Reviving Social Justice and Civil Rights Through the Certification Program

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By Faith Harris, member of GSI's Advisory Committee and leader of PSOT's Green Team

I was pleased that Virginia Union University’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology (STVU) was selected in the first cohort of the Green Seminary Initiative (GSI) Certification program. STVU’s participation in the certification program with GSI has been a wonderful opportunity to expand and raise the awareness among our faculty and students of the reality and impact of climate change. Our participation in the certification process has been inspiring and is reviving the social justice and civil rights history of Virginia Union University. From the very beginning, I knew that it would be important for our green team to include students as well as faculty and staff. Student members have been integral partners in the certification process, participating in the audit and contributing to the action plan as well as planning and participating in our classes and events thus far.

I asked two students from the team, Monica Flippen and Tawn Walker, to write brief statements describing their experiences with the GSI green team. Monica Flippen is a second-year student and a partner in a local architectural design firm. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our team. Tawn Walker is a third-year student who also works for the university as a career coach. She offers her unique technological and administrative skills to the team. They have contributed to the progress of the certification process and offer creative energy toward expanding awareness among the student body.

From Monica Flippen: “My involvement with the GSI team has influenced me to be cognizant of the materials I use on and off the campus to ensure that I'm being a good steward of God's creation. I have made specific changes in my personal and professional life such as purchasing and using things that will not contribute to the growth of the landfill. Purchasing reusable shopping bags, implementing a recycle plan at home and using water bottles in lieu of Styrofoam cups has not only reduced waste but has also saved me money. I also share everything that I learn with those that I encounter. Being a part of the GSI team has heightened my awareness of my responsibilities to educate the community and advocate for environmental justice on a local level. I really excited to be a part of a movement that will have not only an environmental impact but more importantly a spiritual impact.”

From Tawn Walker: “An important part of my journey in seminary has been a growing awareness of how the church can be instrumental in educating others about creation care. This occurred by being a part of the Green Seminary Initiative. Working with this team has inspired a call to action in my personal life, my vocation as a minister of the gospel and my commitment to address social justice issues that impact people of color.”