Pig waste from an industrial hog farm polluting a nearby water source. These pollutants spread and are even sprayed into our communities, causing widespread environmental damage and public health problems which violate our civil rights.

The Problem

All individuals and groups of people should live in a safe and healthy environment. However, because of their race, ethnicity, and income, many North Carolinians have been subjected to living in unsafe environments. This is environmental injustice!

Environmental injustices exist because many businesses, government agencies, and other organizations in positions of power have discriminatory practices and policies. This is what it means when something becomes “institutionalized.”

Environmental injustices occur not only in our backyard, but also at the state, national, and international level. Thus, environmental injustice is everyone’s problem.

Read our full Principles of Environmental Justice here.

Our Mission, Vision, Values:

“To promote health and environmental equality for all people of North Carolina through community action for clean industry, safe workplaces and fair access to all human and natural resources. We seek to accomplish these goals through organizing, advocacy, research, and education based on principles of economic equity and democracy for all people.”

Meet Our Staff Members

Għanja O'Flaherty

Għanja O'Flaherty

Co-Director of Infrastructure and Development

Għanja O’Flaherty is passionate about ensuring her people’s access to and enjoyment of the environment through equitable use and preservation of natural resources. She holds an M.S is Environmental Sciences and Engineering from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (UNC) and a B.Eng in Environmental Engineering from Carleton University. Hailing from St. Kitts-Nevis, Għanja’s small island upbringing comes to bear on her understanding that cookie-cutter solutions fit cookie-cutter problems of which there are not many. She values context and the co-design and co-production of solutions. Outside of work, Għanja is likely to be found in her garden or garage, working on her next project with her dog, Cosmo.

Chris Hawn

Chris Hawn

Co-Director of Research and Education

Dr. Chris Hawn is our new Co-Director of Research and Education. Dr. Chris Hawn is an environmental scientist who specializes in making science accessible to all. Growing up in the desert, their love of the environment is rooted in the southwest and blossomed in the southeast. They received their Ph.D. in zoology at NC State in 2015. Since then they’ve been learning grassroots organizing skills to apply to the field of public science with the vision of science that supports accessible and liberated futures.

If you’re ever looking for Chris, you’ll probably find them making friends with a spider, practicing archery, or boppin around with their toddler, spouse, and dog. 

Rania Masri

Rania Masri

Co-Director of Organizing and Policy

Dr. Rania Masri is our new Co-Director of Organizing and Policy. Rania Masri been an activist and organizer since 1993, and a professor and researcher since 2005. She has taught interdisciplinary environmental sciences, environmental justice, and communications at the University of Balamand, American University of Beirut, and the Lebanese American University, respectively. Prior to her move to Lebanon in 2005, she was the Director of the Southern Peace Research and Education Center at the Institute for Southern Studies in North Carolina  (2002-2005).  Throughout, Rania has worked to bring a holistic lens to the environment, and a recognition that environmental management must encompass a human rights and social justice practice and is, in and of itself, a struggle for full citizenship. In essence, it is all a question of environmental justice. Her research and activism have centered on anti-sanctions (Iraq)/anti-war (Iraq, Afghanistan), anti-occupation & anti-apartheid (Palestine), environmental justice (water and food sovereignty; pollution; land rights), and civil and voting rights. She served as an expert in the Court of Conscience during which she presented testimony on the environmental impact of the 2006 Israeli War on Lebanon. (Incidentally, Rania completed her doctorate from NCSU in 2000, and learned about solidarity activism from her 19 years in NC.)

Naeema Muhammad

Naeema Muhammad

Senior Advisor

Naeema has been Organizing Co-Director with NCEJN since 2013 and now serves as Senior Advisor. She’s married to Saladin Muhammad and together they have 3 children, 10 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren. They have been married for 52 years and reside in Rocky Mount, NC.

Naeema has worked on two NIEHS funded grants. The first was Community Health and Environmental Reawakening (CHER) in which she served as a community organizer working with communities dealing with waste from industrial hog operations. In this position, she worked with the late Dr. Steve Wing, a founding member of NCEJN and Associate Professor at UNC Gillngs School of Public Health, and was supervised by Gary Grant, Executive Director of Concerned Citizens of Tillery. She has co-authored publications with Dr. Wing regarding community based participatory research (most recently in the New Solutions Health Journal). She also serves on the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Secretary’s Environmental Justice & Equity Advisory Board.

Board Members

M. Zulayka Santiago, MPA – Co-Chair

Zulayka is the Founder and Creative Director of Libélula Consulting.  In that role she provides inspiration, instigation, and support for projects focused on equity, social justice, and authentic community engagement. Her commitment is to center love and wholeness to recalibrate power.

Zulayka obtained a Master of Public Administration Degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Certificate in Nonprofit Management.  Her undergraduate degree is in Pan-African Studies from Barnard College, Columbia University. She is a Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity. She was also part of the 06-08 William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations through the Wildacres Leadership Initiative and serves on the Governance Team for Change Elemental. 

Zulayka is a founding member of Earthseed Land Collective in Durham, NC.  In 2018 she also received her Level I Certification through the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership, one small step on her learning journey as an amateur naturalist.  She spends her days nurturing her tendencies towards connection, awe and wonder.

Ajamu Dillahunt Jr. – Co-Chair

Masters/Phd candidate at University of Michigan

Ajamu Amiri Dillahunt is a Ph.D. Student in the Department of History at Michigan State University and an Assistant Editor with Black Perspectives, the award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society. He is a member of Black Workers for Justice (BWFJ) and a board member with the Interreligious Foundation of Community Organizations (IFCO). He is also a former intern with the SNCC Digital Gateway Project at Duke University. In May of 2019, Ajamu graduated from North Carolina Central University with a B.A. in History and a B.A. in Political Science.

Don Cavellini

Pitt County Coalition Against Racism

Don is a founding member of NCEJN and the Public Service Workers Union (UE Local 150). He is also the Co-Chair of the Coalition Against Racism in Pitt County, NC.

Kamaria Kaalund

Kamaria Kaalund is a Policy Analyst for Health Equity at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy. In this role, Kamaria supports health equity research projects, policy analysis, and educational initiatives. Her research interests include community-focused health policy approaches to reduce health inequities and the intersections between neuroscience, environmental health, and policy. 

She is a 2020 graduate of Wellesley College where she earned a B.A. in Neuroscience and Anthropology. During her time at Wellesley, she worked with the: Early Childhood Cognition Lab at MIT on an online child development research platform; at the Computational Cognitive Development Lab at Rutgers University as a summer intern; and then within Wellesley’s Centers for Women National SEED Project to support its goals of creating conversational communities that drive personal, organizational, and societal change toward greater equity and diversity. Outside of work she enjoys writing, playing soccer, and being by the lake. 

Rosa Saavedra

Founder/Director of Compañeras Campesinas 

Sherrod Knox

Organizations in Our Network

West End Revitalization Association
Royal Oak Concerned Citizens Association

NC Climate Justice Collective

Down East Coal Ash Coalition

We are inviting communities to join our network and help fight for environmental justice.