Writing Award: Courageous and Transformative Action for Environmental Justice Award

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We are pleased to announce the 2021 Courageous and Transformative Action for Environmental Justice Writing Award. The Award is available to UCI undergraduate and graduate students to share their reflections on, and research about, environmental justice. The Award lifts up struggles and leadership for environmental justice, with a focus on collective efforts to advance global environmental health, ecological restoration, and community solutions, broadly conceived.

The Courageous and Transformative Action for Environmental Justice Writing Award was established in 2019 by the Department of African American Studies, Center for Excellence in Writing and Communication, Community Resilience, and Schools of Education, Law, Social Ecology, and Social Sciences. The Award follows the living model of Flint, Michigan, pediatrician and environmental justice advocate, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha (author of What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City, 2018) whose commitment to young people’s health and rights to clean water brought national attention to the Flint water crisis. It draws inspiration from exceptional community leaders who, like Dr.Hanna-Attisha, have taken personal risks and overcome social and political barriers to champion environmental justice—through organizing in their own communities and activism that reaches beyond. Moved, also, by Will See of Detroit, Michigan, whose work as a contemporary performance artist, writer, and environmental justice cultural worker bridges music, poetry, education, and organizing; we welcome submissions from all genres and disciplines (e.g., political and policy analyses, creative writing, translation of science into action, choreography) as long as they are intelligible for lay audiences. Both Dr. Hanna-Attisha and Will See visited UC Irvine to work with our communities in Winter 2019.

The 2021 Awards Ceremony will be held on June 11 at 4:00 PM PT. Please register below to let us know you will join the Ceremony. You will receive Zoom details upon registration.


Who: Any UCI undergraduate or graduate student

Genre: any form of written word or multi-media genre such as essay, personal narrative, poem, prose poem, short story, flash fiction, literary journalism, political and policy analyses, translation of science into action, choreography (can be but is not required to be multi-modal). Works previously submitted for a class can be further polished and entered into the contest. The awards committee is interdisciplinary so your submission should be written with a general audience in mind and or include brief footnotes explaining field-specific jargon.

Preparation: Students can bring their work to the Center for Excellence in Writing and Communication for a writing consultation. (No one from the Writing Center will serve on the judges’ panel.)

Required manuscript format: PDF, typed, 11 or 12 point font, double-spaced. Any length from one page to 8,000 words maximum. Include a manuscript title and pagination in the footer of each page. Refrain from including your name on the manuscript itself; rather, include your name on a title page, which should also include your UCINetID, email address, Academic Program/Department, and year in school.

How to submit: Email submissions to sustainability-center@uci.edu before the deadline of 5:00 pm, Friday, April 30, 2021.

A selection committee will judge submissions according to the following criteria:

Engagement: Writers should convey the sense that they have put deep thought into the topic and understand its nuances, importance and urgency.

Creativity: Regardless of genre, writers should submit original work. Writers should seek for their submissions to be readable for a general audience and work hard to translate for a general audience.

Polish: Writers should carefully revise and proofread their work before submitting it.

Audience Awareness: While writers should feel free to discuss subject matter of their choice and make strong assertions, they should also demonstrate that they have considered the effects of their words on the UCI community in particular and a wider audience as well. Put another way, writers should imagine their work published in a UCI-sponsored student outlet.

2021 Selection Committee

  • Tiffany Willoughby-Herard, Associate Professor, African American Studies
  • Sora Park Tanjasiri, DrPH, MPH, Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Associate Director, Cancer Health Disparities and Community Engagement, Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Michael Mendez, Assistant Professor, School of Social Ecology
  • Rabie Kadri, Manager, UCI Law Centers
  • Abby Reyes, Director, UCI Community Resilience Projects
  • Daniel K. Park, M.Ed., Associate Director, Cross-Cultural Center
  • Udara Abeysekera, Program Coordinator, Sustainability Resource Center
  • Ian Baran, Ph.D. candidate in Planning, Policy and Design, UCI School of Social Ecology

First prize will be $300, second prize will be $200, and third prize will be $100, in the form of gift cards. The awardees will be announced during the commencement season.

Submissions must be successfully received before Friday, April 30, 2021, 5:00 pm.

The US EPA defines environmental justice as the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Peoples’ organizations of the California Environmental Justice Alliance add that environmental justice takes “build[ing] democratic, equitable solutions to pollution, poverty and racism that do not reproduce ecologically and socially harmful systems.”

Conceptions of environmental justice abound. We welcome submissions treating a broad range of environmental justice subjects. Subjects could range from, e.g., food sovereignty; toxic exposure and low-income immigrant worker and tenant rights; relocalization of production and consumption; community ownership of water, power, food, and waste systems; gender and the oil wars; soil quality of former military bases; gentrification; environmental justice aspects of major health challenges, such as breast cancer, representations of chronic illness and toxicity, and public health disparities; cultural revitalization; regenerative systems; protection of earth rights defenders; et cetera. We offer these examples as food for thought; they are not exhaustive.

2021 Award Co-sponsors:

The Humanities Equity Advisor and Special Assistant to the Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Department of African American Studies; Center for Excellence in Writing and Communication; Community Resilience; Cross-Cultural Center; Program in Public Health; Sustainability Resource Center; Schools of Law and Social Ecology

Deadline: April 30, 2021


Contact sustainability-center@uci.edu. Place “EJ Writing Award” in the subject line.