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COVID-19 Leaders

Spelman Community Members Lead Efforts to Stop the Spread of COVID-19 and Raise Environmental Justice Concerns

As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread through a growing number of regions in the United States and the rest of the world, many members of the Spelman community are working tirelessly to do their part to help stop the spread and raise environmental justice concerns beyond the health crisis.

We know there are  more individuals who are connected to Spelman who are on the front lines or working behind the scenes, but here are just a few examples: Dr. Wilma Wooten, C’78, San Diego County’s Public Health Officer is leading her county's COVID-19 response; Dr. Bernice King, C'85, has been appointed co-chair of a new outreach committee in Georgia as the state copes with the coronavirus; and Dr. Fatemeh Shafiei, associate professor and chair of political science, was quoted in the article, "Coronavirus is not just a health crisis — it’s an environmental justice crisis" in "Grist."

Fatemeh Shafiei Lends Her Voice to "Coronavirus as an Environmental Justice Crisis"Article

Fatemeh Shafiei

Fatemeh Shafiei, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at Spelman College, has worked for many years to support environmental justice and environmental education. With her finger always on the pulse of the environmental justice conversation, it is no wonder she is quoted extensively in the article "Coronavirus is not just a health crisis — it’s an environmental justice crisis" in "Grist."

The author of the article, Yvette Cabrera, writes: Dr. Shafiei has studied the social conditions that determine a person’s health outcome and discovered through her extensive research that there is a great deal of evidence showing that "low-income residents and people of color are disproportionately exposed to health-threatening environments in their homes, neighborhoods and workplaces."

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People are being denied their equal rights,” said Shafiei in the article. “If you look at the disproportionate number of COVID victims and the percentage of AfricanEnd of Quote Americans in the general population — 13 percent — then that means it has really impacted their right to live.

Dr. Shafiei advocates that collecting more COVID-19 data on race/ethnicity and income is crucial and will help policymakers appropriately direct resources to these communities. In the article, Dr. Shafiei said, “COVID showed that it is the result of all these years of policies and practices that have really been detrimental to the health of minority communities and has put them at risk."

A member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), Dr. Shafiei has been a leader in advancing integration of sustainability into college, university, high school, and middle school curricula for more than two decades. She has served as an environmental justice consultant for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Bates College. She was a member of the Academic Advisory Board for the "Annual Editions: Sustainability,"which was published by McGraw-Hill Higher Education "Contemporary Learning Series. She is the director of the Environmental Studies Program and Sustainable Spelman Committee co-chair

"As never before, Dr. Shafiei's work in the area of environmental justice is greatly needed, " said Spelman College Provost Sharon L. Davies, JD. "We are grateful for her active engagement in discussions about the disproportionate impact COVID-19 is having on communities of color and low-income residents, and for "connecting the dots" between our highly racialized history of policies and practices and those disparities."

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