Register Now: 18th Annual EJ Summit on October 21-22, 2016

Please join us for NCEJN’s 18th Annual EJ Summit on October 21-22, 2016 in Whitakers, NC!

You can find more information about the agenda and how to register under the EJ Summit tab on our website.

We are accepting award nominations for the following awards until Oct. 14:

  1. Steve Wing International Environmental Justice Award – Award for a person who has used their scholarship and activism to fight for environmental justice.
  2. NCEJN Community Resilience Award – Award for a community member who constantly uses activism and organizing in their community to achieve environmental justice.
  3. EJ Youth Vanguard Award – Award for two youth (one of elementary school age and one of middle/high school age) that have shown dedication to environmental justice and have the potential to be EJ leaders in the future.

Submit all nominations to:
NCEJN EJ Summit Coordinators
Email (preferred): ncejsummit@gmail.com
Mail: P.O. Box 68, Rocky Mount, NC 27802

Please circulate this message in your community networks!

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If you want to learn more about what happens at the EJ Summits, check out the History of EJ Summit tab.

At this year’s Summit, we are planning to create a timeline (as a group) that documents the history and stories of the Environmental Justice Movement in North Carolina. To do this, we need your help! Please bring any memories that you have to help tell this story. For example, you could bring pictures, newspaper articles, old t-shirts, etc. We will paste all of these items in sequential order onto pieces of paper on the walls at the Franklinton Center. Looking back will help us move forward. Knowing where we’ve been will guide our path into the future. Bring any materials that you’d like to contribute to the timeline project.

Please email ncejsummit@gmail.com with any questions.

In Conditions of Fresh Water

In Conditions of Fresh Water is a multimedia history project that aims to collect the oral histories of historic black towns and communities in North Carolina and Alabama, specifically the communities of Buckhorn, Perry Hill, White Level, West End (Alamance County), and the town of White Hall, AL (Lowndes County).  The project has four goals:

  1. To record the histories of communities in Alamance and Lowndes Counties through interviews, visual data collection and neighborhood visits.
  2. To understand current environmental conditions in the communities through their histories.
  3. To imagine the future of these communities, using the lessons of history, and the desires of community members.
  4. To create new space, both physical and virtual, for communities to connect to one another.
Visual artist Torkwase Dyson will partner with Danielle Purifoy, a lawyer and Duke University Nicholas School Ph.D candidate studying racialized spaces and environmental inequality in the American South. Dyson and Purifoy will be joined by two community-based collaborators: Omega Wilson, a native of Alamance County, North Carolina and founder of the West End Revitalization Association, and Catherine Flowers, a native of Lowndes County, Alabama, and founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise.

Sign the Petition: Stop the hog industry from spraying pig waste on our homes

Please consider signing Elsie Herring’s Petition: Stop the hog industry from spraying pig waste on our homes

https://www.change.org/p/tell-the-office-of-civil-rights-to-stop-the-hog-industry-from-spraying-pig-waste-on-our-homes

HogWaste

Excerpt of Petition: “The hog operation next door makes my life miserable. The pork industry down here in North Carolina places profits over my civil rights. I have no choice but to live with spray manure blowing onto my property. There’s an increase in snakes, rats, flies, and mosquitoes. There’s a horrific odor seeping into my house even when the windows are shut as the Health Department has advised.

Please sign my petition telling the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Civil Rights to help stop the civil rights violations here in North Carolina and protect families like mine from exposure to hog waste.

The powerful hog industry should not get away with this poor treatment of people of color and the environment just as those who brushed aside concerns of those in Flint, Michigan should be held accountable for their shameful discrimination and the health and environmental impact that caused…”

(Please click on link above to read and sign the petition.)

Congrats to WERA!

Congratulations to our partner, West End Revitalization Association(WERA), for being recognized with the 2016 Community Award from the NAACP Alamance County Branch’s Annual Freedom Fund Banquet & Silent Auction!

Check out the video on our Facebook group! https://www.facebook.com/ncejnetwork/

Title VI Update: DEQ In Bed With Big Pig

(You may also download a PDF of our press release by clicking here.)

