TGIF Spotlight: Neena Mohan
For our last TGIF Project Leader spotlight this semester, we’re featuring Neena Mohan, one of the seven project leaders of “Environmental Education for Students of Color”. Neena worked alongside Jessie Navarro, Jed Lee, Sarah Naameh, Kelly Chang, and Zahira Chaudhry to put on the Students of Color Environmental Collective (SCEC)’s first environmental conference centered for students of color in the environmental movement earlier this semester. The conference, themed “Root, Sprout, Blossom” featured keynotes, panels, and workshops from environmentalists of color to center the most marginalized in the environmental conversation.
Neena, who worked as the Conference Manager/Organizer, is a senior studying Environmental Science and Conservation Resource Studies with a LGBT Studies minor. The idea for the conference emerged from SCEC as a whole, from both current and past members. There was and is a growing need for students of color to feel represented in the mainstream environmental movement and for the movement itself to address and center environmental justice issues. Throughout the project, Neena and the other organizers sought to build community with other students of color through exploration of their relationship with the environmental movement and how that relationship intersects with their own communities and lived experiences. In light of the university’s (as well as CNR’s) deep history of a lack of representation and systemic exclusion of people of color, the SCEC conference hoped to rectify some of that damage and shift mainstream narratives around environmentalism. Neena’s proudest achievement while working on this project was being on a team that managed to secure Teresa Baker of the African American Nature & Parks Experience as well as Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino of Café Ohlone so that they could share their powerful messages with attendees.
SCEC received a second TGIF Spring Grant to fund next year’s conference, which Neena hopes will expand the conferences’ scope and outreach to include more students of color outside of Berkeley. Neena’s advice for future TGIF grant applicants would be to include the human element of your environmental work. She says, “Even if your project is focused on something super technical, there is always a way to connect it back to issues of justice and of people who are impacted by what you are doing”. After graduation, Neena will be working as the Environmental Equity Summer Associate at the Greenlining Institute.