By Don MacGillivray

 

In early October the Coalition of Livable Future (CLF) held its 12th annual Livability Summit, Pathways to Prosperity while Advancing Economic Justice. The keynote speaker was Dr. Antwi Akom, professor at San Francisco State University and executive director and founder of I-SEEED.

The subject of his presentation was the African American experience in San Francisco and Oakland with suggestions about improving these communities by moving from poverty to prosperity while addressing climate change and sustainability issues.

A key component to accomplishing this is transparent access to data and to democratize public decision-making in the community. Address climate change by building energy-efficient buildings in the high rent part of town won’t accomplish this. The communities where action needs to be are the same communities that have shouldered the weight of pollution and toxic environments, both physical and psychological for generations.

Dr. Akom uses the term “eco-apartheid” to describe the cumulative effects of culturally-ingrained racial prejudice and systemic privilege.

It means communities of color are more likely to live in unhealthy, under-served, poorly-developed urban areas where neighborhoods have toxic wastes, polluting industries, freeways, and lack healthy food stores, sidewalks, and public transportation.

To create a truly livable future, stakeholders need to listen and act on the wisdom found in low-income communities. Through investments in people, places, systems, and structures, the environment must be transformed without causing gentrification. This allows opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship so all children and families are able reach their full potential.

Dr. Akom introduced the audience to three new groups active in the Bay area to address urban problems.

• I-SEEED (Institute for Sustainable Economic, Educational and Environmental Design) strives to build an ecosystem of innovators to solve pressing social problems of low income communities.

Through innovative, environmental design and cutting edge technology, sustainable communities can be created. I-SEEED facilitates the sharing of knowledge and resources between schools, businesses, universities and communities through an inter-disciplinary approach that engages youth and community members as the key to innovation.

• GIRLTREK, a national organization that inspires and supports African American women and girls by simply walking, to achieve healthy, fulfilled lives. The organization supports over 20,000 walkers and inspires a growing network of 175,000 supporters and GirlTrek’s health movement relies on inspirational stories, street organizers, authentic partnerships, smart advocacy and a lot of hustle.

In five years, GirlTrek aims to lead a “walking revolution for better health” for one million supporters in communities across America.

• STREETWISE is a new GIS mapping and data collection tool that serves as a portal for social services and a guide to understand and improve the environment. Streetwise is focused on “life services” – finding healthy food, clean drinking water, and safe bus stops. It allows people to find services in their area, rank them, and share these services with their community.

Community members can verify the accuracy of data and develop their own community-driven indicators and metrics. They can collect and analyze data using smartphones, short message services, or paper maps, thereby democratizing the data and increasing civil engagement.

For more information clfuture.org