Texas Southern University received 5-year $3.3 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support the Gulf Coast HBCU Equity Consortium.  The Consortium is led by Texas Southern University (Dr. Robert D. Bullard) and Dillard University (Dr. Beverly Wright), two HBCUs whose members pioneered groundbreaking community based participatory research (before it had a name), crosscutting scholarly writings, policy, and authentic community engagement work around environmental justice and health equity. The project concentrates its efforts in five Gulf Coast States (TX, LA, MS, AL, FL) with special emphasis on Houston, New Orleans, Gulfport-Biloxi, Mobile, and Pensacola. All five of these cities are coastal communities and home to seaports, chemical plants and refineries. Elements of this project have existed and have been field tested in various forms for more than two decades.

The current project seeks funding to expand the HBCU Gulf Coast Equity Consortium—a multi-state collaboration of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and community based organizations (CBOs) formed to address health equity and well-being, social inequality and elevated vulnerability of children (prenatal to age 8) and families in five U.S. Gulf Coast cities. The ultimate goal is to improve the health and well-being of the children and families living in underserved and low wealth communities plagued by environmental threats.

The Consortium currently has 25 HBCUs and more than a dozen CBO partners. The project will leverage the combined resources of this multi-state Gulf Coast regional network to develop state-of-the-art GIS mapping tools, community asset mapping, primary and secondary community-level data, policy mapping and science-driven action planning to confront and begin to dismantle system and institutional barriers pose health threats to the most vulnerable children and families who live in communities that are at “ground zero” of environmental assault, including lead (water, soil and paint in housing), industrial pollution (from ports, chemical plants, refineries, etc.) near schools and playgrounds, waste facilities (municipal, solid and hazardous), transport pollution (cars, trucks, buses, etc.), “food deserts” and “food swamps,” “park deserts” and lack of green space, urban “heat islands,” flooding, illegal dumping and open draining ditches become potential breeding grounds for vectors, including mosquitoes.

The project will also train and support a cadre of HBCU/CBO partners to develop community asset maps, community environmental profiles, community environmental health surveys, policy maps and action plans to leverage resources, organize, advocate, plan and ultimately impact decision-making, policy formulation and systems change that often create and maintain health and racial inequities. And the project will also use education and training, collective “research to action” techniques and tools to formulate community-driven initiatives and plans aimed at addressing key social and environmental and social determinants of health in the five Gulf Coast cities.

Finally, the initiative sets out to implement our “southern initiative” to address health, environmental and racial inequity challenges whose deep roots stem in part from a unique Southern legacy, i.e., slavery, Jim Crow segregation, staunch resistance to equal protection, and institutional and structural racism; strengthen and expand our HBCU-CBO people of color regional network to address health equity; develop effective community-university partnerships; and apply community based participatory research to advance public policy and broad institutional change.