DEQ In Bed With Big Pig
Groups Call on EPA to Move Forward with Investigation and Enforce Civil Rights Act

RALEIGH, N.C. – Community and environmental groups renewed their call today for the federal government to investigate claims that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) decision to permit thousands of swine facilities without adequate safeguards violated federal law. These calls came after settlement negotiations in their discrimination case broke down on Monday. The community-based and statewide groups say that it became clear to them that the state environmental regulatory agency was not willing to protect vulnerable communities. The negotiations stem from a complaint filed in September 2014 alleging that DEQ’s lax regulation of over 2,000 hog operations has an unjustifiable disproportionate impact on African American, Latino, and Native American communities in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act requires that any recipient of federal funds take steps to ensure that its actions do not have a disproportionate adverse impact on individuals and communities based on race. An analysis conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina showed that the impacts from hog operations under permit conditions set by DEQ, a recipient of federal funds, primarily impacts African American, Latino, and Native American populations. This research was provided to DEQ during the 2014 comment period on the state permit for swine operations, but DEQ rejected the findings without pointing to any contrary research or conducting any analysis of it’s own.

The North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), Rural Empowerment Center for Community Help (REACH), and Waterkeeper Alliance, brought the complaint. They are represented by attorneys at Earthjustice and UNC Center for Civil Rights.

“We are forced to endure the smell, the flies, water and air pollution that impacts our health all because DEQ won’t regulate hog operations in a way that protects our rural communities,” said Devon Hall, Program Manager at REACH, which is located in Duplin County, home to the greatest concentration of swine facilities in the country.

Complainant groups agreed to enter into settlement negotiations with DEQ in an attempt to resolve the matter without the federal government’s intervention. Negotiations were almost derailed as soon as they started when representatives of the National and NC Pork Councils showed up uninvited at the UNC Center for Civil Rights offices, supported by DEQ, and demanding to intrude into discussions. Their presence was intimidating to the community members present, who have experienced retaliation from hog industry supporters for their stance against the industry’s harmful impacts.

Naeema Muhammad, Co-Director of NCEJN, stated: “DEQ has turned a deaf ear to our cries for help for years. The Pork Council’s presence at a mediation session – which was supposed to be known only to DEQ representatives, the complainants and the mediator – crystalizes our concerns about our voices ever being heard. It’s clear that that DEQ won’t do anything that helps North Carolinians without first consulting with trade groups like the Pork Council that represent the interests of foreign owned corporations like Smithfield Foods.”

“I’ve been a civil rights attorney for a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like this. Having the regulated industry barge in – despite our clear opposition but with DEQ’s support – insisting that they have a right to be at the table to resolve a race discrimination case against DEQ could not be more telling or offensive,” said Elizabeth Haddix, attorney at the UNC Center for Civil Rights. “The agency has clearly been captured by the industry. This is the opposite of how government is supposed to work.”

“It’s clear that DEQ’s priorities are bowing to the interests of the industry, which is minimal regulation to maximize profits at the expense of rural communities and people of color,” said Marianne Engleman Lado, attorney with Earthjustice. “It’s time now for EPA to move forward with its investigation. Communities have been crying out for attention for years and it’s high time that someone held DEQ accountable.”

“This is yet another example of DEQ cozy relationship with polluting corporations,” said Gray Jernigan, Raleigh-based Staff Attorney with Waterkeeper Alliance. “They call it ‘customer service,’ but it is a disservice to the citizens that they are entrusted to protect. We are confident that EPA will see the same.”

In a related action, EPA recently proposed new rules that change the way the agency handles complaints of civil rights violations. The proposed revision, however, actually weakens existing protections by removing deadlines for the agency to respond and investigate complaints, among other changes. EPA is accepting comment on the proposed rules until March 14, 2016, and the public is urged to tell EPA not to weaken civil rights protections.

 

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About NCEJN The North Carolina Environmental Justice Network is a statewide, grassroots-led non-profit organization made up of community members and other organizations that work to fight environmental injustice. The EJ Network seeks to promote health and environmental equality for all people of North Carolina through organizing, advocacy, research, and education based on principles of economic equity and democracy for all people. The EJ Network supports the communities that are most impacted by environmental injustice and has worked for nearly two decades to change the fact that industrial swine facilities in North Carolina are allowed to pollute low-income communities and communities of color.

About REACH The Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help strives to improve the quality of life for families and people of color in rural eastern North Carolina. In particular, REACH addresses social, economic and environmental issues though its environmental awareness, sustainable agriculture, small business development, and homeownership programs.

About WATERKEEPER® Alliance Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 270 Waterkeeper organizations around the world and focusing citizen advocacy in issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol and protect more than 2 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. For more information please visit: www.waterkeeper.org

About Earthjustice Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy and to combat climate change. Because the earth needs a good lawyer.

