My return to TSU completes a full circle in my academic career. Although I had other options, I made a conscious choice to return to an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to continue my research, policy, and community engagement work in the areas of environmental justice, public health, housing, transportation, land-use planning, regional equity, smart growth, sustainability, equitable development, food security, disasters, clean energy, climate, civil rights and human rights—all seen through a racial equity lens. Since TSU is the school that launched my professional career, it was my first choice. Now, it’s time to give back.
While at TSU, I was able to work with my sociology graduate and undergraduate students to develop some groundbreaking and cutting-edge research and policy work around race, environment, and waste that grew out the 1979 lawsuit, Bean v. Southwestern Waste Management Corp., a lawsuit filed my wife, attorney Linda McKeever Bullard, who represented a group of African American Houston homeowners opposed to a plan that would locate a municipal landfill in the middle of their Northwood Manor subdivision.
The Bean case was the first of its kind in the United States that charged environmental discrimination in waste facility siting under the civil rights laws. Linda asked me to conduct a waste facility siting study and serve as an expert witness on the case. No study like this had ever been undertaken by anyone. At the time, I was an untenured assistant professor at TSU. In short, my wife had sued my employer—the State of Texas. We knew then as we know today, taking on this case was the right thing to do—no matter the risks. Clearly, I owe my career trajectory to Linda and the Bean case.
It feels great to return “home” to give back to the place that gave me my start and set me on my environmental justice journey. I know much more now than I knew way back in 1987 with one book under my academic belt. I returned last month with 17 books and 25 years of real-world experience. I am eager to share.