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Great Lakes Virtual Convenings 2021
Tuesday, October 26 – Thursday, October 28

Thank you to everyone that attended the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition virtual conference series, and thank you to our sponsors: the Joyce Foundation, the Mott Foundation, the Great Lakes Fishery Trust, and the Canadian Consulate General of Chicago. Recordings of the panels can be accessed below.

Keynote: White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory

Our conference series will kick-off with a keynote by Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Brenda Mallory. She’ll be speaking to the Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative, the Build Back Better and climate agendas, and the America the Beautiful Plan, along with what these initiatives mean for the Great Lakes region.


Panel: How do we make sure water infrastructure funds go where they’re most needed?

The distribution of water funding continues to need improvement. In particular, communities that have historically borne the disproportionate burden of pollution need increased funding to improve their water systems and keep their residents safe. This panel will address how water policy and funding can reach and benefit these very communities that have been under-represented and disproportionately impacted.

Moderator: Sheyda Esnashaari, Drinking Water Program Director, River Network

Panelists: Elizabeth Cisar, senior advisor for EPA’s Office of Water 
Nick Leonard, Executive Director, Great Lakes Environmental Law Center
ChaQuana McEntyre, Workforce development, Minnesota Environmental Partnership


Panel: Moving forward together: reimagining the environmental movement

Milwaukee water leaders reflect on the direction of the environmental movement and how and why movements focused on the environment, social justice, racial equity, safe drinking water, public health, workforce/economic development, arts, and youth empowerment, are all coming together in this moment.

Moderator: Brenda Coley, Co-Executive Director, Milwaukee Water Commons

Panelists: Huda Alkaff, Founder and Director, Wisconsin Green Muslims
Shalina Ali, Co-Executive Director, Tru Skool
Richard Diaz, Midwest Regional Field Organizer, Blue Green Alliance & Founder, Coalition on Lead Emergency
Jamie Ferschinger, Director of the Department of Environmental Health & Community Wellness, Sixteenth Street Community Health Center


Panel: How do we engage all members of Great Lakes communities in decisions about water and water funding?

Charles Lee, Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. EPA Office of Environmental Justice, will start this session, speaking to effective and meaningful ways that the EPA has engaged Black, Indigenous, and POC communities and individuals in water-related projects. This presentation will be followed by a panel exploring the theme of racial equity and community engagement in water infrastructure and restoration investments throughout the region.

Opening Speaker: Charles Lee, Senior Policy Advisor, US EPA Office of Environmental Justice

Panelists: Kenny Boles, Vice President, Junction Coalition
MaryEllen Baker, Abiinooji-Aki Inc.    


Panel: We’re in a climate crisis, so what do we do about it?/Closing

The 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report once again raised the alarm on climate change, warning of increased extreme weather events and natural disasters. So what do we do? This panel will speak to the large-scale changes and paradigm shifts needed to turn back the clock before we hit climate catastrophe.

Moderator: Lindsey Bacigal, Communications Coordinator, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition

Panelists: Robert Blake, Founder and CEO, Solar Bear
Ananda Lee Tan, Climate Justice Alliance
Andrea Densham, Senior Director of Conservation Policy and Advocacy, Shedd Aquarium
Beth Wallace, Great Lakes Freshwater Campaigns Manager, National Wildlife Federation


Sponsored by: