Voices from the Gulf

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I began my career in West Africa in the 1990s, where Nigerians who peacefully protested the oil industry’s destruction of their farms were raped, beaten and murdered. In the Niger Delta, violent repression was the oil industry and the Nigerian government’s response to a movement that had grown so powerful that on one day, in one protest, there were 300,000 people in the streets.

This week marks the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. This disaster date - August 29th - is seared into my memory, just like April 20th, the date of the BP Disaster. For those in South Louisiana, there will be a new anniversary in August next year: the date of the floods that have so devastated our part of the world. At what point will these disaster-versaires, as I’ve learned to call them, stop?

Photo: Oil stains a family's vehicle after Hurricane Katrina

Somebody asked me what it means to be a "grassroots organizer"?

I certainly can't speak for everyone in that role, because every experience is different and although most struggles are similar, the path is very different depending on participants, history and place ... but I will do my best.

- Being a grassroots organizer means having your heart broken and repaired a thousand times over - sometimes several times in one day.

In May, Africatown native and resident Ruth Washington, Africatown native & supporter Major Joe Womack and Africatown supporter & Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition President Ramsey Sprague traveled to Washington, D.C. to talk with politicians and various department members -  including the Congressional Black Caucus - about Africatown's current environmental justice situation and to support the world's 2016 Break Free (from fossil fuel) theme to "Keep It In The Ground".  

The Africatown community and other residents within the boundary of Mobile's District 2 received what amounts to "a public lashing" a few weeks ago as the city council voted by a count of 6 to 1 to approve an ordinance that will allow more storage tanks to be constructed within city limits. This ordinance was not wanted, asked for and did not deserve to be dumped on the citizens of Mobile.

The "okey-doke, as defined by Urban Dictionary and Africatown folklore means to pull the wool over your opposition's eyes, to outsmart your opposition, to say one thing and mean another or to gain the upper hand by using trickery. President George W. Bush once famously said,"Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me."

Of the 65 plus years I have spent on this earth, nearly 60 of those years I have been a resident of the Africatown Community and The City Of Mobile. I spent 4 years away in Virginia earning a Business Degree in College and 2 years of active Military Service in The Marine Corps. I am probability one of the few Africatown natives in Mobile that can successfully name all 4 swimming holes within the Africatown community utilized by Africatown residents during the 1950's and 1960's.

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