Environmental Justice & Equity in Austin

A Panel Conversation Facilitated by Jennifer Sanders

What does environmental justice mean? Why is it important to approach urban development and environmental policies with a lens of equity? These are just a couple of the questions the speakers will reflect on at this moment in Austin’s history as one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Joining us in conversation are Carmen Llanes, Executive Director at Go Austin Vamos Austin; Nefertitti Jackmon, Community Displacement Prevention Officer at the Housing and Planning Department with the City of Austin; Lauren Ross, Principal Engineer of Glenrose Engineering; and facilitator Jennifer Sanders, KXAN Anchor and reporter.

This conversation was inspired by the exhibitions currently on view at the Jones Center – HOST: Aryel René Jackson and This Land. Both exhibitions close January 28th.

For accommodation requests, please contact salexander@thecontemporaryaustin.org.

 

About the Speakers

 

Carmen D. Llanes is a native of Austin, TX and second-generation community organizer working with neighborhoods and organizations in Austin’s Eastern Crescent for the last 15 years. After receiving an interdisciplinary B.A. at the University of Chicago in Environmental Studies with a focus on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its impact on Mexican communities and international food systems, she returned to Austin to work at home as an environmental justice researcher and organizer for People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources (PODER) in East Austin. She later ran a program at the nonprofit, Marathon Kids called the “Wellness Team Initiative,” which engaged parents and teachers at 18 elementary schools in Austin’s Eastern Crescent to increase fitness and nutrition opportunities in their communities; this program was the reason Carmen got involved in Dove Springs and eventually, GAVA's early start in these schools. Carmen cares deeply about community relationships and intergenerational organizing, and participates in public health, anti-racist and anti-displacement networks in Central Texas and across the country. She chaired the City of Austin’s Hispanic/Latino Quality of Life Commission until July 2019 when she joined the City’s Planning Commission during a once-in-a-generation Land Development Code rewrite, and is an inaugural member of Austin’s first Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission which created single-member city council districts in 2014. She was also part of the inaugural Community Strategy Team at the Department of Population Health at the University of Texas - Dell Medical School, and is a 2019-20 Fulcrum Fellow with the Center for Community Investment at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

 

Nefertitti Jackmon is a Cultural Strategist serving as Austin’s first Community Displacement Prevention Officer. Jackmon leads the Housing Department’s Displacement Prevention Office where she is instrumental in creating investments, planning processes, programs and policies that help stabilize and expand economic opportunities for vulnerable households. Through a co-collaborative process, Jackmon, other city staff, consultants and community members created an Equity Tool to inform investment priorities for the voter approved $300 million anti-displacement funds related to Project Connect, the new “comprehensive transit system expansion that will help transform Austin into one of the most sustainable, inclusive and innovative regions in the country.” In January 2022 she was listed as one of Texas’ Top 100 Influential leaders impacting the Texas economy in the Austin Business Journal. Her passion and work to support households in need comes from her more than 25 years of service in the nonprofit sector in Austin, Houston, and California.

 

Juniper Lauren Ross, Ph. D., P.E., is an environmental engineer, writer, community organizer and trainer. She has worked with landowners to design and build innovative on-site water supply systems and prevent flooding. Her clients are a diverse community of developers, attorneys, universities, environmental and community organizations. In addition to her work as an engineering consultant, Dr. Ross is a founder of Undoing Racism Austin and organizer with Undoing White Supremacy Austin. She teaches facilitation, consensus, community and culture building, and anti-racist analysis through the lens of whiteness. She is a trainer with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, a Black-led organization based in New Orleans.

 

Jennifer Sanders is an Emmy-award winning and an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist, who is passionate about empowering people through visual storytelling. In June 2020, Jennifer joined KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas, as a weekend anchor. She now anchors KXAN News at noon and KXAN News at 4 p.m. She was previously the morning news anchor at NewsChannel 9 WSYR-TV, the ABC affiliate in Syracuse, New York. Before moving to Central New York, she was a multimedia journalist at KXII-TV in Sherman, Texas. Prior to that, she was a writer/web producer at KDAF-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth. Jennifer has produced numerous pieces of award-winning content. Her documentary, “Hidden History: The End of Syracuse’s 15th Ward”, was the recipient of an Edward R. Murrow award, a Syracuse Press Club award and was nominated for an Emmy. After the documentary aired, she traveled across Central New York speaking on various panels discussing urban renewal, redlining and other policies highlighted in the documentary that could impact the future of the region. Her documentary, “Hidden History: Syracuse 8”, was also nominated for an Emmy. In 2021, her documentary, “Hidden History: Syracuse Congress of Racial Equality” also won a Regional Murrow Award for Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In 2022, Jennifer won a Lone Star EMMY award in the news category for Diversity/Equity/Inclusion, for her special report entitled, “Housing History: Racial Displacement in Austin”.