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  • Writer's pictureJustice Jones

EJ Hero Highlight: CMEJ

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

A Highlight of Community Members for Environmental Justice and its founder, Roxxanne O'Brien

Emergency Preparedness, Policy Changes, & Community Resiliency


Do you ever find yourself scrolling through social media feeds, watching the news, or talking to your friends about the current state of the world? At any given moment, we can come across the narrative of CLIMATE DOOM or an impending apocalypse. We see the wildfires in California, hurricanes in Florida, civil unrest in Minneapolis. We may turn around and ask ourselves "What could I possibly do about this? I'm just one person." It doesn't have to be this way, we have options and resources available to us that can help combat the impact of environmental injustice. Today, I'm going to tell you a bit about what others are doing and how you can join!


What is CMEJ?

Community Members for Environmental Justice was created as a means of combatting environmental racism in North Minneapolis. Roxxanne says that she found herself in spaces where she was learning about the environmental impact of major polluters on the Northside and it made her angry, made her want to do something about it. Thus CMEJ was formed.


Community Members for Environmental Justice (CMEJ) is a coalition of caring community members, mothers, and youth who are committed to addressing the environmental injustices occurring disproportionately in pollution-burdened neighborhoods in the City of Minneapolis.


What do they do?

CMEJ works to complete an amazing array of tasks related to EJ.


Advocacy

In 2021, CMEJ was able to remove a major northside polluter called Northern Metals. This was a metal recycling company located right next to the Mississippi river & a City of Minneapolis gas station. They became CMEJ's focus of attention because of their blatant disregard for following permits and protecting community from harmful chemicals. The MPCA permits stacks of metal to remain at 20ft, Northern metals would pile their stacks well past 50. These 50ft high stacks of metal would catch fire, this fire would then produce toxins in the community that cause cancer, asthma, respiratory failure, skin & eye irritation and more. CMEJ showed up to their door countless times in an attempt to get them to explain their practices, tell the truth, and leave our community. Eventually they left, stating "Roxxanne O'Brien has harassed us enough, we are leaving." While this was a huge win for our community, Northern Metals simply moved to Becker Minnesota. Upon its move, their metal stacks caught fire and burned for 5 days in Becker. This required 500million gallons of water to put out.


You can learn more about this work HERE


Policy

This year, CMEJ passed the cumulative impacts bill. The language of this bill closes the door for major polluters like Northern Metals to set up shop in North Minneapolis. While it does not remove the other metal recycling and industrial companies from the corridor, it does allow us to take a break from turning them away.


The cumulative impacts bill isn't the only policy work that CMEJ participates in. You can learn more HERE


Community Resiliency

In 2022, CMEJ received funding from the DEICC to implement a resiliency hub on the Northside. In the event of a natural disaster or civil unrest, the hub can serve as a place to access heating and cooling, resources, and programming related to emergency preparedness. CMEJ has completed other emergency preparedness efforts by providing community members with Go-Bags (bags that carry 3 days worth of survival essentials) that they can take with them in the event of an emergency that requires them to leave their homes.


Stay updated on emergency preparedness work HERE


EJ Tours

The environmental justice tours have been offered by CMEJ since it's inception. These are tours of North Minneapolis that show the depth of environmental racism in the community and the work that is happening to combat the impact on community. It is an excellent starting point for getting involved and gaining knowledge of what's happening in the EJ space.


Book a tour with them HERE


This is just the spark notes version of what happens at CMEJ and Roxxanne O'Brien sits at the center of it all. She is a pillar of the North Minneapolis community and teaches others about the steps they can take to make a difference. You can learn more by following any of the above links and exploring their website! You can find them on instagram @cme_justice to stay up-to-date on events and possible action items!


What Next?

If you're interested in joining the team, you can share your capacity with organizers via their email cmejnorthside@gmail.com

Do you want to share your favorite EJ Hero? Fill out our EJ Hero form for your hero to be featured in our blog and on our website.

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