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Our Story

NJEJA's Beginnings

We welcome you to our story, our beginnings, to the essence that brought this alliance together: a heart-felt desire for justice and community.

These stories pay homage to the EJ organizers and advocates that started NJEJA, who have been fighting the same fight for the last 19 years; and who continue to fight and push towards Environmental Justice for our communities.

Sharing our stories is a form of resistance and reclamation of our narratives. It is an expression of joy, solidarity, and community care. 

Milestones

NJEJA’s Milestones are breakthroughs that represent our unwavering commitment to environmental justice and our communities

We owe these successes to the perseverance and dedication of EJ organizers, community leaders, and advocates who continue to volunteer their time and labor to the advancement of the EJ Movement

The accomplishments we’ve highlighted built the pathway to the historic passing of the first Environmental Justice and Cumulative Impacts Law in New Jersey and nationwide, a victory in the long struggle of the EJ movement. 

As you learn more about our past work, we invite you to join us in the fight for Environmental Justice as we focus on building healthy and equitable communities for current and future generations.

Future Ahead

NJEJA’s work is rooted in its early beginnings and significant milestones. As we grow, we are also on the verge of marking 20 years of EJ advocacy and work in NJ! We are grateful, honored, and appreciative of the trust EJ communities have placed in us over the years. 

NJEJA will expand its activities, engage its communities further, and create spaces for EJ communities to convene. 

We are also calling on the youth of New Jersey to join us in learning, building, and fighting for Environmental Justice! The future of NJEJA depends on passing down the “torch” to the energy of future generations.

Vision

The New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance (NJEJA) is committed to working together on creating healthy, sustainable and just communities by eliminating environmental injustices in low income and communities of color.

Mission

The New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance is an alliance of New Jersey-based organizations and individuals working together to identify, prevent, and reduce and/or eliminate environmental injustices that exist in communities of color and low-income communities. NJEJA will support community efforts to remediate and rebuild impacted neighborhoods, using the community’s vision of improvement, through education, advocacy, the review and promulgation of public policies, training, and through organizing and technical assistance.

Through the efforts of NJEJA and its organizational partners, there is now a New Jersey Environmental Justice Movement that continues to take action to ensure that all New Jersey residents, regardless of their race, color, ethnicity, religion, or economic status, are able to live, work, play, worship, and attend school in clean, safe, healthy, sustainable environments.

Through the efforts of NJEJA and its organizational partners, there is now a New Jersey Environmental Justice Movement that continues to take action to ensure that all New Jersey residents, regardless of their race, color, ethnicity, religion, or economic status, are able to live, work, play, worship, and attend school in clean, safe, healthy, sustainable environments.

Our Values

Environmental Justice Principles

Delegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit held on October 24-27, 1991, in Washington DC, drafted and adopted 17 principles of Environmental Justice. Since then, The Principles have served as a defining document for the growing grassroots movement for environmental justice.
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Jeméz Principles For Democratic Organizing

On December 6-8, 1996, forty people of color and European-American representatives met in Jemez, New Mexico, for the “Working Group Meeting on Globalization and Trade.” The following “Jemez Principles” for democratic organizing were adopted by the participants.
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Statewide Policy Platform

NJEJA has developed numerous policy recommendations intended to improve the environmental quality, public health and well being of residents in communities of color and low-income communities, i.e. environmental justice (EJ) communities, which are often overburdened by disproportionate environmental pollution.

Our Team

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Melissa Miles (she/her)

Executive Director

Melissa began her career as a grassroots activist and community organizer while living in an Environmental Justice community in Newark, New Jersey, long used as the regions’ dumping ground, and called a “sacrifice zone” and a “waste-shed” by advocates. However, it is fertile soil for seeding activism and growing visionaries. Melissa is one of many there who was awakened to the environmental justice issues around her by organizers from the local grassroots organization.

As a Newark resident Melissa was encouraged to testify at hearings on the clean-up of the Passaic River, the site of the world’s largest concentration of dioxin. She did truck counts, air monitoring and community mapping with her children in a double stroller. She was part of the Community Advisory Board and represented the community at climate justice and disaster preparedness workshops before she was even fully invested in the cause. “When I first became active in the struggle it was because others asked me to do so. It was when my son got asthma and I knew that pollution was the cause that I became an activist.”

Melissa’s vision is to support environmental justice communities rooted in place, where people can live, work, learn, and play in health and harmony. She is someone who embodies the values and principles of environmental justice, with both the lived experiences and the extensive professional and organizing background that make her an ideal leader. Melissa is educationally well-credentialed with a MA in Anthropology from The New School, but she is also adamant when it comes to solutions to the world’s current environmental crises the best and most relevant come from communities and not from universities: “Those that are most affected, have the solutions” is the sentiment from which her advocacy stems.

She is a part of several national coalitions including the Climate Justice Alliance, Moving Forward Network, The Coalition for Healthy Ports and the international coalitions, The Movement of People Affected By Dams (MAB) and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. She is also part of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Advisory Council responsible for advising state agencies including the Department of Environmental Protection on issues of Environmental Justice. Her “expertise” is rooted in her lived experience and her commitment to making sure that people at the frontlines are the protagonists in the struggle for their future.

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Christian Tandazo (he/him)

Operations Assistant

Christian Tandazo (he/him) is a queer person of color, organizer, artist, and visionary. Born in Wuankavilca Territory (Guayaquil), and raised in Paltas tradition between the shores of the Pacific and the Andes mountains, where he constantly exposed to vast biocultural diversity which deepened his connection with Pachamama, the land, and human and non-human kin. These experiences have shaped his worldview, cosmology, and endeavors - which he has carried throughout his organizing and advocacy.

Christian has a M.S. in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management & Graduate Minor in Impact Entrepreneurship from The New School. His work and advocacy focus on the intersections of climate & environmental justice, food sovereignty, community building, cooperative entrepreneurship, and decolonization. He leverages his privileges to meaningfully support and uplift the work of grassroots communities, groups, and organizers.

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Board Members

Partners & Collaborators

NJEJA works with grassroots social justice frontlines groups, who support reduction of environmental harms. If you are interested in working with NJEJA, click here.

Grassroots Partners

Coalitions

Institutional Partners