LISTEN: Jewel Jones and Tina Johnson on impactful community activism

Jewel Jones and Tina Johnson join the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast to discuss how the WE ACT organization uplifts community members and arms them to fight for justice.


Jones and Johnson, both community members of the NYC-based WE ACT for Environmental Justice organization, also talk about climate justice work in New York City and victories that the organization has had along the way.

The Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast is a biweekly podcast featuring the stories and big ideas from past and present fellows, as well as others in the field. You can see all of the past episodes here.

Listen below to our discussion with Jones and Johnson, and subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.

Transcript 

Brian Bienkowski

All right, today I am talking to Jewel Jones and Tina Johnson, both members of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Tina, how are you doing today?

Tina Johnson

I’m doing great, fine. How are you?

Brian Bienkowski

I am doing excellent. And Jewel, how are you?

Jewel Jones

I’m good. Thank you.

Brian Bienkowski

Thank you. Great. And I’d like to put listeners, give them some context. So I think you’re both in New York City. But can you confirm that? Where are you coming at us from today?

Tina Johnson

You go, Jewel

Jewel Jones

Yes. So yes, I am in East Harlem. I’ve been here for about 20-something years but born and raised in New York City. Excellent.

Tina Johnson

And like Jewel, I was born and raised in New York City. And I live in West Harlem. In the bottom of Morningside Heights or the beginning of Manhattanville, depending on whom you talk to. And I grew up in NYCHA, and I still live there.

Brian Bienkowski

So maybe we can get started with we are I believe most of our listeners are familiar with WE ACT, because we are such big fans of the work that that organization is doing. But maybe you could both tell me briefly how you got started with WE ACT. Jewel, Would you get us started?

Jewel Jones

Sure. So some years ago, I was on the community advisory board. It’s called a CAB at Metropolitan Hospital, part of health in hospitals. And across the street from the hospital. In this area, there’s also a residential as well. There’s a sanitation garage, DSNY sanitation garage. I, the CAB, and others over them over decades have been trying to rid the neighborhood of that sanitation garage, because over the years, it’s dilapidated. It cannot even house the sanitation trucks it should it should be torn down. It’s not operable. It’s it’s a blight on the neighborhood. And it is directly across from a hospital and other residential buildings as well as a school. So when I was on the committee advisory board, and other entities have been involved with trying to rid the neighborhood of that garage, we, someone mentioned a name of a person of the late Cecil Corbin-Mark. And they said you should reach out to WE ACT and speak with Cecil about this. So I was introduced to WE ACT through that. He provided so much guidance in terms of you know what to do to try to rid the neighborhood of the garage, and also just generally about the environment. And so that was it and also just like guidance in terms of reaching out to elected officials, other entities like community board or local elected officials. And the thing about the garage is this that it’s again decades it’s been there but you know, there’s a comparable garage in Midtown that has all the bells and whistles. And we just said there needs to be equity in terms of that. So you can build it there. You can build it in East Harlem. And we should be able to, you know, have an environment that’s, you know that it’s a clean environment that, you know, we’re not smelling the sanitation garage, it’s not creating all these other environmental pollutants based on the garage. So that’s, that’s, that’s it.

Brian Bienkowski

Excellent. And Tina, how about your story?

Tina Johnson

Um, my story is similar to Jewel’s. But when I listened to Jewel’s story, she was already ahead of where I was when I joined. So I was having lived in NYCHA, my whole life, I began to notice that things were crumbling around me like in a detrimental way. You know, possibly asbestos exposure through construction, definitely mold exposure. And my children had breathing issues. One time the pediatrician came to the house, and he was like, “You gotta do something about this mold, we got to do something,” It was like a years-long odyssey. And then I decided, I’m going to run for the Tenant Association, which I did, and I got elected. But it, like, when I would bring up the environment, or I would bring up things that we could do to educate and get the community involved, it became, you know, like, treacherous territory, and I was being threatened, you know, it just didn’t make any sense. I was like, I live in West Harlem, not Beirut. And it became a thing like people in my building “You’re over there by yourself.” And, like, I don’t have time for this. But while I was there, WE ACT was coming, getting on the agenda. And they were inviting people to talk about this climate action program that they were going to do. And so at that point, I was like, why I got involved in the TA is environmentally related. And I have a rich background, and my family of the environment. I was like, “you know what? let me go to WE ACT active, find out what this is about.” And then I just really dug in. And that’s how I got to WE ACT. And once I got to react, Cecil was there. Like, I can’t mention this without talking about Cecil Corbin-Mark. And he was a mentor on many levels. He was human, and he really tried to help us develop and grow, not to become experts, like the policy people and stuff like that, but to be able to maneuver it, and be experts about our conditions and how we see things. And so I’ll leave it there. But Cecil, I’ll start crying, was a huge part of WE ACT. A huge, huge part.

