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Shalanda Baker: Community Based Resilience and Transformational Revolution

Professor Shalanda Baker is Professor of Law, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs in the School of Law and the College of Social Science and Humanities. She is an affiliate faculty member with the Global Resilience Institute and the Center for Law, Innovation, and Creativity (CLIC). She received her Juris Doctor (JD) from the School of Law in 2005.

Professor Baker shares Northeastern University’s commitment to innovation and interdisciplinary work with her study of the impact of energy policies on poor people of color in communities. Her recent 54 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 1 article, “Anti-Resilience: A Roadmap for Transformational Justice within the Energy System,” examines energy and environmental justice issues exacerbated by Hurricane Harvey. In the paper, she argues that “real structural change is needed” and a framework of anti-resilience is necessary to advance an equitable energy system. She proposes an anti-racist and anti-oppressive policy-making approach that is equity centered and accessible to all. She has also completed research on policies surrounding renewable energy transition, such as solar energy.

Regarding her chosen field of research, she says:

“It had occurred to me that even in this transition away from dirty fossil fuels energy, we might replicate the inequalities of that older system. So if it’s only a transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner energy, then inequality can persist and even thrive. The same corporations and same financial institutes are involved in clean energy, and they are also involved in this discourse around climate change. I became more interested in this idea of transformation, where we actually transform the systems that help to facilitate our new energy future. Structural change is necessary across multiple areas of the transition, not just in terms of swapping out our fuel sources. Our economic system, systems of participation, and engagement by communities are all on the table. We have to transform every aspect of the system in order for it to be fair.”

As a queer woman of color, Professor Baker’s identity has informed much of her community outreach and research work in service of those who have her same background or are most vulnerable. For Professor Baker, this means working alongside environmental justice communities and

“developing research questions in partnership with the first and worst impacted communities to ensure​ that what we create is relevant.”

Professor Baker also encourages students to participate in her research projects. She is dedicated to recruiting a diverse group of students who bring many talents and perspectives to help deliver qualitative and quantitative research. Professor Baker oversees student-led research teams that are a mix of undergraduate students, law students, and Ph.D. students across various colleges. 

Professor Baker makes mentorship of Northeastern students one of her top priorities. She dedicates time to checking in with the students she meets at her talks on campus, discussing  their plans, and life outside the academy. In these conversations, Professor Baker also discusses other opportunities and options students may not be aware of.

Professor Baker’s next book, Revolutionary Power, is what she calls “an activist love letter to the planet.” The publication will be released in November 2020.

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