Air Alliance Houston

A conversation with Bakeyah Nelson and Debbie Z. Harwell

Bakeyah Nelson, executive director of Air Alliance Houston.

Bakeyah Nelson, executive director of Air Alliance Houston, was born in South America and grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland. Her path to Air Alliance follows the trajectory of her education in many ways. She graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, where she learned that people often have to work around the system, such as taking part in research studies, to get the mental health care they need. This led her to pursue a master’s in sociology and Ph.D. in public policy as she thought more broadly about how external factors and policy impact our environment, our experiences, and shape our individual decisions.

Images of smog such as this one used to be common place in Houston, thanks to Air Alliance and other environmental groups this is changing.

In 2009 while working with Harris County Public Health, Dr. Nelson was tasked with a project to work with a local community to address environmental inequities. Focusing on Galena Park, she was shocked to see people living in such close proximity to refineries with different types of emissions. Through an open dialogue she learned what issues the community considered priorities and discussed how they might be addressed. The Clinton Drive air monitor was especially problematic, which is how she first became acquainted with Air Alliance. Named executive director of Air Alliance Houston in March 2017, Dr. Nelson is taking on the important quality of life issues faced by all Houston communities, as well as the health inequalities associated with environmental hazards in communities of color and low income. What follows is our conversation on Air Alliance Houston’s past, present, and future direction…

To read the full article click here.

To track daily changes in Houston’s air quality check the Houston Clean Air Network tool online. Click here!


In this video a Houston History student explains what it is like to live near Houston’s refineries and the effects that this has on people’s health and safety.

This CCTV video reports on Houston’s pollution problems caused by the oil refineries in the area. According to them, Houston ranks number eight in the top ten smoggiest cities in the country.



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