New Writing Award: Courageous and Transformative Action for Environmental Justice

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We are pleased to announce a new writing award available to UCI undergraduate and graduate students for their reflections on and research about environmental justice. The Courageous and Transformative Action for Environmental Justice Writing 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 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 2019 EJ Writing Award cycle is now complete. The 2019 awards ceremony took place on June 4, 2019. Enjoy the photos below and in the album to the right. The co-sponsors will announce any future awards cycle in Fall 2019.

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.

Preparation: Students can bring their work to the Center for Excellence in Writing and Communication, Science Library 193, 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 before the deadline of 5:00 pm, Monday, April 26, 2019.

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 do original work.

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.

2019 Selection Committee:

  • Tiffany Willoughby-Herard, Associate Professor, African American Studies
  • Salvador Zárate, Ford Postdoctoral Fellow, African American Studies
  • Rabie Kadri, Manager, UCI Law Centers
  • Maya Green, Undergraduate Student, UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts
  • Andrew Highsmith, Associate Professor, History
  • Alana LeBron, Assistant Professor, Public Health and Chicano/Latino Studies
  • Abby Reyes, Director, UCI Community Resilience Projects

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 Monday, April 26, 2019, 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; breast cancer public health; representations of chronic illness and toxicity; cultural revitalization; regenerative systems; protection of earth rights defenders; et cetera. We offer these examples as food for thought; they are not exhaustive.

2019 Award Co-sponsors:

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


April 26, 2019


Contact Place “EJ Writing Award” in the subject line.

2019 Award Ceremony Photos