Ma’at (my-OT) is the Egyptian goddess of justice and truth. The Ma’at Youth Academy is an environmental organization committed to the rights of youth to safe, healthy, diverse and rewarding environments, and to their capacity to achieve these conditions themselves. We believe that youth are often best-positioned to do the legwork required for real change. MYA links low-income and at-risk youth of color with the educational, social and cultural opportunities that empower them to combat environmental and economic injustices. Alumni of the program have moved into jobs at other nonprofits, colleges and universities, and health and environmental professions.

The Ma’at Youth Academy, founded and directed by lifelong Richmond resident Sharon Fuller, seeks to improve all ecological relationships, including those between humanity and nature, as well as between people. MYA was founded in 1994 to use knowledge of the community’s environmental assets and problems as a means to give urban youth a sense of their potentialities, entitlements and capacities as community members.

MYA brings into the public school system a program of environmental science and experiential education that helps students identify, explain and act upon barriers to their access to clean air, water and soil; public spaces; safe and livable conditions; good health care and educational opportunity and to better jobs often tied to restorative activities. MYA uses an environmental justice definition of environment, such that parks and creeks as well as residential urban neighborhoods are tightly linked environmental sites in which to study and act. MYA’s approach to education combines classroom learning with field research, with clear results—attendance doubles in MYA-led classes.

Ma’at Youth of summer 2013:

Environmental Justice is the Fundamental right of every person (regardless of age, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sex, ability, religious identity, or economic conditions), to live and work in an area that is free from substances which are harmful to human health. Environmental Justice is the ability to be free from direct, and/or indirect economic oppression through environmental degradation.

Achieving environmental justice requires implementing equitable and sustainable policy that results in the universal protection of the rights to natural resources and ecological interdependence for all cultures of people.

Environmental justice also requires equal access to opportunities for all peoples to lead in protecting our environments and influencing others to maintain a healthy and sustainable environment. This includes having mutual accountability of all people to do what is necessary to consistently maintain thriving and equitable local communities; to reuse resources that are available to us; to use land responsibly; and to make personal choices to produce as little waste as possible.

In closing: environmental justice is to respect and sustain mother earth, as all people are sustained by mother earth’s resources and the communities in which we are living.

 

Check out our Initiatives under our “What We Do” tab for a list of our current programs!