About UNC Center for Civil Rights Since its founding by Julius L. Chambers (1936-2013) in 2001, the UNC Center for Civil Rights has strived to extend America’s promise of justice, prosperity and opportunity by elevating families and communities above the boundaries of race, class and place. Its mission is to use community-based impact advocacy and legal education and scholarship to advance strategies that secure social, economic and environmental justice for low wealth, minority families and neighborhoods.

 

NCEJN’s Position Statement on Climate Change

At this year’s 2015 EJ Summit, NCEJN held a Climate Justice Conversation with participants of the Summit to help NCEJN develop its position on climate change. This conversation contributed to NCEJN’s Position Statement on Climate Change.

To download and read our position, please go to our “Climate Change” page, which is found under the “Issues” heading or click here.

 

Save the Date: 17th Annual EJ Summit on October 16-17, 2015

Please join us for NCEJN’s 17th Annual EJ Summit on October 16-17, 2015 in Whitakers, NC!

You can find more information about the agenda and how to register under the EJ Summit tab on our website. Please email ncejsummit@gmail.com with any questions.

If you want to learn more about what happens at the EJ Summits, our EJ Summit Report from our 2014 EJ Summit has now been added on our website under the History of EJ Summit tab. Or download the report now: 2014 EJ Summit Report (pdf).

Healthcare & Environmental Justice: Moral Monday

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Rally for Racial and Environmental Justice on Wednesday, May 13, 2015

CAFO Poster Ad Raly May 2015

NCEJN Spotlights CAFO Organizer

During the summer of 2014 the EJ Network recruited a team of dedicated individuals to organize in their communities and inform their neighbors of the environmental and health concerns resulting from exposure to the gases, liquid and solid wastes produced within hog and poultry CAFOs. We are proud of the work our organizers are doing for their communities and our state. Therefore, the EJ Network decided to dedicate a series of blog posts to them and their work. The first of our organizers to be recognized is Anthony “Tony” Hicks of Rocky Point, North Carolina. See the transcript of our interview with Tony below.

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1. How/why did you get into CAFO and/or EJ organizing?

“Through Naeema [Muhammad]. She had contacted someone from my church, and when I found out about what the cause was, I was like ‘wow,’ this is a really good cause!”

2. What work do you do as CAFO organizer?

I go in my community and in Pender County. I introduce myself to people, and I let them know that I’m with the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. And I ask them how they feel about the CAFOs in the area… the smell [and] the soot.

3. Tell us about the CAFO campaign. What are the main goals? What do you hope will come out of this work?

What I hope to get out of this, and my main goal is, to reach as many people as possible that are being affected by these CAFOs. And to assure them that Reverend Dr. Anthony Hicks wants them to know that they are not alone. Cause a lot of people, and I was shocked, a lot of people did not know that something is being done. [There are] seven (7) CAFOs in a three mile radius, and four (4) big poultry houses. And you ride by these things, oh my God, and the make you want to regurgitate.

4. What communities are you presently working with and what are the issues they’re facing?

No. I want to eventually. I’m new to it [CAFO organizing]. I’ve only been at it 4½ months. And I do see a big need for it.

5. What do you see as the most pressing EJ issues in NC/the South/the U.S. today? What do you think are the major challenges for EJ organizing?

Basically, making people aware. We need to be aware cause the smell, the fumes, the sut, or whatever it is, I believe it’s hazardous to our health. I’m finding out that [when] I’m tearing in my eyes, I thought it was allergies, I’m learning it’s from something else.

6. What have you learned from your work?

I’ve learned that somebody is doing something and there is help available. I also didn’t know it was a violation of civil rights. And I didn’t know that they [the CAFOs owners] were targeting low-income and African American communities.

7. What has been most rewarding about doing this work?

I don’t know how you’ll word it, but seeing people (sigh)[have] relief. Seeing people with an expression of relief. Seeing the expression of “Oh Lord, help is on the way”! I don’t do it for the money. I do it for the cause. I’m fighting for this thing.

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Save the Date: 16th Annual EJ Summit on October 17-18

Please join us for NCEJN’s 16th Annual EJ Summit on October 17-18, 2014 in Whitakers, NC!

You can find more information about the agenda and how to register under the EJ Summit tab on our website. Please email ncejsummit@gmail.com with any questions.

NCEJ Summit 2014 Flyer

NCEJN Petitions U.S. EPA to Stop Environmental Injustice in NC

The North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), and Waterkeeper Alliance, with the support of Earthjustice, submitted “a complaint against the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for issuing a general permit that allows industrial swine facilities in North Carolina to operate with grossly inadequate and outdated systems of controlling animal waste and little provision for government oversight, which has an unjustified disproportionate impact on the basis of race and national origin against” communities of color in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) implementing regulations.

