An Incalculable Loss
I couldn’t bring myself to write this for a few days: the loss is so huge, the void is so vast. My dear friend, long-time CEH board member, and national environmental justice leader Cecil Corbin-Mark suffered a stroke last week and passed with his family by his side.
Our CEH community is devastated. Cecil served on the CEH Board of Directors since 2006 and I’m not exaggerating when I say that he has been the heart of our Board of Directors—bringing passion, deep intellect, humor, and definitely style (those bowties!).
Through his wisdom, integrity, and unconditional love, Cecil trained CEH staff and board members to not fear the needed scary and honest conversations. When the moment called for justice, Cecil brought ferocity. When the moment called for gentleness, he brought compassion and a delicate touch—and when the moment called for laughter, he was the king.
All of us at CEH are better champions for justice because of Cecil. Part of his legacy is the lessons he taught us both as human beings and as leaders and partners in an interconnected movement. Cecil’s wisdom has spread across the nation in the hearts and minds of the people who are lucky to have been in his presence. We are braver, more honest, and more loving because of him.
On a personal level, Cecil is my big brother. It’s hard to overstate how his unconditional love and mentorship shaped me personally and professionally. My kids love Cecil. Last Thursday, I was crying with my 11-year-old daughter and told her “we can aspire to be like him.” She responded, “you can aspire to dress like him,” with a look that said, “but I don’t think you can do it.” I can hear Cecil roaring with laughter at that. So many of us are going to miss that laugh.
We know that people all over the nation are mourning. Cecil was a leader in the environmental justice movement. The legacy of his work to champion health and justice for all lives on, especially at WE ACT for Environmental Justice that he helped build over 26 years. Our heart goes out to his mom, his family, as well as everyone at WE ACT.
As we struggle to process this huge loss, we know that we must carry on with the work that Cecil devoted his life to: fighting against environmental racism and working to bend the arc toward justice, and ensuring that everyone can live in a healthy environment free from toxic chemicals. For everything that he modeled for us, taught us, and did for us, we will pay it forward and continue our work in his honor.
For now, I’ll focus on Cecil’s smile and laugh—and tomorrow, I’ll channel his tenacity and wake up and fight for a just world, just like he did.
With love and sorrow,