Brian Bienkowski

I really liked your story, Tina, because I think when we think of the environment, it people often think of birds and butterflies and polar bears, and oceans and rivers. And of course, that stuff is all very important. But it’s also our house, it’s our home, it’s where our children sleep. And to start kind of the journey to thinking about the environment there, in a very personal, very personal environment, I think is, is really powerful. So we have a lot of academics on the show, as I was telling you before we got started, which can be good, and it can be bad sometimes. But we hear a lot of academic definitions of environmental justice and other terms, but specifically, specifically thinking about environmental justice, I want to know what that term and what true environmental justice means to the two of you; having done this work now for a while?

Jewel Jones

Okay, so, for me, you know, it’s, it’s looking at the environment, right? And I’m just gonna use these two the environment and justice. So justice is to me, it’s like, it’s like, righting a wrong, and when we’re talking about the environment, so when I say live in East Harlem, I’m a block away from the sanitation garage. So I pass that garage every single day on my way to work in and around the neighborhoods. So I’m, I’m affected by the garage. And so when we talking about environmental justice, and I can, if I see that other areas of the city, you know, they’re being afforded resources and services, and there’s, you know, there’s a, you know, comparable sanitation garage that was built in Midtown with all the bells and whistles and why can’t that happen in East Harlem? So you have to look at, you know, where is, is there equity involved in terms of resources? And we’re talking about underserved and marginalized communities that, you know, you know, bear the brunt of these injustices. So, you know, for me, that’s what it boils down to is just righting a wrong, and you know, and in East Harlem people, it’s like known for high asthma rates, you know, and others respiratory issues. So, you know, I live here and I, I’m a, you know, I’m affected by this. So, you know, I must speak out. And I will, and I always will.

Tina Johnson

I feel that way. Plus, I feel that environmental justice means earth justice. And if we don’t think about Earth justice, then we’re just continuing to do what we’ve done and strengthen artificial systems to adjust what should be done, basically. So I feel that you know, like, without that idea, you can’t really connect climate to the environment, you know, there, it’s all together, it’s all one coin, different sides, or it’s the same ball. But I think environmental justice to me is equal access to comprehensive health care, resources, etc. economies, and equal access to food as medicine, like I’ve seen a lot of articles recently about are doctors going to be able to prescribe food to their patients to help them with different conditions? Like, why does that have to be controlled by a healthcare company? So I believe, you know, like, equal access to that. And central, more central is like controls and input into decision-making around the comprehensive environment. So that means that the secret has to be led out the bag. And we have to build that language or that way of communication between academia and the regular, everyday citizen. So environmental justice to me, in a concrete way, would be a civil, civic’s soft space, in every community where people can go and learn stuff on their own time. Not comprehensive in a short meeting, though, even though that’s very important. And then write a letter, you know, like a form letter. How does this affect you in your real life, then, you know, like, what does it mean? It’s not explored. And it’s not set up in a way where people who work, low-income people, people and environmental justice communities are able to get the information that they need, it’s just somebody’s like, pulling their coattails or them pulling somebody’s coattail. But it’s never comprehensive. Like, like, I’ll give you an example that I’ll shut up. It’s it’s so great that you know, they were able to target lead in children and take it as far as it has. But what about the parents? What about the adults in NYCHA, in this apartment? I’ve gotten four contractors to say no lead to say, lead. But now my children are grown and I’m grown. So where do we go? Whom do we go to? Nobody cares about that. You know, I’m not trying to break down like the end of the Roman Empire. I want to live. So I’m just saying, like, you know, we don’t think about these things in a chain, connected to each other. And sometimes, if we did do that, environmental justice would be a cheaper option. And a more comprehensive foundation.