Read the full complaint here (pdf).

Read the press release here (link).

NCEJN Administrative Co-Director: Deadline Extended to July 22

NCEJN aims to build its power and reach as a statewide resource, and seeks an Administrative Co-Director to implement program expansion and fundraising.

Position Description

The Administrative Co-Director will bring his or her vision to the organization and help NCEJN to strengthen North Carolina’s environmental justice movement.

Serving as NCEJN’s external ‘face’ and internal guide and coach to interns and future staff, the Administrative Co-Director will manage interns, support organizers, consult with the bookkeeper and will report to a volunteer board of directors.

In addition to ensuring the implementation of operations and programming, the Administrative Co-Director will be heavily involved in planning the NCEJ Summit, supervising volunteers for the summit and organizing evaluation of the Summit in collaboration with the NCEJN Organizing Co-Director.

The Administrative Co- Director is responsible for:

Promoting Environmental Health and Justice in North Carolina: This should be a driving passion for the Administrative Co-Director, among whose top goals should be achieving justice for the people of North Carolina.

This is a part-time position, with opportunity to expand to full-time based on performance and fundraising.  NCEJN is an equal-opportunity employer.

The hourly rate for this position is between $20 and $30 per hour depending on experience, through at least the end of 2014.

Application Deadline:          Friday June 20th, 2014   Extended to July 22, 2014

Please contact the chair of the board of the Network with your cover letter, resume and two references at  ncejnetwork@gmail.com.

About NCEJN

NCEJN is a statewide, grassroots led nonprofit organization. Our central goal is to promote health and environmental equality for all people of North Carolina through community action for clean industry, safe work places and fair access to all human and natural resources.  We seek to accomplish these goals through organizing, advocacy, research, and education based on principles of economic equity and democracy for all people. We focus on the communities who are most impacted by environmental injustice, including people from low-income communities and communities of color.  We use community based participatory research, organize communities, engage media, educate elected and appointed government officials, and advocate statewide for practical solutions to achieve environmental justice. In order to be successful, every campaign at NCEJN depends on organizing with the people most affected by environmental injustices.

Job Announcement: EJ Summit Coordinator

North Carolina Environmental Justice Summit Coordinator

The coordinator will provide conference planning support for the 2014 NC Environmental Justice Summit, which will take place at The Franklinton Center in Whittakers, NC October 17-18.

Duties:

  • Attend monthly meetings (4th Thursdays, 5:30-8:30pm) of the NC Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN) Planning Committee;
  • Coordinate six concurrent panel sessions including volunteer note-takers;
  • Plan advanced on-line registration and evaluation surveys;
  • Update NCEJN web site;
  • Prepare program booklet and registration materials;
  • Attend the NC EJ Summit October 17-18, 2014 to assist with registration, evaluation, and documentation;
  • Collect note takers’ reports, photos, and surveys from the Summit.

The coordinator will work closely with Naeema Muhammad, NCEJN Acting Director, and members of the NCEJN Planning Committee.

This position requires 1) great organizational skills, 2) comfort with updating the NCJEN website with Summit news and keeping track of online registration, 3) great interpersonal skills, and 4) a sincere interest in achieving environmental justice and preventing environmental injustice. Experience with conference organizing is desirable.

The position is available for 20 weeks from July 1 – November 10, 2014 for an average of 10 hours/week at $20/hour.

Please send a letter of interest and resume by June 20, 2014, to Naeema Muhammad, Acting Director, NC Environmental Justice Network, naeema1951@gmail.com. Recruitment will continue until the position is filled.

For more information contact Naeema Muhammad, naeema1951@gmail.com (252-314-0703), Steve Wing, steve_wing@unc.edu (919-966-7416) or Courtney Woods, courtney.woods@unc.edu (919-962-4660).

Environmental and Health Justice Moral Monday

Join members of the NCEJN and others interested in a healthy and safe environmental for all at today’s  Environmental and Health Justice Moral Monday on Halifax Mall!

 

Administrative Co-Director at the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network

NCEJN aims to build its power and reach as a statewide resource, and seeks an Administrative Co-Director to implement program expansion and fundraising.

Position Description

The Administrative Co-Director will bring his or her vision to the organization and help NCEJN to strengthen North Carolina’s environmental justice movement.

