NewsTwo Black Towns Fight Back Against Chemical Companies

Two Black Towns Fight Back Against Chemical Companies

“Through all Africatown’s entire history, residents have tried to stop pollution. All the way back, maybe it was a quiet word or a letter that didn’t make much difference,” Womack said. “Now we have a united voice. We have protested. We have used the courts. We have held public meetings where we hold these people and companies accountable. It hasn’t always worked, but we’re still here, ain’t we?”

Womack also used a metaphor to describe the City of Mobile, the Port Authority, and the local chemical industry’s piecemealing out of the community. “This is how it works,” Womack explained. “First, they ask for your arm, so you give them a thumb. That’s a good compromise. Then years go by, and they ask again, so you give them your hand. And maybe they’ll help build a few things like a museum or a welcome center. But let me tell you this: They are still looking at your arm.”

Michael Hansen, the former executive director of GASP, a non-profit that works to reduce air pollution and promote environmental justice told Al-Jazeera that the practice of companies like Olin creates a sacrifice zone in communities like McIntosh and Africatown. 

“Cancer is a common occurrence. (in areas like those two towns) In addition to that, asthma and other chronic breathing difficulties, heart disease and stroke, difficulty sleeping, nausea, and learning impairment for children are common. It can stunt cognitive development as well as respiratory development.”

Hansen continued, “This creates a cumulative impact, and if there’s more than one plant in an area, you start looking at what is called a ‘sacrifice zone’ where residents who live near the vicinity are sacrificed for the sake of industry,”

Lang is determined to see something done to change the bleak prospects of his community, his home. Despite the slow progress of the court cases, the community remains hopeful. He told Al-Jazeera that the children of the community are his driving force. “We’re angry and worried because while the lawsuits are held up in court by big companies, people are dying and still in danger and no one seems to care. For these kids, if I don’t do something, our history’s going to be gone, but the people are coming together talking. We’ve never been this far, but we’re beginning to have a little faith, to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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Source: Black Enterprise

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