Allen Hernandez has some big shoes to fill when he replaces Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice Executive Director Penny Newman next month.
Hernandez, 37, who has nearly two decades of community organizing experience said the option of becoming CCAEJ’s new Executive Director is an “opportunity of a lifetime” he cannot refuse.
“I grew up here in the Inland Empire,” said Hernandez. “I heard about the stories of Penny’s environmental justice work. I went off and got other jobs, but my goal was to always come back. To be following in Penny’s footsteps is unbelievable.”
He’ll be leading an organization that is at the forefront of the region’s fight against air pollution, which he argues is severely affecting his hometown of Fontana.
Newman announced she would be stepping down and retiring from her position last year. She is now seeking a Riverside County Supervisor seat.
Hernandez has an extensive background in labor and environmental organizing. He’s helped organize grassroots campaigns across Southern California for Sierra Club to urge utility and big companies to adopt cleaner technologies to reduce pollution.
Focusing on the health impacts of warehouse pollution and other toxins in low-income communities will be among Hernandez’s priorities as Executive Director. As a person with asthma, Hernandez is familiar with the human toll of air pollution. He hopes he can turn people’s frustrations into solutions.
“We’ll continue to take direct approaches to addressing the issue of pollution,” Hernandez said. “These are kids and seniors dying because of the choices being made. This isn’t just about LNG tanks or warehouses. It’s important we reflect that frustration more going down the line.”
CCAEJ organizer Ericka Flores believes Hernandez is the “right leader” to replace Newman.
“Allen’s a game changer,” said Flores. “He’s well respected in our community. To have him on our team is truly exciting.