Brian Bienkowski

Yeah, that’s that’s an excellent point. And you both speak to I think, the importance of WE ACT when you have folks who are just trying to work, get their kids to school, get food on the table, and make sure everybody’s healthy. They don’t have time to look through the the docket on the next policy and the next building permit. And I think that’s why WE ACT is so important to bridge that gap and give people the resources to have a voice in these in these matters. And I want to talk about specifically about some of the work that WE ACT does, but before we get to that, and maybe maybe you both touched on this a little bit, but we’re either of you involved in environmental or environmental justice work, prior to working with WE ACT? Tina maybe you could start.

Tina Johnson

I don’t – I’m trying to thank you, though like if I did more than a march in a college rally, but when I was at City College, I did, like, I put together a rally, I was in charge of a rally protesting against Colin Powell, when he received his honorary degree at graduation, because of the Gulf War. And at that time, I definitely wasn’t an environmentalist. I wasn’t in an organization because I was trying to talk to all the political people about the importance of trees. And I would regularly get laughed at sometimes, you know, but even at that time, you know, like, I was trying to see the idea of the two being, the idea of the two being linked, and being very important to us in the communities. But WE ACT is my first, you know, like, I jumped in on the deep end.

Jewel Jones

And for me, so when I was part of the Community Advisory Board of Metropolitan Hospital, and we were talking about this garage, and, you know, and the effects of of it being in the neighborhood, that was my introduction in terms of environmental justice, because we’re looking at, like I said, it’s been there for like, decades, people, prior to me, organizations prior to me, were involved with trying to rid the neighborhood of the garage. So and then, and then we then we looked, we did a lot of research in terms of, you know, in terms of like, who owns the garage, you know, what was there before the garage, you know, the effects of the garage being there. So that was my introduction in terms of environmental justice. And again, I walk past there every day.

Brian Bienkowski

And of course, you were working for, in health care, which is just intrinsically tied to all of these, to all of these issues when it comes to things we’re exposed to. So Jewel sticking with you. And maybe I don’t know if you’re both involved in this or not, but I was really interested in the climate justice working group that WE ACT has. So I was wondering if you can talk about that working group, what does that group work on? What roles do members like yourselves play in that?

Jewel Jones

So yes, I am on the climate justice working crew. And Annie is the person that runs that, you know, it’s over the years, you know, there’s just so many things. I think more recently, we’re talking about what we’ve talked about emergency preparedness in terms of making sure that the neighborhood is aware of a flooding run on one on First Avenue. So East river’s right there, Superstorm Sandy, the effects of that. So when being prepared, most recently, we talked about, you know, in the home, you know, get rid of gas stoves, you know, electric. And so the bottom line is they just, you know, they bring so many of these issues to the forefront, and then tell us okay, go out there and advocate, you know, go to your elected officials, go down to City Hall, I’ve testified at City Hall on behalf of WE ACT, I’ve been to Albany on behalf of WE ACT. I’ve been to Washington on behalf of WE ACT, so and my you know, I advocate for WE ACTin general, but also just for my personal issues and concerns as well.

Tina Johnson

I think that I can– you ask the question again?

Brian Bienkowski

Sure. Yeah. So I was asking about the climate justice working group. And I didn’t know, Tina, if you were involved in that, too. And if so, what’s your role? What are some things that you’ve worked on?

Tina Johnson

Well, I have recently started to attend the meetings again, I stopped attending a lot of meetings, and I wasn’t on the planning committee. I’m on it now. Because I was, I was appointed by the city council to the New York City Environmental Justice advisory board. And WE ACT was a really big part of that. But it was a recognition of all the work that I had done in WE ACT to develop the Climate Action Plan. And also the northern Manhattan Climate Action Plan and participation in the development of the Planning Committee, which Jewel was also a part of, and we put together the bylaws and, you know, like, set up that structure with other members, how people were going to vote with the WE ACT staff, and that’s still going on. So she didn’t mention that. But that’s like something major. And climate was always one of my my first love, because I told you back in the day in college, here I was talking about trees. And it has a lot to do with, like, the way I was raised, however, you want to interpret that culture. But I was raised to mark time by the seasons and notice specific things that were going on. And as I got older, it became a way to mark time in a pleasant way, things to look forward to. And I noticed the change between the time when I was younger, and the time when my kids were younger, I was like, “you guys, you’re, you’re, you’re wimps, when it was hot, and there was a heat wave, you know, aunt Tina and I used to sleep on the tile floor and grandma didn’t let us have air conditioner, because she didn’t believe in it.” And then I participated in a program that WE ACT with IC climate. And they put sensors inside NYCHA apartments and different people’s apartments to test the indoor temperature. And my kids were suffering. And I just, it just brings it home to, like, on a really basic level, but even also, like the pigeons disappeared, and they started to be less pigeons, like even during the pandemic, it’s like, they know you guys are sick. And they took off somewhere. But you know, like, now I see them starting to come back again, but not in the same numbers. So it’s just I’ve always been like that, I’ll mention these things to people, they’ll go in “Ew, pigeons!, I hope they kill them all! But I still try to inject it at church and in regular light, because we have to bring like some kind of sanity to this.