Serving as NCEJN’s external ‘face’ and internal guide and coach to interns and future staff, the Administrative Co-Director will manage interns, support organizers, consult with the bookkeeper and will report to a volunteer board of directors.

In addition to ensuring the implementation of operations and programming, the Administrative Co-Director will be heavily involved in planning the NCEJ Summit, supervising volunteers for the summit and organizing evaluation of the Summit in collaboration with the NCEJN Organizing Co-Director.

The Administrative Co- Director is responsible for:

Promoting Environmental Health and Justice in North Carolina: This should be a driving passion for the Administrative Co-Director, among whose top goals should be achieving justice for the people of North Carolina.

This is a part-time position, with opportunity to expand to full-time based on performance and fundraising.  NCEJN is an equal-opportunity employer.

The hourly rate for this position is between $20 and $30 per hour depending on experience, through at least the end of 2014.

Application Deadline:          Friday June 20th, 2014   Extended to July 15, 2014

Please contact the chair of the board of the Network with your cover letter, resume and two references at  ncejnetwork@gmail.com.

About NCEJN

NCEJN is a statewide, grassroots led nonprofit organization. Our central goal is to promote health and environmental equality for all people of North Carolina through community action for clean industry, safe work places and fair access to all human and natural resources.  We seek to accomplish these goals through organizing, advocacy, research, and education based on principles of economic equity and democracy for all people. We focus on the communities who are most impacted by environmental injustice, including people from low-income communities and communities of color.  We use community based participatory research, organize communities, engage media, educate elected and appointed government officials, and advocate statewide for practical solutions to achieve environmental justice. In order to be successful, every campaign at NCEJN depends on organizing with the people most affected by environmental injustices.

NCEJN Collaborators Create Publication

Two talented graduate students have been working with NCEJN to expand our statewide outreach. They are taking what they learn from communities and from NCEJN planning committee member Dr. Steve Wing, to tie communities’ experiences with injustice to their academic pursuits. The students, Willie Wright and Pavithra Vasudevan helped produce a publication, The Whirlwind. It contains essays, maps, and poems that explore the connection between race and geography in the United States. One piece in particular challenges those of us working towards environmental justice to think critically about racially motivated violence, the connection to environmental racism, and how it impacts people and environments alike.

Download a copy  here: Whirlwind, Vol1, Issue1

Evaluation of the 2013 NCEJN Summit

The surveys are in and we received very positive feedback on the 2013 EJ Summit!

 

Overall, Summit attendees represented 23 environmental and social advocacy groups, 14 citizen and community groups, 9 colleges and universities (4 out-of-state, 5 in-state),  5 law groups, 2 federal agencies, 1 state agency, and 1 religious group.  A majority of respondents surveyed reported that the sessions increased their understanding of EJ issues and strengthened community members’ relationships with researchers and with government officials.  A majority of respondents also felt that the role of different population-age groups in the EJ movement is necessary for success. Details of the survey results and participant comments can be found here.

 

We would like to extend our full appreciation to all those who were involved in attending, planning, organizing materials, volunteering at the event, and all in all making the 2013 Summit a huge success!

 

Thank you from the staff, board and planning committee of the NCEJN

Share your Experiences

 

PowerPoint Presentation

                      Click here  to complete the online form to share your experience.

NCEJN Planning Committee Members Attend Conference

This weekend members of the NCEJN’s planning committee will attend and present their research at the Dimensions of Political Ecology (DOPE) Conference at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. Pavithra Vasudevan and Willie Wright are both doctoral students in the Department of Geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Both have been instrumental in supporting NCEJN in its statewide efforts and we are glad to support them in their work to promote environmental justice here in North Carolina and Kentucky.

Best of luck to you both!

HKonJ People’s Assembly Coalition – Sat., Feb. 8, 2014

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NCEJN is still reorganizing and will, consequently, post less here.  In the meantime, we still support other advocates for justice.  This Saturday, February 8th, please attend NC NAACP’s 7th HKonJ (Historic Thousands on Jones St.) in Raleigh.

Click HERE for the Facebook event.

Announcing a New Interim Director for NCEJN

We anticipate that the coming year will provide many opportunities to collaborate toward achieving Environmental Justice.  While Gary Grant lead the organizing charge for many years with the Network, leadership has changed hands, with long-term organizer, Naemma Muhammad taking the reins in 2014.  Naeema will continue to work in her organizing capacity and will take on Interim Director duties during the search for a new Director.  She can be reached at ncejnetwork@gmail.com, or by phone at (252) 314-0703. 

Happy Holidays from NCEJN!

