From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Church woman wins Reebok award

Date 20 May 1996 15:00:53

Dec. 6, 1995
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African-American church woman only U.S. recipient
of 1995 Reebok Human Rights award

      NEW YORK CITY -- An African-American lay minister of the
United Church of Christ is the only United States citizen to be
honored with the 1995 Reebok Human Rights Award.  Angela
Elizabeth Brown, 30, assistant pastor of Saint Delight United
Church of Christ, Louisburg, N.C., was recognized for her work
on environmental justice in rural black communities in the
South.  She received the prestigious award in ceremonies this
week in New York City?s historic Apollo Theater in Harlem.
      Established in 1988 by the British-based shoe
manufacturer, the Reebok Human Rights Award recognizes young
people -- 30 and under -- on the front lines of human rights
work, who early in their lives and against great odds, have had
a significant impact in their communities.  The award includes a
$25,000 contribution to a human rights organization designated
by each recipient.
      Brown is being recognized for her efforts to organize
young people of color to fight environmental racism.  The Reebok
Award cites her efforts as a "wake-up call to young people,
urging them to acknowledge their own power to shape their
surroundings, and ultimately, change their future."
      The term "environmental racism" was first coined by the
United Church of Christ's Commission for Racial Justice in the
early 1980s to describe the practice of placing toxic waste
dumps in the South in poor, mostly black communities where
political resistance to the polluters was weak. 
      Efforts toward environmental justice -- to ensure that
people of color do not bear a disproportionate burden of
exposure to toxic wastes -- first captured national attention in
1982 when there was a demonstration against a proposed hazardous
waste site in Warren County, N.C.  The county is predominantly
African American. 
      Present at that confrontation was Angela Elizabeth Brown,
then 17.  It made a lasting impression on her.  Guided and
inspired by the Commission for Racial Justice, Brown started
organizing young people to resist efforts of big companies and
out-of-state municipalities to look for cheap dump sites in
their communities and to educate the population to fight back. 
In 1992, she founded the Youth Task Force of the Southern
Organizing Committee, a network of youth groups in 10 southern
states and 85 universities that carries on the work of
protesting, organizing and educating.
      More recently, she joined the staff of Greenpeace, working
out of its Atlanta offices.  Greenpeace and the Youth Task Force
stopped the building of a PVC plant in Wallace, La., halted
construction of a hazardous waste incinerator in Noxxubbe,
Miss., and protested the opening of a garbage transfer station
in a people-of-color neighborhood in Birmingham, Ala.
      Brown grew up in Wilmington, N.C., earned a B.A. degree at
the University of North Carolina in Wilmington and has completed
all but one semester of work toward an M.Div. degree at
Southeastern Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
      Other 1995 Reebok Human Rights Award winners are Richard
Nsanzabaganwa, 26, a Rwandan national of Tutsi ethnic origin;
Miguel Angel de los Santos Cruz, 30, a Mexican attorney
representing indigenous people in Chiapas; and Ve Phuntsok
Nyidron, 27, a Tibetan Buddhist nun and political rights
demonstrator, now imprisoned by the Chinese.
      The 1.5-million-member United Church of Christ, with
national offices in Cleveland, has more than 6,200 members in
the United States and Puerto Rico.  The denomination was formed
by a 1957 union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the
Evangelical and Reformed Church.
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