Upcoming virtual panel to explore environmental justice issues in the Upstate

February 3rd, 2021

The Upstate community is invited to “Erasing the Redline: How Communities of Color are Disproportionately Exposed to Pollution and How to Fix It,” a virtual panel discussion about the adverse effects that pollution has on communities of color, and how to provide sustainable solutions for those communities. The panel is scheduled for Wednesday, February 24, 2021, from noon - 1 pm.

Download event flyer (PDF)

“Erasing the Redline” will feature representatives from local and statewide community and environmental groups:

Chris Richardson, General Counsel and COO of BDV Solutions and Board Member at Upstate Forever, will serve as moderator. Shelley Robbins, Energy & State Policy Director at Upstate Forever, will offer opening remarks. Additional organizational support is provided by Upstate Forever.

This event is free, but registration is required. Register at bit.ly/ErasingRedline. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. 


The history of redlining — the government-sanctioned concentration of minorities within certain neighborhoods that were deemed hazardous by financial institutions — is a major contribution to the environmental conditions experienced in black and brown communities. Factories and landfills were placed in these areas, causing long-term environmental and health harm. Highway expansion also played a role in the systematic destruction of living spaces for minorities.

In Greenville, the old Manufactured Gas Plant sites contaminated the Reedy River with coal and tar. The Southernside communities bore the brunt of the environmental harm caused by its industrial past. In Spartanburg, a historically black community is eclipsed by the second largest landfill in the state. The presence of chemical plants in southside Spartanburg resulted in lung cancer and pregnancy miscarriages in the residents in the surrounding area.

These are just a few examples of environmental racism that have occurred in the past century in the Upstate. Raising awareness by having open dialogues about this issue is key to creating buy-in from these communities and stakeholders. It is important to raise awareness about where we are now, how we got there, and how to move forward.


Iyonia Aiken - Community Leader, New Washington Heights

Iyonia Aiken was born and raised in Greenville, SC. She attended Erskine College in Due West, SC, left school and joined the United States Army. She returned to Greenville, SC where she worked as a behavioral interventionist staff. She went back to school and became a Physical Therapist Assistant. She is a single mother of three beautiful children, a community leader, and an advocate for the voiceless. She has been attached to the New Washington Heights Community her entire life, from Loop Street to Arcadia. She states that, “it was those same roads that molded and nurtured me to the person I am today. My community has taught me that you don’t have to be a product of your surroundings. My community has taught me resilience, compassion for others, and willingness to help when my name is called. It is my duty to save my community and to rebuild with existing community residents.”

Michael Brown - Executive Director, Sustaining Way

Michael holds a B.A. from Alabama A & M University, an M.P.A. from The Ohio State University, and a J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law. Recently retiring as an elected official, he continues to serve the community as the new Executive Director of Sustaining Way, a leading sustainability organization in SC. Michael has served as President of the Spartanburg NAACP championing Environmental Justice issues, is an Aspen Global Leadership Fellow (Liberty Fellowship), and is a member of the Southeast Climate and Energy Network and the US Climate Action Network (USCAN). A certified beekeeper who is also certified in Sustainable Agriculture, Michael is a member of a number of regional food system coalitions working to combat the reality of food swamps/food deserts in affected communities. He daily uses his Certificate in Permaculture Design earned through a transformative 8 month intensive program with Wild Abundance, LLC. He is passionate about helping to “heal the land” and is the owner of the regenerative urban farm, Roots of Life.

Professor Michael Corley - Special Counsel for South Carolina Environmental Law Project, Executive Director of Lake Conestee Nature Preserve

Michael Corley is executive director of Lake Conestee Nature Preserve, special counsel for the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), and an adjunct professor of environmental law at Furman University. Environmental equity has been at the center of Michael's legal career, with a particular focus on legacy industrial contamination. Because of this work, Michael is a member of the City of Greenville's Brownfields Taskforce.

Tiffany James - Founder and Equity Consultant, Justice James Consulting

Tiffany James hails from Columbia, SC and received her BA from Clemson University in 2004. She is currently working with the global organization, End Coronavirus and The Covid Action Group. She is the founder of Justice James Consulting, a public relations and political strategy firm where she is the equity consultant advocating for a SCDOT Complete Streets Policy with South Carolina Livable Communities Alliance. She recently worked on Pete Buttigieg's 2020 Campaign as the SC Black Engagement Director. In her role as a public relations and community outreach professional, she worked with the Central Midlands Transit Authority and on several issue based campaigns including the Penny Sales Tax and The Richland Library Referendum. She is a James E. Clyburn Political Fellow, Leadership Columbia Graduate and the President of the National Action Network of Columbia. As a local artist and advocate, she currently serves on the Columbia Music Festival Association and Tapp’s Outpost Art Center Board. She is also a board member of the City of Columbia Hospitality Tax Committee, Beginnings SC and Justice 360.


Chris Richardson - General Counsel and COO, BDV Solutions | Board Member, Upstate Forever

Christopher Richardson is a former U.S. diplomat, immigration attorney, and currently the General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer (COO) for BDV Solutions, LLC. In this role, Richardson provides strategic counsel on a number of immigration-related matters. He also works on pro bono immigration cases including asylum for unaccompanied minors and advised non-profit groups in relation to their visits to ICE detention centers.

Prior to his time as an attorney, he was a Foreign Service officer for 7 years. He served as various roles including Deputy Consular Section Chief, American Citizens Services Chief, Immigrant Visa Chief, and Nonimmigrant Visa Chief with assignments in Nigeria, Nicaragua, Pakistan, and Spain. He won numerous State Department awards including Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.

Since then, Richardson wrote an affidavit regarding the waiver process for the Travel ban and Justice Stephen Breyer cited that affidavit in his dissent in Trump v. Hawaii. Richardson has been interviewed by Slate Magazine, Reuters, NPR, CBS, BBC, Georgia Public Radio, The Intercept, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He has also written op-eds for the New York Times, Chicago-Sun Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Slate Magazine and the Nation.

Prior to his Foreign Service career, Richardson was an immigration attorney, graduated from Duke University School of Law, and graduated summa cum laude from Emory University. He is also the co-author of the Historical Dictionary of the Civil Rights Movement (2014).


Shelley Robbins - Director of Energy & State Policy, Upstate Forever

Shelley holds a degree in economics from Duke University, where she spent time at the Duke Marine Lab, and an MBA from Southwestern Oklahoma State University. Her varied experience includes regulating water and wastewater utilities for the Florida Public Service Commission, advocating for the protection of the Florida coast and outer continental shelf in Governor Lawton Chiles’ Environmental Policy Unit, and facilitating technology transfer at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. Equity and justice have been part of her work since the early 1990’s when Governor Chiles established Florida’s Environmental Equity and Justice Commission. Shelley has been with Upstate Forever since 2007 and has lived in Spartanburg since 1998. She covers energy, transportation, and solid waste and recycling issues and directs Upstate Forever’s policy efforts in the Statehouse.


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