Dr. Beverly Wright is a professor of Sociology and the founding director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ). For nearly two decades, she has been a leading scholar and advocate in the environmental justice arena. She has created a unique center, formerly at Xavier University, and currently at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. The DSCEJ is one of the few community/university partnerships that addresses environmental and health inequities in the Lower Mississippi River Industrial Corridor, the area commonly referred to as Cancer Alley.
Since Hurricane Katrina, much of the work at the DSCEJ has focused on research, policy, and community outreach, assistance, and education of displaced African-American residents of New Orleans. Dr. Wright has been an advocate of the safe return of residents, addressing the critical issues of health and environmental restoration and monitoring fairness as it relates to standards of clean up. The center has been a resource to the community providing education, training, and job placement to displaced citizens of New Orleans.
Dr. Wright has conducted groundbreaking and significant research in the area of environmental justice and developed a curriculum for use at the elementary school level that has been used by the New Orleans Public Schools. She manages Hazardous Waste Worker Training Programs that embrace a work-based curriculum and a holistic approach to learning for young men and women living near Superfund and Brownfield sites resulting in their employment.
Dr. Wright provided valuable input into President Clinton's Environmental Justice Transition paper. For her work, she was called to the White House on February 11, 1994, to witness the signing of the Executive Order on Environmental Justice. On April 12, 1994, she was named to the EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC).
On January 11, 1995, Dr. Wright was appointed to the Corps of Engineers’ Environmental Advisory Board and served on the City of New Orleans/Mayor’s Office of Environmental Affairs’ Brownfields Consortium. She served for many years on the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights for the State of Louisiana and formally served on the City of New Orleans’ Select Committee for the Sewerage and Water Board under the administration of Mayor Marc Morial.
She has chaired the 2002 Second National People of Color Leadership Summit and most recently in 2010, Dr. Wright served as the co-chair of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Taskforce for New Orleans Mayor-Elect Mitch Landrieu’s transition team and also served on the Ethics Review Board for the City of New Orleans. She is currently serving on the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans and its Infrastructure Committee. Dr. Wright is a member of the advisory board of the Tony Mazzocchi Center of the United Steelworkers of America. She also currently co-chairs the Environmental Justice Climate Change Initiative, is a member of the Commission Delegation to the U.N. Conference on Climate Change (COP15 and 16) and serves as founder and president of the African American Women of Purpose and Power in New Orleans.
Dr. Wright received the 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award from the State University of New York, Buffalo, the Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Award in 2006, the 2008 EPA Environmental Justice Achievement Award, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition 2008 Community Award, the Ford Motor Company’s Freedom’s Sisters Award in July of 2009, the prestigious 2009 Heinz Award as well as the 2010 Beta Kappa Chi Humanitarian Assistance Award bestowed by the National Institute of Science and the Conrad Arensberg Award given by the Society for the Anthropology of Work in 2010. Additionally, she was also recognized by the Grios as one of its 100 History Makers in the Making in 2010. She has also received the Urban Affairs Association’s SAGE Activist Scholar Award in May of 2011. Dr. Wright continues to serve as a strong voice in the grassroots environmental justice movement.