Equity and Inclusion


In response to the proposal from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that congregations focus on the dismantling of racism, the Adrian Dominican Sisters begin by identifying resources that can assist us in raising our consciousness of white privilege and white supremacy, both personally and systematically.

Our Toward Communion: Undoing Racism and Embracing Diversity Committee and our Justice Promoters are collaborating on a Black Catholic Project that begins on January 18, 2021, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This project seeks to provide information on prominent Blacks and Black Catholics who have made significant contributions to the church and society, along with reflection questions and a prayer.

 

Equity and Inclusion Project

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Hazel M. Johnson (1935-2011)

Hazel M. Johnson

Hazel Johnson, a woman whose Catholic faith led her to a place that many feared to go, speaking truth to power, still challenges and inspires many in the environmental justice movement ten years after her death. 
 
Here’s an account of her early life, according to a story by Brian Roewe and published by National Catholic Reporter:

“The oldest of four siblings and the only one to live past their first birthday, Hazel was raised Catholic, and at age 11, sent to a Catholic orphanage school after her mother became ill with tuberculosis, of which she died a year later. Her father, a truck driver, was often on the road and unable to take care of her.” For several years Hazel spent time in Los Angeles with her aunt, then returned to New Orleans to live with her grandmother. While working in a factory there, she met her husband, John.

The couple moved to Chicago, began a family, and she became a parishioner of Our Lady of the Garden Church, in Altgeld Gardens. She was active in the parish as a volunteer and was active in her neighborhood community. 

Altgeld Gardens Homes, a South Side Chicago housing project managed by the Chicago Housing Authority and originally built to house American war veterans, was surrounded by landfills, industrial buildings, and sewage-treatment plants. Hazel began to notice the prevalence of chronic skin and respiratory issues among her children and the other children living there. Following her husband’s death from cancer in 1969, she began to take a deeper look at how the environmental conditions in her neighborhood were impacting the health of her family and neighbors.  

In 1979 she founded the People for Community Recovery (PCR), that focused on fighting environmental racism as it affected the residents of Altgeld Gardens public housing project. She went on to become a leader in the environmental justice movement. 
 

(“Hazel Johnson, the Mother of Environmental Justice, was Catholic” by Brian Roewe for Earthbeat, National Catholic Reporter, February 26, 2021. Image of Hazel M. Johnson courtesy of PCR, used with permission.)


Resources

Videos

Hazel Johnson Speaks Truth to Power
https://video.wttw.com/video/hazel-johnson-pollution-chicagos-southeast-side-lhhtzc/

Poisoned Politics: The Ongoing Fight to Clean Up Chicago’s ‘Toxic Doughnut’
https://youtu.be/f0pF7k80EkA

Environmental Justice and Altgeld Gardens
https://youtu.be/CHDLfY9kU04

 

Articles

Fighting Her Good Fight: Hazel Johnson battles those who want to turn her Chicago housing project into a toxic dump - February 18, 1993
Los Angeles Times staff writer, Josh Getlin, interviews Hazel Johnson the organization she founded, People for Community Recovery and other venues including a visit with Robert Whitfield, Chief Operating Office of the Chicago Housing Authority.

Remembering "The Mother of Environmental Justice" - March 15, 2021
Nancy Unger, Professor of History at Santa Clara University, published “Beyond Nature’s Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History” (Oxford University Press). In this book,  Unger recognized an important theme running through the three topics, women’s history, gender, and the environment.

The Mother of Environmental Justice: Hazel Johnson the the Toxic Doughnut - May 23, 2018
Environmental Justice Institute for Sustainability, University of Illinois
Lisen Holmström was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and is finishing up a M.S. degree in Landscape Ecology at the University of Illinois. This article was researched and written for ESE 498, the CEW capstone course, in Spring 2018.

Hazel Johnson, the mother of environmental justice, was Catholic - February 26, 2021
Article written by Brian Roewe, Earth Beat: Stories of Climate Crisis, Faith and Action


Reflection Questions

1. Hazel Johnson once said, “I definitely think I've been chosen by a higher power to do this work.”  Have you ever had a similar experience, that like Hazel Johnson, you knew your faith in God, a higher power, the Spirit was moving you or calling you to something special or beyond what you thought was possible?

2. Hazel Johnson had the courage to speak truth to power. She persisted even though many times she was ridiculed or criticized that she did not have the facts, or that she was just making up statistics. Hazel’s persistence models for us what fidelity to gospel values calls us do. What is Jesus calling you to do or to be?


Prayer

In Solidarity With All Creation

Oh how beautiful are your ways, O God, the works of your creation. Raise our consciousness to know and feel deeply in our hearts our connectedness to all that is.

Instill in us the gift of being co-creators and sustainers of life. Teach us new and unsuspected ways of living so that current and future generations can walk humbly in beauty, love all compassionately, and live justly in solidarity with all creation.

Loving and gracious God, give us the courage to seek this transformation of self and society and the strength to see it through. 

Amen

- School Sisters of Notre Dame Green Team
 

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People of African Descent on the Path to Sainthood

 

U.S. Black Catholic History Links

Black Catholic History page by Seattle University

Timeline from the National Black Catholic Congress

Sister Jamie T. Phelps, OP, discusses Black Catholics in America with Dr. Paul Lakeland for Fairfield University's "Voices of Others" video series

News report on one of the oldest Black Catholic parishes in the U.S., St. Elizabeth Catholic Church (formerly St. Monica) in Chicago, Illinois

 

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