Busy October Week for Africatown Environmental Justice

Welcome, welcome, welcome! Just time for a quick recap in pictures of the last week or so in Africatown’s struggle for environmental justice.

Ruth Ballard, Evelyn Knight, Omar Muhammad

Ruth Ballard, Evelyn Knight, Omar Muhammad

At the Moving Forward Together conference in Carson, California, lifelong Africatown resident Ruth Ballard was reunited with childhood friend Evelyn Knight, who is herself now an environmental justice organizer in Long Beach, California. She also was introduced to US Southeast port city environmental justice organizers like Omar Muhammad with Charleston’s Low Country Alliance for Model Communities. The conference brought together environmental justice organizers from inland and sea port cities from across the world. We learned about environmental best practices being implemented in Pacific Rim ports like Los Angeles, Oakland, and Hong Kong and about the leading scientific evidence of profound impacts of diesel particulate matter.

Mustafa Ali, George Edwardson, Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, MEJAC & Oberlin

Ramsey Sprague, George Edwardson, Eboni Johnson, Janet Fiskio, Chie Sakakibara, Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, Maj. Joe Womack (USMC ret.), Mustafa Santiago Ali, and Reggie Hill II

MEJAC then partnered with the historic Yorktown Missionary Baptist Church, the Mobile County Training School Alumni Association, and Oberlin College to bring former EPA Senior Advisor on Environmental Justice Mustafa Santiago Ali to Africatown for a lecture and discussion relevant to where the community goes next in its struggle for environmental justice, which can view all of by clicking this link. The esteemed Hip Hop Caucus organizer was joined by Dr. Rosemary Ahtuangaruak and President George Edwardson of the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope and environmental manager for the Alaska Native Village of Nuiqsut Dr. Rosemary Ahtuangaruak who both assisted in kicking off our National Science Foundation-supported oral history project for the Africatown community.

 

Most of the team just about ready to send the balloon 3,000 feet into the atmosphere to take photos!

Most of the Africatown Connections Blueway and Public Lab teams pose before sending the giant balloon 3,000 feet into the atmosphere to take photos!

Later in the week after several days of oral history workshops and artifact digitizing and cataloging with the historic Union Baptist Church (much more on our National Science Foundation-supported oral history grant project very soon!!), MEJAC partner Public Lab hosted a workshop funded by our National Academy of Sciences Gulf Coast Citizen Science Capacity Building grant program to teach our National Park Service-supported Africatown Connections Blueway team how to use weather balloons and kites to conduct aerial mapping!

 

Alicia Asiamigbe, Lella Lowe, Ramsey Sprague, Ruth Ballard, Louise Moorer, Nashid Rushdan, and Brenda Beverly

Alicia Asiamigbe, Lella Lowe, Ramsey Sprague, Ruth Ballard, Louise Moorer, Nashid Rushdan, and Brenda Beverly pose with MEJAC’s award

After a week of all that, MEJAC capped the excitement off Saturday night by having the distinct honor of receiving a public service award from the Bahá’ís of Mobile in recognition of our work in Africatown and the Mobile region on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth their religion’s founder Bahá’u’lláh! It was a beautiful event of prayer, food, dancing, and social service. Others recipients included Surgeon General Regina Benjamin’s Bayou Clinic, Mr. Isaac White, Sr. of White’s Barber College fame, and Mrs. Behnaz Ghasemi in her role at the Catholic Social Services Refugee Resettlement Program.

A busy week to say the least! But we’re really just getting started!

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Environmental Justice Expert Mustafa Santiago Ali to Visit Africatown

Mustafa Santiago Ali, Courtesy of Hip Hop Caucus

Environmental Justice Expert Mustafa Santiago Ali to Visit Africatown
Former EPA Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice to Speak Monday, October 16

Africatown, Mobile – Environmental justice expert Mustafa Santiago Ali will address the Africatown community’s environmental concerns on Monday, October 16, 2017 at 7pm at Yorktown Missionary Baptist Church at 851 East St, Mobile, AL 36610.

After 24 years of protecting the public from pollution as EPA Assistant Associate Administrator for Environmental Justice and Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Sustainability, Mr. Ali is now the Senior Vice President of Climate, Environmental Justice & Community Revitalization for Hip Hop Caucus, a national, non-profit and non-partisan organization that connects the Hip Hop community to the civic process to build power and create positive change.

Mr. Ali is expected to speak about his experiences in witnessing first hand the federal government’s environmental justice responses to similarly situated communities across the US to offer advice and encouragement for Africatown’s struggle for justice.

The Africatown community of Mobile is the location of the settlement of the majority of the shipmates of the 1860 Clotilde schooner, the last trans-Atlantic slave ship brought to North America, and became the adopted home and final resting place of the last known African-born freedman in the US, Cudjoe “Kazoola” Lewis. Africatown’s role in the history of black experience in the Gulf South and beyond compels interest far and wide. Unfortunately after generations of unabated industrialization, Africatown’s environmental conditions have resulted in a protracted mission for accountability over the community’s concerns for the health and safety of their families and friends.

Earlier this year, residents of Africatown initiated a lawsuit against the International Paper Company (PDF) alleging that the multinational corporation neglected to properly account for hazardous industrial waste left in and around its property after it ceased operation in 2000. This neglect, they assert, has left families, livelihoods, and property at unacceptable risk and perhaps even rendered them harm.

Many in the Africatown community have also been active in the greater Mobile region’s fight against petrochemical industrial expansion in the form of pipelines, tank farms, and intermodal transmission centers built specifically with exotic and risky “tar sands” chemical products in mind. Residents have also successfully resisted a recent series of residential-to-industrial rezoning attempts of vast swaths of its contiguous residential-zoned properties.

Mr. Ali’s visit is supported by the Mobile County Training School Alumni Association, Pastor Christopher L. Williams of Yorktown Missionary Baptist Church, Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition, and Oberlin College.

Mr. Ali left the Environmental Protection Agency in March 2017 after the Trump administration’s draft environmental budget was unveiled with billions of dollars in cuts to programs vital to the health and safety of communities everywhere in the US. His passionate resignation letter implored the newly appointed EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt to “bring people together, to ensure that all communities have safe places to live, learn, work, play and pray and to ensure that our most vulnerable communities, who have been struggling for clean air to breathe and clean water to drink becomes a reality for them and their children.”

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Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation formed in September 2013 with the mission to engage and organize with Mobile’s most threatened communities in order to defend the inalienable rights to clean air, water, soil, health, and safety and to take direct action when government fails to do so, ensuring community self-determination.