Happy Holidays from the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network! Wishing you Peace and Justice this holiday season, we’ll see you next year.

December Public Events

Public hearing is set for Dec. 3 on draft permit for proposed Maysville landfill in Jones County.  

Written comments are due Dec. 31.

State officials with the Division of Waste Management will host a public hearing in Maysville Dec. 3 on the draft permit to construct the proposed Maysville Construction and Demolition Debris Landfill.

The public hearing starts at 6 p.m. at the Maysville Elementary School Gymnasium, 814 6th Street, Maysville. Oral or written statements and data concerning the proposed C&D landfill permit may be submitted at the hearing. Persons wishing to speak may register at the hearing.

Interested parties may submit written statements and data concerning the proposed permit at the meeting or may submit them by mail until 5 p.m. Dec. 31 to: Geof Little, Division of Waste Management, Solid Waste Section, 1646 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1646. Written comments may also be sent by email to geof.little@ncdenr.gov.

Background and additional info can be found here at the DENR website.

Sanford Landowner Workshop on Dec. 14

On Dec. 14, Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) is co-sponsoring a workshop for landowners who have leased their land, those considering a lease and anyone concerned about landowner rights and the impacts of natural gas and hydrofracking.

Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 9:00 – 11:00 am McSwain Center

2420 Tramway Road Sanford, NC 27332

Click here for a flier: Landowner Workshop Flier

SPEAKERS AND GUESTS INCLUDE: Gwen Lachelt, La Plata County, Colorado Commissioner, and founder of ARTHWORKS Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) Mary Maclean Asbill, Senior Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center, Chapel Hill Brooks Rainey Pearson, Associate Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center, Chapel Hill

This event is free and open to the public.

West End Revitalization Association Celebrate 19th Anniversary

The West End Revitalization Association (WERA), a community development corporation founded in 1994 in Mebane in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, celebrated its 19th anniversary on Friday, November 15 with its annual dinner at K&W Cafeteria in Burlington, North Carolina.  WERA was founded by concerned Mebane residents when they received word that the North Carolina Department of Transportation, with the full cooperation Alamance County and Mebane officials, planned to run a highway bypass through the predominantly African American community of West End.  The plan would require the destruction of almost thirty homes and St. Luke Christian Church, which was founded by former slaves.  In an effort to fight the proposed bypass, WERA filed administrative civil rights and environmental justice complaints in 1999 with the U. S. Department of Justice to stop the City of Mebane, Alamance County, North Carolina Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration from proceeding with the destruction of their community for the sake of the bypass without any input from the affected homeowners or plans for their relocation. WERA alleged that these government entities had planned for and were proceeding with the proposed highway bypass in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 12898, signed by President Clinton in 1994 to address environmental justice issues in so-called minority communities.

 At the 19th Annual Dinner on November 15, several dedicated community members dined on a delicious Friday evening meal as they shared memories of years past in the environmental justice struggle and the successes and hardships that they had encountered along the way.  During the dinner, Mr. Omega R. Wilson, WERA’s President & Project Manager, recognized the invaluable contributions of long-standing board members and community residents Ms. Evon Connally, Mr. Donald Tate, Ms. Marilyn Snipes, Ms. Rachel Hester, Ms. Patricia Torain, Mr. Joe Johnson, and Ms. Chartarsha Garner.  There was also some updates regarding the acquisition of property in the community regarding the proposed highway bypass.  Near the conclusion of the celebration dinner, Mr. Omari M. Wilson, an attorney at the Land Loss Prevention Project (LLPP) in downtown Durham, North Carolina, presented Omega Wilson with the Fruit of the Land award which was given in recognition of Mr. Wilson’s collaboration with LLPP in the environmental justice movement.  Omega Wilson had been chosen with three other honorees to receive The Fruit of the Land award as a part of LLPP’s 30th Anniversary Reception on October 11 at the NCCU School of Law.

For more information about WERA, please visit www.wera-nc.org.

Racial Violence as an Environmental Injustice

Family and friends of Renisha McBride are mourning her untimely and unjust death. 54-year-old Theodore Wafer, a resident of the predominately white Dearborn Heights neighborhood where McBride sought assistance after an auto accident, murdered the 19-year-old teenager. Following her accident, which authorities say was alcohol induced, McBride vigorously knocked on the doors of residents seeking assistance. Wafer, thinking McBride to be an imminent threat – one that did not warrant a call to the police – answered her rapacious pleas by shooting her once in the head through a locked screen door. Though McBride had walked to numerous homes in the community, instead of getting assistance, she received death.

