. Visual and performing arts will unify diverse, multicultural communities and encourage youth communities to take on the challenge of raising awareness.

Lugo was driven to this project and the arts due to not having an opportunity to a creative space to share with other environmentally affected community members. His mother has suffered medically due to environmental pollution, disasters, and injustices and this fellowship grant and opportunity will help establish a creative communal space for all to address these issues.

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