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Environmental Justice Leaders to Hold Tribunal at Selma 50th Anniversary Commemoration

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"Change Is Gonna Come: Advancing an Environmental and Climate Justice Agenda in the South"

Saturday, March 7--Dallas County Court House Annex, 102 Church Street, Court Room One, 2nd Floor

7:00am Depart From Courthouse--Sunrise Water Ritual--Making an Offering at the Headwaters of the Alabama River

2:00pm-4:30pm--Tribunal and Strategy Session

The Southern United States has been a hotbed for civil rights, environmental and climate justice and human rights struggles. The South is also a region especially vulnerable to natural and human-made disasters. Hurricane Katrina, Rita, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster and other catastrophes took lives, destroyed livelihoods, damaged health, and eroded cultures in coastal communities from Florida to Louisiana, and beyond. Government response has not always been swift or fair. Sewage in bedrooms and in backyards in Alabama and South Carolina expose communities in Lowndes County, AL and elsewhere to toxins in the food they eat and the air they breathe daily. Black farmers' livelihoods are threatened by climate change driven drought and flooding, and institutional racism. Coal fired power plants, incinerators, and other facilities pump mercury, arsenic and lead down the lungs of children in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and beyond while coal ash defiles the land and water through under-regulated landfills and coal ash pond. The Alabama Black Belt became the dumping grounds for waste from the TVA Kingston coal ash disaster. Government agencies allowed clean-up waste from the BP oil disaster to be dumped in mostly black communities in Florida, Alabama and Louisiana--until environmental justice leaders raised the toxic racism flag. This Discriminatory pattern was documented more than 25 years ago in Dumping in Dixie, the first environmental justice book. The Keystone Pipeline stands to expose communities to risk in Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas, and beyond. Sea level rise is poised to displace communities in Florida, Louisiana, and beyond. Another hurricane season is upon us and it threatens the wellbeing of communities throughout the South.

This is just a sampling of assaults and threats facing the states, cities, communities, and families in the South. All of this is interconnected and mutually exacerbating in a deadly cycle of poverty; double-digit unemployment; voter suppression; rising racial profiling; staggering loss of wealth through record foreclosures; unequal access to health care; health disparities including high rates of cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke; and under-resourced educational institutions. These egregious injustices, particularly in communities of color and indigenous communities must end.

TRIBUNAL: The tribunal will feature the testimonies of leaders from communities from across Alabama who will speak with jurists from around the country who are experienced in achieving environmental justice victories as well as officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who can advise on existing policy and regulatory routes to address issues. These accounts will be recorded and integrated into broader action planning and collaborations wherein we come together as communities, social justice organizations, churches, human rights and civil groups and education institutions--especially our historically black colleges and universities or HBCUs that are largely based in the South--to combine our might to harness opportunities, advance system change and eliminate environmental injustice.

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Robert D. Bullard is Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy in the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston. His most recent book is entitled "The Wrong Complexion (more...)

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