Environmental Justice

Editor's Note - Last week, after 24 years with the EPA, Mustafa Santiago Ali resigned his position as Assistant Associate Administrator for Environmental Justice and Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization. During his tenure, Mustafa elevated environmental justice issues and worked across federal agencies to strengthen environmental justice policies, programs and initiatives. He worked tirelessly to protect overlooked, forgotten and vulnerable communities, including many across the Gulf Coast.

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."

I am a community organizer with Steps Coalition, a grass roots social justice organization in Biloxi, Mississippi.  In 2014, we were invited by a group of residents living in the Cherokee subdivision to help support their organizing efforts to reduce their exposure to industrial pollution.  The subdivision is located near Bayou Casotte Industrial Complex in Pascagoula, which houses the largest Chevron refinery in the world, two sandblasting and paint operations, two chemical plants, and a BP processing plant and gas exporting facility. 

When the last shipment of slaves landed in America in 1860, they originally stayed in a camp along the Mobile River inhabited by a group of slaves known as the Moors. That co-habitation did not go well and they eventually moved inland and formed the township of Plateau. They begin buying up land, building schools and churches and expanding the community to about 2,000 acres or about five square miles. Eventually, other former slaves heard about this sanctuary and began moving to Africatown.

In January, the fourth Extreme Energy Extraction Summit came to Biloxi, Mississippi, and brought with it organizers and activists from across North America who face issues such as coal mining and mountaintop removal in Appalachia, uranium mining in New Mexico, fracking in Pennsylvania and North Dakota, and tar sands mining in Canada. To kick-off the gathering, Cherri Foytlin with Bridge The Gulf organized a day-long tour that grounded participants in some of the extreme energy challenges facing Gulf Coast communities.

Originally Posted on Life Support Project. “My husband died of renal failure, my neighbor died of renal failure, my other neighbor behind me died of cancer. The lady over there, her granddaughter’s six months pregnant, and was just diagnosed with breast cancer. They live right here at the pit.”

We’re standing in the parking lot of the Marie K. Young Community Center in the Wedgewood community of Pensacola, Florida, a quiet African-American neighborhood.

On Wednesday, advocates and neighbors protested the plan to build a new school on the site of the former Booker T. Washington High, because of concerns over toxic contamination. The site was home to the Silver City / Clio Street Dump from the 1890s through the 1930s.

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