WE ACT Environmental Justice Center

WE ACT’s vision for an Environmental Justice Center in Harlem is the culmination of three decades of growth and direct experience in transforming frontline communities’ concerns and priorities into successful environmental justice advocacy campaigns.

WE ACT for Environmental Justice has its origins on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 15, 1988, when a group of Harlem activists came together to protest the threat to their community’s air quality posed by the North River Sewage Treatment Plant. Those activists, who included WE ACT’s Co-Founder and Executive Director Peggy Shepard, were arrested that day but ultimately won their fight to improve Harlem’s environmental health.

Since that time, WE ACT has grown from a volunteer organization into a national environmental justice leader with a headquarters in Harlem and a federal policy office in Washington, DC. Our core initiatives include:

  • environmental justice policy advocacy;
  • environmental justice thought leadership;
  • community-based environmental health research with academic institutions like Columbia University and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine;
  • issues education and advocacy training for our more than 1,000 locally-based members;
  • culturally-relevant youth education on environmental stewardship; green jobs workforce development.

WE ACT has continued to grow, to meet the urgent need for environmental justice perspectives and leadership – which are critically important to ensuring that we effectively and equitably address the climate crisis. In 2022 we won landmark environmental justice legislation in New York, including a cumulative impacts law and a major state investment toward environmental stewardship and equitable green jobs. We launched a major nationwide initiative to ensure that the unprecedented federal commitments to climate investment reach the communities where they are needed most. And we partnered with two other national Environmental Justice leaders to host the first-ever Climate Justice Pavilion at COP27 in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt – an important milestone in elevating the place of frontline communities in the United Nations’ climate negotiations.


What WE ACT has been able to accomplish over the last 35 years will only be amplified once we have a place to call our own. With the undeniable threat posed by climate change and environmental racism to our communities, it is imperative that our staff, members, youth, community leaders, and partners, have a physical space (a first of its kind in Harlem and Northern Manhattan) to convene, work, educate, train, collaborate, organize, and mobilize. In our new Environmental Justice Center, we will:

  • Provide 1000+ children and youth with our Environmental Health and Justice Leadership Training curriculum
  • Train 100+ workers with the skills needed for well-paying green jobs
  • Provide hundreds of Northern Manhattan residents with the knowledge and tools to lead community-based campaigns, through participation in our working groups and monthly membership meetings.
  • Lead non-partisan get-out-the-vote efforts to mobilize thousands of voters on environmental justice issues
  • Share our experience, expertise, and best practices with allies and decisionmaker locally and nationally
  • Equip grassroots environmental justice allies for success, with capacity-build grants and technical assistance
  • Serve as a “headquarters” and convening center for environmental justice leaders and advocates nationwide.
  • Achieve policy wins, strengthened environmental regulations, and investment in environmental justice communities.


WE ACT owns a five-story brownstone in Harlem, WE ACT’s home community. We are launching a $5 million campaign to completely renovate and transform the building into a state-of-the-art community-based Environmental Justice Center, and grow our education, workforce development, and advocacy programs. Funds will be used for:

  • Capital Expenses – to renovate and outfit the Center with education and training spaces; multi-media technology; lab and STEAM equipment; and office space for our New York team.
  • Programming – to launch new educational and research programs, applying what we do and learn locally to a national audience with national impact.
  • Staffing – to recruit and retain experienced personnel that can ensure WE ACT’s institutional knowledge is strengthened, refined, and amplified over time.
  • Sustainability – to create an Operating Reserve Fund that covers three years of our expenses and a Capital Reserve Fund for inevitable building maintenance costs.


Join with us to open the doors to Northern Manhattan’s first community-based environmental education center, a milestone in this movement to increase the pace of environmental and climate justice and create the pipeline for future climate justice leaders and changemakers.

This is no small task. Not only do we have a rapidly closing window to meet critical emissions reductions targets, but we must also ensure that the most impacted communities are uplifted rather than harmed by the opportunities and burdens created by intensive climate infrastructure investments. By supporting our Environmental Justice Center, you can help mobilize the residents of low-income communities of color across the US to demand environmental justice and have a seat at the table in decisions that affect the health of their neighborhoods.

Please make a gift that is as meaningful to you as it will be to the communities and families seeking environmental and climate justice.


Please Support the WE ACT Environmental Justice Center

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