Environmental Justice and Civic Conversation | April 20, 2017

At the age of 27, Dr. John Francis stopped talking. A few months prior, an oil spill prompted John to stop using motorized vehicles, and his quiet act of defiance set his town into a roaring debate. In the clashing of voices, John lost his own, and took the next 17 years (no, that’s not a typo!) to simply listen, and walk. His feet traveled through Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, and the US, and eventually came upon the beating heart of environmentalism. More than 20,000 miles and a doctorate later, this Planetwalker has devoted his life to civic engagement and sustainability, and understands preservation as the interplay of human rights, gender, race and economic equality.  On April 20, we experienced Dr. Francis’ Planetwalk firsthand, and gained perspectives from Khalif Ali (Pittsburgh Foundation), Evaine K. Sing (GTECH), Joan Haley (Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows) and Jason Beery (UrbanKind Institute) about civic conversation in Pittsburgh.

Inspire Speakers Series: Environmental Justice and Civic Conversation with Dr. John Francis, Planetwalker

More About Our Speakers:

Dr. John Francis

Dr. John Francis traveled by foot for 22 years, and spent 17 of those completely silent.  When John was 26 years old, an oil tanker collision prompted him to give up motorized vehicles, a decision which spurred so many arguments that by 27, he decided to stop talking.  During the two decades when he became the Planetwalker, John earned a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and doctorate, all while spreading a silent message of sustainability and social justice with his banjo. He founded the Planetwalk Foundation in 1982, and upon breaking his silence on Earth Day in 1990, Dr. Francis dedicated his life to creating conversation. After ending his silence in 1990, Dr. Francis has spent his subsequent years carrying that same message across the country.

Here are some ways he has shared his message:

 

Khalif Ali

Khalif is the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at The Pittsburgh Foundation. In partnership with residents, grassroots activists and political leaders, Khalif works to craft and advance a policy and advocacy agenda for the Foundation. He has a graduate degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in community organizing. When he’s not at the Foundation, you might find him volunteering with the Reaching Back Program or coaching male Pittsburgh Public School students in health, wellness, nutrition, exercise and meditation.

 

Evaine K. Sing

Evaine is the Executive Director of GTECH Strategies, which mobilizes residents, policy-makers, and like-minded organizations to transform vacant spaces into thriving places across Allegheny County. She is a registered landscape architect with a background in public policy and economic development. She has worked to engage individuals to implement creative, sustainable solutions that can lead to larger changes in their neighborhoods. Evaine has also worked with partners at the policy and decision-making level to ensure pathways for change exist.

 

Joan Haley

Joan is the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows Program and the former Clinical Director of Southwest Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center. With more than thirty years working in the non-profit sector in the fields of management, adult education, training and development, she has taught leadership training and strategic planning to professionals and volunteers and is an experienced curriculum writer and fundraiser. Joan received a Master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Adult Education and Training.

 

Jason Beery

Jason is the Senior Research and Policy Analyst at UrbanKind Institute. Trained as a geographer, he examines spatial difference from a holistic, intersectional perspective, blending political, economic, environmental, legal, and health issues with race, gender, and class. Jason focuses on a variety of areas, including environmental justice, community development, food systems, transportation, and housing. Jason received his PhD in Geography from the University of Manchester (UK), his M.S. in Geography from Penn State, and his B.A. in International Studies from Johns Hopkins University.  His research has been published in Political Geography, Geoforum, and elsewhere.

 

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