Title: Southern California Program Director
Organization: Communities For A Better Environment
"As a longtime supporter of the work and community organizing of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), I recently learned about the impressive accomplishments of one of their dynamic ‘homegrown’ youth leaders Milton Hernandez Nimatuj. I nominated Nimatuj for a KCET Local Heroes recognition for his courage and leadership that started with CBE when he was just 16. He has since grown to become one of Southern California’s true unsung heroes who has galvanized young people in at-risk communities to realize their political voice and power to improve living conditions, reduce pollution and increase protection for undocumented immigrants – and he’s just getting started.”
Ruben Aronin, Nominator
- Milton Hernandez Nimatuj was born in Guatamala and raised in Southeast Los Angeles County. He is queer, Maya Cakchiquel and started organizing with CBE’s youth program at the age of 16, working to defeat the proposed power plant, Nueva Azalea, in South Gate.
- Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) is one of the preeminent environmental justice organizations in the nation, with a mission to build people’s power in California’s communities of color and low-income communities to achieve environmental health and justice. Youth for Environmental Justice (Youth EJ)/ Youth Action! is the youth component of CBE which is one of the oldest environmental justice youth organizing groups in the region.
- During his six years as the Youth Program Coordinator for CBE, Nimatuj helped double the campus organizing in the area, fostering the growth of three new Youth Action! clubs in the area. Along with Youth EJ/ CBE, Nimatuj has helped shut down corporate polluters, like Exide Technologies in Vernon, has prevented major life-threatening projects, like the I-710s proposed expansion, and has pushed for resources to be funneled to low-income communities throughout the state. As the CBE SoCal Program Director, provides support to both Wilmington and South East Los Angeles communities, to the organizers and the campaigns.
- Co-founder of Wise Up! A leading immigrant rights youth groups to push for the passage of AB540, now a California state law, which allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public California colleges, making higher education more accessible for undocumented youth in the state. Engaged his community by gathering petitions and spreading information on the bill before delivering courageous public testimony in front of state officials and media, at a time when the country was processing the 9/11 aftermath.
- Helped establish QTeam, a queer and transgender youth of color collective that created change through multi-issue organizing.
- Served as youth coordinator at the Southern California Library, developed social justice curriculum for high school students about south L.A. history, community issues and organizing efforts.
- Part of LA Comunidad Ixim, a Maya group working to highlight and preserve the cultural struggle and legacy of indigenous people from Guatemala living in LA. Co-authored, “Colores de Guatemala,” a one of a kind Maya children’s activity book and story that facilitates family conversations about the Maya diaspora.