For those of us who reside in North Carolina, her murder is eerily familiar, reminiscent of the recent murder-by-cop of Jonathan Ferrell in Charlotte. Ferrell, like McBride, had an auto accident – all alone – late in the evening. Ferrell, like McBride, approached multiple homes and knocked on multiple doors seeking help. In his case, a fearful homeowner called the police to report an attempted burglary.  As two police officers arrived, likely relieved and annoyed, Ferrell approached the duo. Thinking they were facing a burglar, not a person in need of aid, the police officers tased and eventually shot Ferrell 10 times. Initially, the Charlotte Police Department announced the shooting was justified only to change their tune after an independent investigation proved one Officer Randall Kerrick negligent in the shooting. He has since been charged with voluntary manslaughter.

In the aftermath of Renisha McBride’s murder, discussion has turned to the potential for Wafer to invoke Michigan’s ‘Stand You Ground’ law, the controversial statute that supported George Zimmerman’s self-defense plea after he murdered a black youth in Sanford, Florida. Others are concerned with the racial implications of the case (McBride was black and Wafer is white). What has not been questioned, and what environmental justice activists must bring to the fore, is how perceived racial threat of blacks by whites –despite a lack of any cause for alarm – in particular environments (i.e. white suburbs) is a form of environmental racism – especially when it results in injury and death. The combination of an unwarranted threat and feelings of environmental (de)belonging are what some believe provoked Wafer to shoot to kill and a North Carolina homeowner to assume Jonathan Ferrell to be a robber. In both cases, the result was the same, McBride and Ferrell were killed in predominately white, de facto segregated, suburbs – communities were designed to be safe spaces, removed from inner-cities concentrated with ‘dangerous’ people of color.

Whether by cop or by citizens, these incidents continue to happen with saddening consistency. As advocates and activists for environmental justice, we must begin to promote a definition and understanding of environmental racism that includes acts of violence that occur in spaces where black bodies – not polluting industries – are viewed as threats, by white Americans indoctrinated by a system of racial hierarchy steeped in anti-black racism. Relegating environmental racism to the pollution of land, water, and air is too limiting and may serve to isolate us from hazards such as  violence  encountered in communities.

NCEJN extends its deepest sympathies and love to the friends and families of Renisha McBride, Jonathan Ferrell, Trayvon Martin, and the many, many others whose very existence in society has warranted removal – as if waste – by a structure of racism that has anti-blackness as its foundation.

Let us all call for an end to environmental racism and work towards a new frontier of environmental justice!

Coal Ash is polluting the fishery at Sutton Lake

Coal ash pollution is having a severe impact on the groundwater and the fishery at Sutton Lake near Wilmington, North Carolina (see articles below).  Selenium contamination has caused the deaths of thousands of young fish.  Fewer fish in the Lake have an impact on people who fish for food and people who fish for sport.  This is an environmental justice issue, as subsistence fisherman are more often people of color or low income people.  NCEJN is collaborating with the New Hanover County Chapter of the NAACP, the Cape Fear River Watch, and the Southern Environmental Law Center to raise awareness regarding coal ash contamination of Sutton Lake.  If you’re interested in learning more about what is happening at Sutton Lake, please contact NCEJN organizer, Naeema Muhammad, at saladin62@aol.com or (252) 314-0703; you may also contact Chandra Taylor with the Southern Environmental Law Center at (919) 967-1450.  Additional information on coal ash disposal in the southeast and Sutton Steam station is available at www.southeastcoalash.org.

October 8, 2013 – Editorial – Avert Flemington water crisis and contain pollution from Sutton plant ponds

October 5, 2013 – Sides split over Sutton Lake status

October 5, 2013 – Chemicals from coal ash leaching into groundwater near Flemington community

October 5, 2013 – No Clear Strategy on Ash Ponds

March 9, 2013 – Outdoors – Sutton Lake ramp back in business

Check out the events going on this month!

November events:

Smokestacks at Sutton Steam Station

Smokestacks at Sutton Steam Station

Toxic Tour in Wilmington

When we see the sources of toxic pollution, in person,
we better understand the problem and work smarter to eradicate it.  On Saturday, November 9th, the Cape Fear River Watch and the Cape Fear Group of the Sierra Club are teaming up for a boat trip on the Cape Fear River to the Sutton Coal Plant to educate interested community members about the dangers of coal ash and what they can do to get it cleaned up.  The boat leaves from downtown Wilmington behind 212 S. Water Street and costs $10.  If you are interested in attending, sign up here.  If community members would like to inquire about a fee waiver, contact Zachary Keith at zachary.keith@sierraclub.org.