Brian Bienkowski

And it sounds like WE ACT is working on the climate front, not only on potential adaptation to increasing floods and problems. But on the front end and causes. jewel, you mentioned gas stoves, and maybe some energy use and things like that. Is that Is that correct? Is it kind of working on both ends of the issue?

Jewel Jones

I would say definitely. You know, more recently, in terms of the, you know, gas stoves and moving from that to electric. And then you know, the city has their own, you know, policies long term policies in place as well in terms of gas stoves in newer buildings, and replacing them with electric. So, so that’s, that’s like that’s right at the forefront right now. But I did want to mention, when Tina was speaking, one of the big things they did over the years was like look at cooling centers. So whether, and these are just libraries, other kind of structures, that in the summer, these are places where people can go. And the issue was Do people know about these cooling centers, and there’s their signage? So that was that was a big, I should probably mention that in terms of the climate justice working group. That was a major project that we worked on over like the past couple of years, we went out, people went out to different identified cooling centers. And when asked about don’t ask people, are you here because of this is this is a cooling center and ask staff, do you know what might be needed for people that come into the cooling center, and do, I mean, So things like that? So that was a big project I should mention as well.

Brian Bienkowski

Sure. And when it comes to,

Tina Johnson

I just wanted to add, because Jewel brought this to mind. It’s like a public health focus on the things that we face in our community. So you know, it’s just an invaluable way of looking at it that WE ACT does. Because all these different things are in different areas, but they’re focusing on the health of the community, and giving the community a chance to get involved in developing the health of their community.

Brian Bienkowski

And that leads me really well into my next question. So I think WE ACT is known for involving community in in a very empowering and progressive way. Can you talk about what sets WE ACT apart when it comes to involving community members on the ground and valuing their ideas and making them feel heard? You know, how does the organization do that? And how does it do it well? maybe Tina, can you start?

Tina Johnson

Well, they really put a lot of time and energy into thinking about how they present things. And so the so the the benefit of that, the value of that is that they’re able to put information out to the community as well as have that upper level conversation, and sometimes, you know, like, be able to break it down into digestible parts. So that people are like, Oh, that sounds really bad. But how does that affect me, like, they don’t even have to go in that direction. Because as it’s being presented, they might even be learning a little bit about the conversation between the experts and WE ACT, or they’ll be explaining the results of, I don’t know, boards or questions that they asked us, it’s not like, they’re just asking the members to give feedback about X, Y, Z, and we don’t ever hear about it. So they close that loop. But they close the loop in a way that allows the community to be a part of the loop.

Jewel Jones

and, you know, and they value their members. So that’s very important to them to, to we, they put such value on the membership. And as Tina was saying, like, informing the membership and, and, and letting them know that there are ways where you can, you know, have your voices heard, you know, I mentioned, like, testifying down at city hall or going to Albany, but just even just like, there’s the local level, in terms of and then, you know, in terms of, you know, being informed, I always say, you know, there was talking about, you know, our elected officials, and I was, you know, hold them to task as well, you know, you know, we you know appoint you we elect you kind of like do your jobs. So, it held that we hold them to test really, um, I have no problem knocking on a… I live around the corner from Senator Serrano, he, they moved their office to, like, so close to me, you know, walk over there and knock on the door. So they hold people accountable. And again, main thing is they they value members and membership, and informing us and giving us the tools we need to, you know, advance, WE ACT’s, you know, priorities, and, but also our member-driven priorities as well.

