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.
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.