Mapping collaboration in the Triangle

Over 25 years ago, The United Church of Christ’s Toxic Waste and Race report demonstrated in great detail the close link between where vulnerable communities live and where toxic facilities are located.  Those maps are still integral in defining the environmental injustice problem and working to remedy it.  This year, give your input to the first phase of NC wideOpen, a mapping and data access tool which will compile essential geographic data that can be used to achieve environmental justice.  If you are interested in participating in a hands on mapping and planning session with cartographer Tim Stallmann, along with other environmental leaders and community activists, use their doodle poll to state your preference for a  Tuesday, November 19th or Thursday, November 21st date.

 23rd Annual Black Farmers Conference in Columbia, South Carolina

On Friday and Saturday, November 8th– 9th, the National Black Farmers Association is having their 23rd annual National Black Farmers Conference.  The event includes, but is not limited to, a Farm Bill Update as well as sessions on Farming and Fracking, USDA Programs, and  Agri-Science.

23rd Annual National Black Farmers Conference

Environmental Justice and Sutton Lake Coal Ash Contamination Meeting – October 30th

Join the NCEJN this Wednesday, October 30th at 5:30 pm to discuss Environmental Justice and Coal Ash Contamination at Sutton Lake.  We’ll meet with local advocates from the NAACP and Cape Fear Riverwatch at the offices of Cape Fear Riverwatch, 617 Surrey Street, Wilmington, North Carolina.

Event Flyer

Linking Struggles to Build the Movement – Report-back from the NCEJN Summit

The 15th Annual NCEJN Summit was held this past weekend at the Historic Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers. 136 people gathered, from 32 cities and towns in North Carolina, and 9 other states, representing 37 community organizations, 4 colleges/universities and 4 law clinics/firms, to share knowledge, strategize and honor the ongoing struggle against environmental injustices. Throughout the Summit we were reminded that struggles that may seem isolated or unrelated are often intimately connected to each other, and these connections offer an opportunity to join forces in building and growing a movement.
 
The theme for this year’s summit was “Dismantling Environmental Racism in a ‘Color Blind’ Society.” The term ‘color blind racism’ describes how racism in the United States has shifted since the Civil Rights era – rather than explicit and extremist forms of racism (‘Whites Only’), we are often faced with a subtle and more insidious form of racism that pretends to be ‘blind’ to ‘color’. That is, white privilege today is made even stronger by mainstream society’s insistence that race does not matter, in effect turning a blind eye to the very real ways that racism infiltrates all aspects of society.
 
In our ‘color blind’ society, racism is minimized by explaining racist violence, exposure to toxics, and health disparities as products of individual behavior or something that’s just ‘natural’.  The Summit truly challenged this destructive blindness. In each session, and with each speaker, from our invigorating keynote address by Fred Tutman, the Patuxent Riverkeeper to the training by Cynthia Brown on Building the Movement, we were reminded that racism is alive and well. Drawing connections between local and seemingly disconnected struggles, grassroots organizers, community members and allies called for us all to refuse to turn a blind eye to environmental racism. Connections were drawn between the military complex, power generation companies, fast-food chains, and livestock production. Each of these vast industries generates profit by dumping their waste by-products on poor communities of color, even as they depend on the bodies and labor of these communities to keep their industries running.
 
The fight against environmental racism is a long haul with no easy answers, yet grassroots communities have developed multiple strategies for resilience and resistance. Some use civil rights legislation to incorporate disproportionate burden into regulation policies. At the Government Listening Panel, representatives of multiple agencies were charged by Summit participants to do what they know is right – to visit communities that are impacted by their decisions, to engage in dialogue without hiding behind race-neutral policy language, and to proactively address racial injustices. Many communities have found innovative ways to collect their own evidence to prove pollution and health impacts, even when authorities deny their claims. It may be time for the movement to once again engage in direct action.
 
Youth at the Summit made connections between food justice issues and the economics of how hazards are unequally distributed; the youngest Summit participants used blocks to design cities that are more just. Making connections across struggles, the NCEJN acts as a ‘rhizome’, in the words of Planning Committee member Willie Wright, with shoots and roots that overlap to strengthen resistance against environmental racism. In closing, the participants formed a circle, and each person repeated after NCEJN organizer Naeema Muhammad: “I am a link in the chain, and the chain will not break here.” Let us build our chain of resistance so it will not be broken.