Brian Bienkowski

I like the idea too, that I noticed this with the organization that a lot of places have, okay, the experts are talking, when the experts are done, I use that in quotations. When we’re done talking, we’ll tell we’ll tell you what we learned or whatever, were the communities that you’re working in, those are experts as well. I mean, you are experts in your neighborhood, in your house and your community. And so it shouldn’t be here are the experts. And then here’s the communities, it’s everybody has their own kind of expertise. And bringing those all together on equal footing, I think is a very, very powerful way to run, run a community organization like that. So I want to hear about some victories, some wins, some optimism here. So I’m wondering if maybe Juewel, you could start, if there’s anything, what are some wins that you’ve been a part of that at WE ACT?

Jewel Jones

Well, you know, I’m gonna go back to the sanitation because it actually has been relocated. And, you know, I, you know, WE ACT was a part of that, every, every place I go, every organization that I’m a part of, I bring this up, I’m, I’m a part of the NAACP, there’s a mid Manhattan branch and part of that branch. I mentioned the Committee Advisory Board at Metropolitan Hospital, I’m also my community board. So to me, you know, I keep that I kept that garage at the forefront. And, you know, WE ACT was there at the beginning, and they were there when it was like talked about being relocated, and has been relocated, it’s now at 128 Street, some things still remains, the structure is still there, but the trucks are no longer there. And you know, I can walk in, you know, I’m wearing a mask anyway, because of, you know, the pandemic, but I wear a mask because I didn’t want to smell the odor from the garage itself. So I think that’s a big win in terms of the support that we received from WE ACT in terms of relocating that garage elsewhere. And it continues because the garage where it is now where it has been relocated, you know, it’s it’s, it could be better. It’s not an enclosed structure. We’re concerned about, you know, you know, pollutants and things of that nature with the trucks there. So it’s a kind of, it’s still an ongoing situation, I would say, but I count that as a win.

Tina Johnson

I double what you will say, because in my community we were overburdened with plus depots. The sanitation depot used to be on the side of the West Side Highway and WE ACT or Peggy Shepard and her cohorts of people who got into good trouble, helped change that situation. I remember like how it was and how hard it was, especially in the summertime, how you would smell the diesel fumes. And the neighborhood has been transformed. So, you know, I think that that tells you a lot about WE ACT’s impact, even though it was much smaller than but I want to talk about something that Jewel was involved in as well, I believe, EPIC: Emergency Preparedness Information Kiosks. So out of the northern Manhattan Climate Action Plan, we identified key areas that the community needed to develop systems in, in case of an extreme weather or condition where we were waiting for the federal government to come to us. And we needed to take into account that there was going to be a core group of people sheltering in place. So how could we set these systems up to prepare the community more? And how could we spread information, so we worked with CDS and Thread Collective and Thread Collective helped us design or design for us an emergency preparedness kiosk, which would be on a nicer campus, NYCHA wouldn’t allow us to put rooms in it. So it had to be a statute. So we came up with an idea where there was like, shelter, where like, maybe seniors could go underneath and sit. And then on another side, a bulletin board, you know, like futuristically, hoping that we could have something electronic that people could come to, and also that it would serve as a warning system. So people could look out their window and see, oh, it’s red, the air quality is bad, or whatever. So there was a group of us at WE ACT that worked on this project, and the pesky money ran out from the foundations to do the northern Manhattan climate work follow up. And so we try to put it on well, we put it on participatory budgeting. And we tried to get money through participatory budgeting to keep it going. But we didn’t get shows. And, you know, like, people, people didn’t understand what the value of it was. But you see how that hit so many different areas related to the health of, you know, the community, public health, just a lot of different things that would strengthen the community. So I was very, very proud of that. And also, because of Cecil, I was one of the members that got a chance to be really involved with kreski, attending conveniens, or different things like, and I got a lot of exposure to new ideas, people across the country. Um, it’s just, you know, like WE ACT is giving us exposure to policy, how it’s developed. The mechanism, you know, like to spread it around, not only all of that, but how to have the meeting, how to speak with people, how to conduct ourselves, and it’s just, where else would we get that? Where else would we get that? And you know, they’re on a shoestring budget, so many members come, they’re like, “Oh, I think we should be working on this. I think we should be doing this. I think members should be going to Egypt or blah, blah, blah.” But all that costs money. But look at how much they’re getting done with us, you know, like, so that transparency, and that exposure is invaluable. And going back to your other question. That would be one of the main things I would say to other organizations, if they wanted to repeat some of that success.

