The Wake Forest University Environmental and Epistemic Justice Initiative (EJJI) is a multi-pronged Mellon Foundation funded research, teaching, and community engagement project that places at its center environmental and epistemic justice. The EJJI critically examines how and in what ways race and regimes of racial knowledge shape and inform our scholarly practices, public policies, and normative concerns. 

The Institute will highlight issues of race, racialization, and the environment at the local and regional level with possible applicability to other communities across the United States. 

2024 Institute 

The 2024 Summer Institute occurred from June 24-28, 2024 on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Institute welcomed early to mid-career journalists as the second class of Wake Forest Mellon Environmental Justice Journalism Fellows. The Institute also featured community activists and organizers working on environmental justice issues in North Carolina and Virginia.

2024 Institute Director

Melba Newsome is an independent journalist, editor and writer who has written and published hundreds of articles for national, regional and local publications including Scientific American, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Wired, AARP, Charlotte, Glamour, Playboy, Oprah, Reader’s Digest, Parade and The New York Times. She began her career writing dramatic narratives about everything from serial killer groupies to women in harems for women’s magazines, including Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, and Redbook. Her reporting is focused primarily on health, science, and the environment, with a focus on social justice and health disparities. A feature in O, The Oprah Magazine about genetic testing earned her the June Roth Award for Medical Journalism. She received a Reynolds Institute fellowship and an EWA Reporting fellowship. She has reported extensively on the physiological, emotional, and societal impact of the coronavirus. She was a 2021 MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative Journalism Fellow, publishing stories with Yale360 and other news outlets.

2024 Institute Faculty 

Andrea King Collier

Andrea King Collier is a journalist and author who focuses on issues of health and health policy. She has worked for over 30 years with communities on issues such as reducing health disparities, infant mortality, prevention of chronic disease, end of life care, childhood obesity, men’s health, women’s health, and HIV/AIDS. She has worked with local, state and national organizations around engaging communities around health issues and in creating content to help educate those communities. She has also chaired health outreach coalitions and has served on the advisory boards of such organizations as the National Black Women’s Health Imperative.

Andrea has also worked on media campaigns and initiatives on health issues, social determinants of health and health disparities, as well as communications programs around school-based health centers, social justice in health, community asset building. She is the author of two health related books, Still With Me…A Daughter’s Journey of Love and Loss and the Black Woman’s Guide to Black Men’s Health.

An award-winning storyteller, Andrea has appeared on the TEDx stage, and told stories with The Moth on their Mainstage around the country. Her work on using humor appears in their Tell Me A Story book and their Point of Beauty book.

Dalila-Johari Paul is Capital B’s national editor where she directs coverage for the national newsroom and manages a team with beats that include criminal justice, environmental justice, rural issues, politics and health. They’ve also found a sweet spot with distinctive narrative storytelling that’s been honored by the Anthem Awards and the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists, and they’re exploring more investigative stories. She previously worked at CNN Digital as a senior editor, where she built the Race and Equality team and launched a successful newsletter. Prior to that role she was a senior assignment editor where she supervised and helped revamp the network’s overnight and early morning breaking news coverage for digital. 

Dalila-Johari has held multiple editorial and production positions at the Guardian US, the Star-Ledger in New Jersey and the Hartford Courant in Connecticut. She started her career in television news as an intern at ABC’s 20/20 and later for FOX 5 in New York City in on-air promotions, but later pivoted to print as an editorial fellow at Newsday in Long Island, NY. Her first reporting assignments started as a high school student covering homelessness, policing and race relations in NYC’s five boroughs, and she eventually won a scholarship from the Dow Jones News Fund. Early in her career, Paul also organized several high school journalism programs. She’s also a fiction writer working on a speculative fiction project that explores how a family is navigating how natural disasters, internal and external, haunt the descendants.

Headshot of Justin Worland

As senior correspondent at TIME, Justin Worland has been covering climate change and the intersection of policy, politics, and society since 2015, illustrating how climate change is reshaping our world. In 2022, he was named the inaugural Climate Journalist of the Year by Covering Climate Now, a non-profit launched by the Columbia Journalism Review and others to advance climate journalism. 

Beyond reporting, Justin works to improve the climate conversation by speaking frequently to a range of audiences. He also won a 2019 and 2021 SEAL Award in Environmental Journalism in recognition of his effort to bring environmental news and analysis into the public discourse and to elevate our understanding of the connections between complex current events.

