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Damu Smith Award recognition for Alumnus Omega and Brenda Wilson, Co-Founders of the West End Revitalization Association (WERA)

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Damu Smith Award recognition for Alumnus Omega and Brenda Wilson, Co-Founders of the West End Revitalization Association (WERA)
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Alumnus Omega and Brenda are the first couple to receive this award from American Public Health Association (APHA) for their three decades of work on environmental justice from Mebane to The White House. APHA NC state branch, the NC Public Health Association (NCPHA) has endorsed WERA’s recent work on the lack of federal oversight and regulations on COVID-19 Hazardous, Medical, and Testing Waste throughout the nation.

Co-founders of the West End Revitalization Association (WERA) in 1994 of Mebane, NC. WERA incorporated as a 501-(c)(3) non-profit in 1995.

Mission: Support access to “basic public health amenities” (safe drinking water, sewer lines, housing, streets, sidewalks, and storm-water management) for people of color and marginalized communities. Federal administrative complaints were filed to support first-time infrastructure installation under the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, etc.

WERA supports primarily African American and Native American heritage communities: West End, White Level, Kimrey Road / Hawfields in Alamance County, and Buckhorn, Perry Hill, and Cheeks Cross in Orange County. February 1999 & Sept 2014: WERA filed complaints at U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and referenced the Environmental Justice Executive Order 12898 – 1994, to challenge the planned 8-lane interstate corridor that would destroy two historic African American and Native American communities in Mebane, NC. DOJ directed six branches of the federal government to investigate their lack of oversight of civil rights and public health guidelines during the highway planning process that had been going on for 16 years without opportunities for public input.

The highway construction was placed on moratorium from 1999 to 2016. More than 100 homeowners, out of 500, have since had sewer lines installed for the first time and dirt streets paved, even though homes have been within two blocks of Mebane’s municipal sewer treatment plant since it was constructed in 1921.

Omega served as a “community perspective” member of EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (2007-2010). The EPA publication “Information to Action: Strengthening EPA Citizen Science Partnerships for Environmental Protection” (April 2018) features a case study on WERA community-owned and managed research (COMR) model. Omega and Brenda served on the National Citizen Science CitSci-2019 Conference’s Environmental Justice Planning Committee (2017-2019), Raleigh, NC.

In the AARP Bulletin-April 2019, both are featured as “senior citizen – citizen scientists” for collaborative problem-solving that “addresses human being in their environment.” Omega R Wilson: BA in Radio-TV-Film 1973, Shaw University, Raleigh, NC; MA in Mass Communications 1974, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio; PhD Coursework ABD in Mass Communications 1976, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio. Brenda A Crosby-Wilson: BA in Education 1974, Shaw University, Raleigh, NC; MAED in Special Education 1980, Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi.

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