Brian Bienkowski

Yeah, let’s let’s stick on that point for a second. We have a lot of researchers on this show who I think are are very good about thinking about doing the research in a way that is not extractive, that is working in conjunction and in tandem with communities. But what would you to say to other researchers or organizations who want to emulate some of this, what could they learn from WE ACT when it comes to true community partnerships? Tina, you want to start?

Tina Johnson

I want to say all of the things I mentioned, but I also you know like all of that is what I’m interested in what I love the environment, it’s what I hold dear. But there’s another part of me, you know, like, a shadow side, if you would, that lives in NYCHA, and doesn’t really get to enjoy the fruits of my labor. So it’s hard for me to address a question like that. And it’s even hard… you know, like speaking to my neighbors, or different people that I’m trying to get involved in, it’s putting, like, so much pressure on the communication and the conversation. And when you’re involved in efforts like this, everybody wants you to talk to people and bring new people in. So I don’t know how to answer that.

Brian Bienkowski

Like, I think that’s an answer in itself that this work is it makes, it makes people tired. Even if things are done in a way that is equitable and good, it’s a drain on people, and we need to respect and understand that. Jewel, is there anything,

Tina Johnson

And it’s also isolating

Brian Bienkowski

Isolating, yes, 100% and having having worked on environmental journalism, for a while I can say these issues, they weigh on you. I mean, these are a lot of these, when you’re talking about kids with asthma, and people dealing with natural disasters, and so on and so forth. It’s, um, it’s heavy work, it can be emotionally heavy. Jewel, did you have anything to add to that?

Jewel Jones

I do. And one of my other hats I wear I was part of a Community Research Academy. But I’m still a part of that, because they that that that became a CAB, a community advisory board after I graduated, and you know, these are researchers, and just generally speaking, even like, as part of my community board, when we talk about, you know, local medical facilities, or hospitals and researchers, and I’m going to speak generally, is that one of the things that that, you know, that comes across to me is that, you know, they have a good idea in terms of, you know, addressing a health concern in a neighborhood. And one of the things is that, you know, the people in the neighborhood should be at the table with the researchers, and it’s not a matter of, you know, you think you think what your, your research project might be over someone’s head, but then you need to simplify it for the for the, for the community, but but the communities to be there, because you come with this idea, it can be a great idea in terms of, you know, providing for a health need, but then you come you do the research, but then you leave, and they, you know, what, what resulted from that. So I think, like follow up, in terms of, you know, okay, we plan to do this research is going to benefit the community, and then we’re going to go back to, and I’m not trying to be like Idaho, or some other part of the country and and then we’re left with, you know, What, did they come with the date? What did they do? Is there some follow up and you know, that type of thing. So we, I would say, be mindful of that. And really, back to my original point is have the community at the table, and don’t think what you’re discussing is going to go over someone’s head, because your job is to simplify it for the for the community, and tell us what the benefit of that is, and why we should support you. So I’m not trying to be but I really have been a part of this for a little bit as well. So I expect that to say that sorry, no,

Brian Bienkowski

you didn’t, you do not need to apologize. That’s an excellent point. I was just, I just had to researcher on the podcast the other day, who said a term I had never heard before, called data, data sovereignty. Basically, the idea that when a researcher comes in and does some kind of study or collects data that the community owns that that’s theirs, you know that now they can use that to advocate for their own health or whatever, whatever the data is used for. But I thought that was a cool, a cool term, data sovereignty. So we have to end on a positive note, we can’t, we can’t get too down about this work. So I like to ask folks, what are they optimistic about? And this can be specific to your work with WE ACT or the environment or justice in general. But what makes you feel optimistic? Jewel, do you want to get us started?