2024 Institute Fellows

Headshot of Celeste Gracia

Celeste Gracia is the environment reporter at North Carolina Public Radio, WUNC based in Chapel Hill. She started at WUNC as a morning producer, then moved over to beat reporting. She’s interested in covering several topics within her beat, including climate change and environmental justice. Celeste graduated from the University of North Texas. She previously interned at CBS News Radio in New York and Morning Edition in Washington D.C.

Headshot of Iris Crawford

Iris M. Crawford is an Communications Advisor at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Iris has reported on solutions around the just transition, environmental science, decarbonization, and the intersections between race, culture, and climate inequity. Her work has appeared in the NPQ, San Francisco Chronicle, Sojourners Magazine, AGU’s Eos, and Prism, among other publications. She is a board member of the Uproot Project—a support network of environmental journalists of color. Iris has a BA from Syracuse University and a MS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is based in New York City.

Headshot of Danny McArthur

Danny McArthur is the environmental justice reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a regional collaboration among NPR and public radio stations in Alabama (WBHM), Mississippi (MPB) and Louisiana (WWNO and WRKF). This beat centers on the people most vulnerable to climate change’s effects and the communities disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards and poor public policy. With a goal of putting the present in context, we dig into history and the forces that have shaped Alabama’s Black Belt, the Mississippi Delta and Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley.” 

Before joining the team, Danny spent three years as the community voices reporter for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo, Mississippi. She graduated from the University of Georgia, where she wrote for the Red & Black. She’s currently based in Jackson, Mississippi. Danny is a proud Georgia native. Her hobbies include cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs, reading and writing books, learning Spanish and going to drag shows.

Jessica De La Torre is a first-generation Chicana director and producer with a background in journalism. Their work is focused on the sociopolitical issues that impact immigrant Latine communities. Jessica currently works as a creative coordinator for Thematic Campaigns and is in development to direct and produce their first feature film. Previously Jessica was an inaugural Jose Andres fellow for the 11th Hour Food and Farming Fellowship where they published journalistic work with Teen Vogue and produced a short documentary on teen farmworkers in the Central Valley of California. Their work has been published in Oaklandside, Teen Vogue and The Californian. La Chef is Jessica’s most recently completed short-documentary based in Mexico City on a female chef’s gripping struggle against toxic masculinity and her transformative journey to redefine women’s roles in the industry. The documentary was exclusively invited to premiere at SF Film Doc Stories 2023 in the Identity vs. Ideology block in November and will be doing a festival run throughout 2024.

Jessica was raised in Salinas, California and earned their degrees in Journalism and Documentary Filmmaking at San Francisco State University and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Headshot of Helina Selemon

Helina Selemon (she/her) is a health and science journalist and news researcher based in Brooklyn, NY. She serves as the science reporter for The Blacklight, the award-winning investigative unit of The New York Amsterdam News, where she’s reported on public and environmental health issues along the climate, COVID-19 and gun violence beats. She is also a Maynard 200 investigative fellow and has focused her local climate reporting on extreme heat.

Helina has also spent the last few years training journalists on news and investigative research skills at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, and also for the Ida B. Wells Society and UC Berkeley.

Prior to joining the Amsterdam News, she served as the audience development lead for the health and science team at The Associated Press. She also spent several years as a freelancer and researcher, weaving between reporting, editing, fact-checking and audience engagement. She’s worked with TED, The Trace, Popular Science Magazine, Spectrum, WBAI, Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News, and BRIGHT Magazine, among others.

Headshot of Cornell Watson

Cornell Watson is a photojournalist based in Durham, North Carolina. He frequently contributes to national publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and Bloomberg. His photography centers Black stories and has been a finalist for awards such as the James Beard Award and The Dart Award. His work has also been exhibited in museums such as The Mint Museum, Nasher Museum of Art, and most recently at the National Civil Rights Museum with a solo exhibition titled “Tarred Healing”. 

When he’s not watching the 1000th episode of CoComelon, being the best spouse in the world, problem-solving changing his baby diaper blowouts in men’s bathrooms without changing stations, or editing photos while his five-year-old daughter edits the furniture with non-washable crayons, you can find him passed out from exhaustion on the living room couch.”