Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce

Westfield State University to host Cross-Cultural Symposium “Environmental Justice”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 21, 2020
CONTACT: Troy Watkins,, 413.572.5523

WESTFIELD Westfield State University will host its sixth annual Cross-Cultural Symposium, titled “Environmental Justice,” Friday, March 20, at 9 a.m., in Scanlon Banquet Hall.

The event will offer a panel of speakers from various fields discussing, literature, film, health science, and social activism focused on environmental issues, mining disturbances, food security, and urban environmental effects.

This event will feature a conversation with filmmaker Esther Figueroa, director of Fly Me to the Moon, a feature-length documentary about the mining of bauxite in Jamaica and other regions for the advancement of space travel, and the legacy of toxic waste and social injustice left behind.

Leah Penniman, author of Farming While Black, will be a keynote speaker. She is co-founder, co-director, and program manager of Soul Fire Farm; a Black/Indigenous/People of color-centered community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system. The farm raises and distributes life-giving food as a means to end food apartheid; bringing diverse communities together to share skills on sustainable agriculture, natural building, spiritual activism, and environmental justice.

Panelists will include:

  • Ibrahim Ali, co-director, Gardening the Community, Springfield, Mass.;
  • Raphael E. Arku, professor of environmental health studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst;
  • Brian Conz, Ph.D., professor of geography, planning and sustainability, Westfield State;
  • Esther Figueroa, Ph.D., novelist, filmmaker, environmental activist;
  • Gideon Porth, owner, Atlas Farm, Deerfield, Mass.;
  • Sally Fitz, co-owner, Small Ones Farm, Amherst, Mass.;
  • Jallicia Jolly, Ph.D., candidate, professor of American studies and Black studies, Amherst College. Jolly will address women’s health and the environment.
  • Mary Njeri Kinyanjui, Ph.D., Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi. Dr. Kinyanjui will focus her remarks on entrepreneurship, farming, fishing, and urban environmental studies.
  • Leah Penniman, co-founder, co-director, and program manager, Soul Fire Farm, Petersburg, N.Y.
  • Alula Shields, graduate student, environmental conservation program, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Shields will address climate change and anthropogenic disturbances on indigenous knowledge systems in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

The event is free and open to the public.

Image: Leah Penniman, author, Farming While Black

Founded in 1839 by Horace Mann, Westfield State University is an education leader committed to providing every generation of students with a learning experience built on its founding principle as the first public co-educational college in America to offer an education without barrier to race, gender or economic status. This spirit of innovative thinking and social responsibility is forged in a curriculum of liberal arts and professional studies that creates a vital community of engaged learners who become confident, capable individuals prepared for leadership and service to society. For more information about Westfield State University, visit,, or


Go back