Reimagining Immigrants and Environmental Justice

1915: “The Mather Mountain Party” with Chef Tie Sing and National Park Service director Stephen Mather.

Courtesy of National Geographic.

2019: Parent Pioneers meet in Rosa RiVera Furumoto’s home.
 
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2019: Parent Pioneers meet in Rosa RiVera Furumoto’s home.

Courtesy of Alonso Garcia.

2019: Grandma Say Tang in her kitchen.
 
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2019: Grandma Say Tang in her kitchen.

Courtesy of Frances Tang.

The Problem
The Roots
The Solutions

Mainstream environmentalism has reserved the term “environmentalist” for a narrow group of actors, neglecting the broad scope of issues that affect our environment and possible solutions.

This narrow vision of environmentalism presents immigrants, working class, and communities of color as uninterested or impeding a clean environment. But scholars and activists show that these communities face greater threats from environmental problems such as air pollution, water contamination, and industrial hazards. They are also vulnerable to environmental solutions such as conservation practices that segregate poor communities, recycling centers that pollute ethnic minority neighborhoods, and population control policies that target immigrant women’s reproduction.

Broadening our vision of environmentalism deepens our understanding of the environment and the diversity of people who protect it. Environmentalists like Parent Pioneers—comprising immigrant mothers and grandmothers—seek equity in their neighborhood through everyday practices of care.

1909: Hermann Neumann and workers on Neumann Farm in Oxnard, CA.
Say Tang with her family at the Hong Kong Refugee Camp. She resides in Oxnard, CA.
1945: Japanese and Mexican workers gather by a delivery truck for Flower View Gardens.
1959: Angustain family evicted from home in Chavez Ravine.
1986: Mothers of East L.A. oppose an East L.A. Prison.
2019: “Bolsa Desechable” from Lotería game created by Parent Pioneers.
2019: “The Grandmother Spider Stole the Sun” at Parent Pioneers’ annual science fair.
2019: Vendor sells fresh fruits and vegetables in Panorama City
2019: Grandma Say Tang working in her backyard garden
1920s: Mama SooHoo, Owner of the historic Chicken Inn and mother of Oxnard’s first Chinese American mayor
1920s: Children playing in Oxnard China Alley
2019: Parent Pioneers at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve
1959: LA Sheriff Deputies carry Aurora Vargas from Chavez Ravine home
2019: Parent Pioneers in the classroom
1909: Hermann Neumann and workers on Neumann Farm in Oxnard, CA.
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1909: Hermann Neumann and workers on Neumann Farm in Oxnard, CA.

Courtesy of Oxnard Public Library.

Say Tang with her family at the Hong Kong Refugee Camp. She resides in Oxnard, CA.
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Say Tang with her family at the Hong Kong Refugee Camp. She resides in Oxnard, CA.

Courtesy of Frances Tang.

1945: Japanese and Mexican workers gather by a delivery truck for Flower View Gardens.
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1945: Japanese and Mexican workers gather by a delivery truck for Flower View Gardens.

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.

1959: Angustain family evicted from home in Chavez Ravine.
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1959: Angustain family evicted from home in Chavez Ravine.

Courtesy of UCLA Special Collections.

1986: Mothers of East L.A. oppose an East L.A. Prison.
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1986: Mothers of East L.A. oppose an East L.A. Prison.

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.

2019: “Bolsa Desechable” from Lotería game created by Parent Pioneers.
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2019: “Bolsa Desechable” card from an environmental Lotería game created by Victoria Rodríguez Ramírez of Parent Pioneers.

Courtesy of Victoria Rodríguez-Ramírez.

2019: “The Grandmother Spider Stole the Sun” at Parent Pioneers’ annual science fair.
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2019: “How Grandmother Spider Stole the Sun” dramatization at Parent Pioneers’ annual Family Literacy Festival.

Courtesy of Alonso Garcia.

 

2019: Vendor sells fresh fruits and vegetables in Panorama City
Additional Media

2019: Vendor sells fresh fruits and vegetables in Panorama City

Courtesy of Azeneth Martinez.

2019: Grandma Say Tang working in her backyard garden
Additional Media

2019: Grandma Say Tang working in her backyard garden

Courtesy of Frances Tang.

1920s: Mama SooHoo, Owner of the historic Chicken Inn and mother of Oxnard’s first Chinese American mayor
Additional Media

1920s: Mama SooHoo, Owner of the historic Chicken Inn and mother of Oxnard’s first Chinese American mayor

Courtesy of Bill Soo Hoo Collection.

1920s: Children playing in Oxnard China Alley
Additional Media

1920s: Children playing in Oxnard China Alley

Courtesy of Oxnard Public Library.

2019: Parent Pioneers at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve
Additional Media

2019: Parent Pioneers at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve

1959: LA Sheriff Deputies carry Aurora Vargas from Chavez Ravine home
Additional Media

1959: LA Sheriff Deputies carry Aurora Vargas from Chavez Ravine home

Courtesy of UCLA Special Collections.

2019: Parent Pioneers in the classroom
Additional Media

2019: Parent Pioneers in the classroom

Our Point of View

University Partners
Community Partners

Students and faculty in the Asian American Studies Department at UC Santa Barbara and Chicana/o Studies at CSU Northridge are proud to bring together the interconnected histories of environmental justice across immigrant communities. Partnerships with organizations like Parent Pioneers remind us of the power of community-based research and activism, and our intertwined fates. What has been most rewarding is learning and teaching about the historical legacy of environmental justice that shapes access to affordable housing, immigrant rights, gender rights, and labor and educational equity.

—California State University, Northridge and University of California, Santa Barbara

Padres Pioneros/Parent Pioneers is a local grassroots organization established 25 years ago composed of immigrant Latina mothers and grandmothers addressing education and environmental justice in low-income communities. Their mission is to work with schools to develop families’ capacity to support their children’s academic success and to increase their environmental awareness about how to care for and love Mother Earth.

—Padres Pioneros/Parent Pioneers

Contributors

University Partners

California State University, Northridge and University of California, Santa Barbara

Faculty Project Directors Lisa Sun-Hee Park, Ph.D. Asian American Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara Stevie Ruiz, Ph.D. Chicana/o Studies, California State University, Northridge
Students Raiza Arias Alyssa Barba Nataly Barragan Jocelyn Canales Jennifer Carranza-Escobedo Cristina Castelan Lilia A Gonzalez Guadalupe Granados TJ Jose Kahlil Kochiyama Felipe Lepe Michelle Macrohon Ashley Martinez Azeneth D Martinez Destiny E Munoz Diego Paniauga Jarel Park Ana V Perez Jesus N Perez Jimmy L Ramos Jennifer K Rodzianko Frances Tang Kimberly Tobar Marissa J Washington Renee Zapata

Community Partners

Padres Pioneros/Parent Pioneers

Socorro Berumen
Nelly Cruz
Marina Diaz
Rosa Linda RiVera Furumoto
Maria Guerrero
Maria Meza
Ana Navarro
Maria Elena Ortiz
Carolina Perez
Victoria Ramirez
Olivia Robledo
Francisca Salcedo
Rosa E. Vargas