|November 25, 2009
Minister Robert Campbell, longtime Chapel Hill, N.C., activist for social and environmental justice, visited the White House on Friday, Nov. 20, to speak about public health issues in the Rogers-Eubanks community in Chapel Hill, N.C. He met with Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Campbell was invited to join this distinguished group in a White House briefing that brought together public health advocates, community leaders, experts from U.S. agencies and universities, and White House officials for a discussion on the lasting public health benefits of a clean energy economy.
After his participation, Campbell said, “This was a great honor and privilege, to be able to tell the story of the Rogers-Eubanks community, to have our voice heard on a national level. We are concerned about our drinking water and our health and the fact that we are bordered by solid waste facilities.
“This is not just something for our community, but a national issue: the quality of life and health as we move into a clean-energy future,” he continued. “It is imperative not to stand at the doors of injustice, but to open the doors and enter. We must be the bold voice and speak out against injustice for those who have no voice.”
Post-doctoral fellow Chris Heaney, who developed a community-based participatory research (CBPR) project to investigate residents’ concerns related to air and water contamination, accompanied Minister Campbell on his trip. Heaney is a Kellogg Health Scholar in the Community Track at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.
Heaney said, “Witnessing [Minister Campbell] take steps up the West Wing of the White House Executive Office Building was inspirational — knowing he was carrying with him the results of community-based participatory research that supported many of the community’s concerns with water and air quality and would be able to share them with the highest level of our nation’s public health leadership.”
In addition to the briefing with the EPA and DHHS, Campbell participated in a breakout session with Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director, and Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
He left behind a 50-page briefing document detailing concerns about landfills, industrial agriculture and livestock operations, and the lack of safe drinking water and sewer services in marginalized, underserved communities of color. He also gave Jackson, Sebelius and Greg Nelson, White House Office of Public Engagement associate director, signed copies of the history book, Rogers Road, a CBPR project with health behavior and health education doctoral student Emily Eidenier.
Minister Campbell presently serves as a member of the deacon board at the Faith Tabernacle Oasis of Love International Church and is president of the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA), co-founder and co-chair of the Coalition to End Environmental Racism (CEER; http://rogersroad.wordpress.com), and 3rd vice president and head of the Environmental Justice Committee of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He is also a board member of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network and a community research associate in partnership with the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.