40 Years of EJ Wrap-Around: Thank You to Our Panelists & Video Recording!

Please join US in thanking Rev. William Kearney, Angella Dunston, and Danielle Koonce for their wonderful perspectives and input in commemorating 40 Years of Environmental Justice!  They spoke in a panel hosted by Clean Water for North Carolina on Friday, September 30, 2022, speaking on the birth of the EJ movement in Warren County to Today & Beyond! 

Due to Hurricane Ian, quite a few folks missed out on our live event, but we made sure to record it to view at your convenience!

They spoke about the movement in Warren County and how it came to the national stage to start the EJ movement, the folks who marched and put themselves in harms way to protect the community, strong women and faith community that worked behind the scenes, and the need to keep and carry community history.


As Rev. Kearney put it, we are pushing through some necessary discomforts in “Reconciling & Celebrating.

Reconciling our past
Reconciling our present and
Reconciling our future

Danielle touched on the Power of Erasure and how local movements with national impact like that of Warren County’s 1982 protests are easily lost to history, not being taught to kids and not included in the history books. It took her until a graduate level sociology class to hear of the protests that sparked the EJ movement. This causes us to continually have to reinvent the wheel, starting over and over again.

She also touched on the importance of Community Empowerment, recognizing that no one can speak out about environmental injustice like those of the OWN Community and their Lived Experience.

Angella agreed and reminded us that communities CAN come together and be successful. There are many resources and organizations ready to help carry the load because it’s the Emotional, the Spiritual, and not just the Physical impacts that frontline communities carry.

The central point: Community Voices need to be at the CENTER of the conversation.


Q: What can we do? How can allies help?

Angella: There are things to do everywhere! Find a cause, an issue, a problem you want to address and start working on doing that.

Our host and speakers’ organizations are a great place to start!

One thing you can do right now is DONATE  to support our Speaker Organizations and make sure you select the Designation “40 Years of EJ.” Reach out and volunteer with their organizations. Share and amplify their stories.

Clean Water for NC is collecting your donations for the benefit of Warren County Environmental Action Team, NC Environmental Justice Network, EJ Community Action Network, and the NC League of Conservation Voters.

Q: How has your organization adapted over time as technology and demographics change, especially in light of Covid-19?

Rev. Kearney: Adapting to this new reality of virtual meetings, but still need better broadband in many communities, especially in rural areas. Technology has allowed for us to connect and communicate when its been otherwise very difficult.

Danielle: Even in light of technology, the power of knocking on people’s doors and the power of the church is still the crux of connecting and has been some of the most effective tactics. People are SO Powerful when you give them the PLATFORM to be powerful. This is a common thread not just for Black Americans but for rural Americans of all races, especially throughout the South.

Angella: Yes! A lot of folks in NC, especially in rural areas, struggle to gain ACCESS to clean water & air, quality food, decent home, and broadband which also impacts quality of education and employment. Focusing on developing and improving that access will help make strides and leaps.

Q: How do people live into their power, connect with local government and state office staff who will be implementing federal policy, and strengthen their capacity to participate in decision-making?

Rev. Kearney: Inclusiveness! Inviting people to the table. Provide for a structure that allows people to come as themselves and be comfortable. Changing systems and changing the hearts of the people are the two main parts of it. Whether local, regional, or global, it affects everyone! Inclusiveness needs to be addressed from the Systemic Level down to the Individual Person.

Angella: You need to have people who have Lived Experiences and firsthand knowledge be part of the decision-making process. Those who are sitting around the table have been part of the harm. If you have any such connections as an ally, speak out and ensure that these specific folks are included and part of the decisions.

Danielle: Don’t underestimate the power of the personal and the local. You have to ask yourself “Would I want 5,000 pigs in MY backyard?” Ivanhoe’s $14.5M water infrastructure grant is a great example. It started with the community coming together, then a van-load of people showing up at their county commissioner meetings, then their commissioners setting up meetings between the community and state government officials. Start locally with your mayor, county officials, even teachers.

Angella: Electing officials who care about the people in your community is important!

Rev. Kearney: We have a voice, so don’t let others set the narrative about your community.

For an overview of all the commemorations throughout the month of September in celebration of 40 Years of Environmental Justice, check it out HERE.


Angella Dunston— NC League of Conservation Voters (NCLCV)

 Angella is a servant leader with a heart for people. Dunston has more than 20 years of experience in government relations, community engagement and policy advocacy. She has expansive skills in leadership development, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and is currently utilizing those skills to bring about effective change and improve community impact across the country.

Dunston grew up in rural NC in Warren County and according to her mom, “she came out the womb fighting for the rights of other people.” She began her training as an advocate at an early age while fighting along with her family for the removal of the toxic cancerous chemical PCB which was dumped in Warren County in the early 80s.

She is President and CEO of Dunston Crump Leadership Consulting, a woman-of-color-owned, for-profit organization located in North Carolina. The firm specializes in diversity, equity and inclusion, health disparities, youth leadership development, and capacity building.

In her spare time, she serves on numerous boards including the NC League of Conservation Voters (NCLCV), Volunteers of America Carolina Council (VOACC), and a few nonprofits that provides support and resources for veterans.

Rev. William (Bill) Kearney— Warren County Environmental Action Team (WCEAT)

 Bill is the coordinator of the Warren County Environmental Action Team.  He is a partner in several community-engaged research partnerships and engages and consults with universities, organizations, and partnerships across the United States. His consulting company, Bill Kearney & Company, LLC, sponsors and facilitates the Warren County Environmental Action Team and the Warren County African American History Collective.

Rev. Kearney serves as associate minister and health ministry coordinator at Coley Springs Missionary Baptist Church and vice president of the United Shiloh Missionary Baptist Association Church Union. Rev. Kearney is also a research associate and community outreach manager at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. He has co-authored numerous research manuscripts and articles and has co-produced various documentaries.  He is also a managing partner of the PRIME Collective Consultants, LLC. Email Rev. Kearney at billkearney777@gmail.com.

Danielle Koonce— Environmental Justice Community Action Network (EJCAN)

 Danielle is Community Organizer & Board Member of the Environmental Justice Community Action Network.  As a doctoral candidate, she enjoys thinking about the connections and relationships between race and space, particularly rural spaces and how these relationships contribute foundationally to many broad themes in sociology.

She is also interested in understanding contemporary Black resistance movements, particularly Black Lives Matter, and its organizational shifts and societal reach.

Currently, she is doing her dissertation research on understanding how rural communities engage in Environmental Justice.

Ghanja O’Flaherty— North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN)

 UNABLE TO ATTEND DUE TO DEATH IN THE FAMILY.  Please join us in sending loving thoughts, prayers, and loving energy for healing during this difficult time.

Ghanja is the Co-Director of Infrastructure and Development at the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network.  She is passionate about ensuring her people’s access to and enjoyment of the environment through equitable use and preservation of natural resources. She holds an M.S. is Environmental Sciences and Engineering from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (UNC) and a B.Eng. in Environmental Engineering from Carleton University.

Hailing from St. Kitts-Nevis, Għanja’s small island upbringing comes to bear on her understanding that cookie-cutter solutions fit cookie-cutter problems of which there are not many. She values context and the co-design and co-production of solutions. Outside of work, Għanja is likely to be found in her garden or garage, working on her next project with her dog, Cosmo.

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