Home Morningside Events - Morningside Area Alliance Earth Day Film Cooked: Survival by Zip Code Maysles Harlem Film Screening & Panel Discussion
April262024 COOKED


WEACT website

WE ACT’s mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices.


Apr 26 2024


7:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Formats (virtual, in person, hybrid)


Cooked: Survival by Zip Code Maysles Harlem Film Screening & Panel Discussion

Join us Friday, April 26 at 7pm for an Earth Week screening of COOKED: SURVIVAL BY ZIP CODE in collaboration with WE ACT and the Climate Film Festival NYC at the Maysles Documentary Center. A pre-screening reception will be held from 6-7pm.


Judith Helfand, 2020, 79 min.

In the summer of 1995, Chicago experienced an unthinkable disaster, when extremely high humidity and a layer of heat-retaining pollution drove the heat index up to more than 126 degrees. COOKED: SURVIVAL BY ZIP CODE tells the story of this tragic heatwave, the most traumatic in U.S. history, in which 739 citizens died over the course of just a single week, most of them poor, elderly, and African American.

When peeled away from the shocking headlines, the story reveals the less newsworthy but long-term crisis of pernicious poverty, economic and social isolation, and racism. COOKED is a story about life, death, and the politics of crisis in an American city that asks the question: Was this a one-time tragedy, or an appalling trend?  New York City was ranked as the most intense heat island in the country during the hottest year on record. But heat mortality is not inevitable. Join us for a conversation with city leadership, community advocates, and researchers working to ensure communities stay safe in a warming world.

The film will begin promptly at 7PM with an Introduction from PEGGY SHEPARD (Co-Founder & Executive Director, WE ACT for Environmental Justice)

Post-screening discussion with: ELIJAH HUTCHINSON (Executive Director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice, KIM KNOWLTON (DrPH, Assistant Clinical Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University), LESLIE VASQUEZ (Clean Air Project Organizer, South Bronx Unite), moderated by CALEB SMITH (MPA, Environmental Science and Policy, Resiliency Coordinator, WE ACT)

About WE ACT

WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a community-based organization headquartered in Harlem with a Federal Policy Office in Washington, DC. Its mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and low-income participate meaningfully in the creation of equitable environmental policies and practices. A recognized leader in the environmental justice movement, WE ACT has been organizing and advocating at the city, state, and federal levels for the environmental health and protection of Northern Manhattan communities since its founding in 1988. You can learn more at weact.org and follow them on Twitter/X and Instagram at @weact4ej.

About the Climate Film Festival (CFF)

The Climate Film Festival (CFF) is New York City’s first film festival dedicated to climate in all its forms. From narrative and documentary features to experimental shorts, CFF harnesses the transformative power of motion pictures, showcasing new and established voices, classic climate films, and energizing, human stories.

CFF’s inaugural festival will be held in NYC from September 20-22, 2024. For more information, follow us on Instagram @climatefilmfestnyc or on LinkedIn at Climate Film Festival NYC.

About the Speakers

Elijah Hutchinson is the Executive Director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice (MOCEJ), helping NYC achieve one of the most ambitious climate agendas in the country. MOCEJ develops policy and manages programs that advance climate mitigation efforts and prepare NYC for the unprecedented challenge of the impacts of climate change, while improving the health and quality of life for all New Yorkers.

Previously, Elijah led coastal resilience and new greenway initiatives as vice president for waterfronts at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). He also established the resilience practice at NYCEDC, working to integrate climate, resiliency, hazard mitigation, and sustainability into a multibillion-dollar portfolio of neighborhood infrastructure, open space, transportation, and mixed-use development projects.

Kim Knowlton, DrPH, is assistant clinical professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She was senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in New York from 2007-2024, specializing in the human health impacts of climate change. She served as co-convening lead author for the human health chapter of the U.S. Third National Climate Assessment; as a member of the 2nd and 4th New York City Panels on Climate Change; and participated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 Fourth and 2013 Fifth Assessment Reports. Her work at NRDC with community partners in India helped to develop and launch South Asia’s first heat early warning system and action plan. She holds a doctorate in Public Health from Columbia University, a master’s in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences from CUNY/Hunter College, and a BA in Geological Sciences from Cornell University.

Peggy Shepard is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice and has a long history of organizing and engaging Northern Manhattan residents in community-based planning and campaigns to address environmental protection and environmental health policy locally and nationally. She has successfully combined grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy, and environmental health community-based participatory research to become a national leader in advancing environmental policy and the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities — to ensure that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment extends to all. She has been named co-chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council as well as chair of the New York City Environmental Justice Advisory Board, and was the first female chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the National Black Environmental Justice Network and the Board of Advisors of the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. Her work has received broad recognition: the Jane Jacobs Medal from the Rockefeller Foundation for Lifetime Achievement, the 10th Annual Heinz Award For the Environment, the William K. Reilly Award for Environmental Leadership, the Knight of the National Order of Merit from the French Republic, the Damu Smith Power of One Award, the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award from the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and Honorary Doctorates from Smith College and Lawrence University.

Leslie Vasquez is a passionate environmental justice advocate that strives to make a difference in the world. As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and as a resident of the Bronx, she has witnessed many environmental/social injustices that drive her passion to help better distribute resources to marginalized communities in the best way she can. As the Clean Air Program Coordinator, she is working with a cohort of BIPOC led organizations across the country to help craft rules that the EPA can adopt for the transportation and power sectors. She is also supporting South Bronx Unite’s local campaigns to end environmental injustices. Leslie graduated from The City College of New York at CUNY, where she was a double major in international public policy and political science, and had a minor in economics.

Caleb Smith (they/them) is the Resiliency Coordinator at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. They are a lead facilitator of the Extreme Heat Coalition launched as an extension of the Heat, Health, and Equity Initiative. The Coalition seeks to protect urban residents from heat stress through policy, adaptation, and mitigation strategies by integrating nature-based solutions, green infrastructure, social resilience planning, as well as renewable and affordable energy programs. Previously, they served as a Special Assistant to the Mayor in Oakland, where they worked to address illegal dumping and helped implement community-led projects to serve  environmental justice communities in East Oakland as part of the Better Neighborhoods, Same Neighbors Initiative.