I would say I have to, you know, mentioned Peggy, as well as someone we talked about late Cecil Corbin-Mark, but I have to talk about Peggy, and I’m very optimistic because, you know, when Cecil passed, you know, it was a matter of like, you know, how, because we, I mean, he did so much anyway, he was internationally known, but I’m just watching Peggy and not that Peggy wasn’t doing as much but I’m just watching Peggy at the federal level. There was a recent event that took place and she had all these people from the federal government there talking to the community. So I just have to make sure I always give accolades and have the highest to Peggy and then in terms of and her staff. The staff there is incredible. They are so supportive. They are so down to earth. It’s a diverse staff. So I’m very, and I used to tell people, when I used to go to WE ACT meetings, like I don’t know, 15 years ago, it was this, it wasn’t that small, we act in a room. And it was just so diverse in terms of the individuals that came to the WE ACT meetings, I always love that diversity intergenerationally, culturally, you know, and everything in between. So I appreciate that to this day, I love going to WE ACT committes because there’s, of the diversity. And they’re just a very supportive staff, and in terms of how they operate, so, and reputable, and all and all of that. So I appreciate that.

Brian Bienkowski

Excellent. And Tina, what are you optimistic about?

Tina Johnson

I’m optimistic that with Peggy’s leadership, we’re gonna accomplish more. Because I’ve, I’ve just been witness, like jewel like WE ACT wouldn’t exist without Peggy Shepard. And some other people that or her contemporaries are a little older. And it just makes me feel very hopeful about the future, because I’m following through on something that came before. I’m picking up the thread, I’m trying to carry it as far as I can. Spread the knowledge far and wide. And if I was able to, I’d love to set up, you know, like, different WE ACTs all over. They don’t necessarily, it doesn’t have to be a brand. But I’m talking about the system. So I, you know, that’s what I’m hopeful for. I just try to be hopeful every time I feel the sun on my face. And remember what I’m working towards when I breathe in clear air and remember what this is all about. And, you know, like that helps me through the wins and losses. And the fact that, again, I have not seen I’ve been doing this for over a decade. But I’m not really seeing the benefit in my indoor environment. I don’t blame WE ACT for that. But I’m saying like, you know, I’m doing this for a reason people might not understand. But you know, like, there’s a point A there’s a point B on a state. So I think Peggy through her work from day one has really highlighted and brought that message to the fore. And it just without it, it would be a different community. And we wouldn’t have had Cecil Yeah.

Brian Bienkowski

Well, thank you. Thank you both so much. This is truly the best part of my job is getting to meet folks like you all and talk about you and your work. And it makes me hopeful. And it’s what gives me optimism. So thank you so much for that. And we’d like to end every show by hearing the last book that people read for fun. So I know you’re busy, but I’m hoping you have time to do some fun reading. So Tina, what was the last book you read for fun?

Tina Johnson

Okay, it’s called “Structuralism, and post structuralism for beginners.” And I’m trying to find the author’s name. It’s Donald something, but it’s, you know, like, there’s text, there’s pictures. It’s such a good book, I would read it again and again. Because there’s such valuable information, they talk about different phenomena in history, like the silos and when it when it first started versus like regular society, and how there’s an invisible conversation that happens between those two. And they follow that conversation all the way through history. And it’s just so interesting, and that’s the book that I read last.

Brian Bienkowski

Only on this podcast would have a book, the fun book have structuralism in the title I have to say, but it does sound it does sound like a fascinating read. I definitely want to check that out. And how about you, Jewel?

Jewel Jones

Well, something similar to you know, in terms of also it’s called, and I reread this and it had to do with the work-related matter that came up but “The Medical Apartheid” by Harriet Washington, because, you know, another hat that I wear is um There was a statue of the there were things going on in East Harlem. And there’s always things going on in East Harlem. But what that book talks about, you know, I suppose most people have read Medical Apartheid, and generally just speak is to make it make, it just didn’t look in terms of like, I guess I’m gonna say righting a wrong again, we’re looking at the medical profession, in terms of, you know, we’re talking about researchers, we can talk about, you know, how, you know, medical, health things are, you know, doctors relate to patients and are those that are underserved or marginalized. So it’s just a it’s a good resource for anybody, and I recommend the book.

Brian Bienkowski

Excellent. Well, thank you both so much, again, for doing this. I really appreciate it. And thank you so much for the work that you’re all doing. I think it’s, it really is cause for optimism, to see that folks like you are taking time to do this kind of work. So thank you so much for being on the show.