Crump residents launch fight for environmental justice
Memphis, Tenn.--I'm with Concerned Citizens of Crump
neighborhood association and I have defined my neighborhood as a chemically
boxed-in community. Who are we? We are a 100% African-American urban
neighborhood, a working-class and low-income historic Black neighborhood in
There are more than eight polluting plants within three
miles of my home. We have no grocery stores. We don't even have a 99¢ store. We
don't have any kind of dry goods store in my neighborhood.
Pollution has no boundaries. It starts in north Memphis
but it ends up all over Memphis with health effects like cancer. My favorite
nephew was rushed to the emergency room this week with an asthma attack. We have
asthma, lung diseases, miscarriages, kidney disease because of the chemicals
that are stored and used in our neighborhood.
BAD NEWS VELSICOL
There was an article in the paper about Velsicol and the
contamination of Hollywood dump which is full of heptachlor and chlordane. We
live right by the Wolf River; it's polluted with them. The way the article was
printed was as if Velsicol and the city of Memphis decided, out of the goodness
of their hearts, to clean up the dump. That is not so. Most of the chemicals can
be traced back to Velsicol.
As children we walked over Hollywood dump to get to a
main grocery store. We were poor people, so if you found a chair there you would
bring it back. One time Mayflower canned biscuits were thrown on the dump. We
carried those biscuits back home and everybody had a good time. But we didn't
know that they were contaminated with heptachlor and chlordane.
Penn Chemicals polluted the land in Douglass Park which
is directly adjacent to Douglass Elementary School. I would cry every day when I
would see a banner on the school gate that said, "Douglass Elementary loves
Penn Chemicals." Douglass Park is one of the oldest parks in the Black
community. It used to be called Negro Park when the city first gave us the land
to keep us out of the other parks. It has a deep history, so the companies
can't lie and say that they were there first.
Another thing that's been done is the community was
divided. Sunday school teachers no longer speak to me because I speak badly of
the nice chemical company that gives my poor neighborhood $1,000 every year at
Christmas to buy the poor kids bikes, punch and cake.
NEW HOUSES ON TOXIC LAND
So now we have two neighborhood organizations. One is
concerned about building up the neighborhood, but I am with Concerned Citizens
of Crump, and we're concerned about improving the environment. What's the use of
building new houses on poisoned land?
There's no environmental justice agenda in this city and
in this state. You can't get one elected official to a rally. When they find out
what you're about, they go out of the room when the TV camera's on. Velsicol
called the police saying: Balinda and her gang are going to be up there and we
need police protection.
I called the NAACP; they didn't know what environmental
justice was in this city. I read Genesis I: In the beginning God created a clean
earth. That's what I base my power on.
Published by News and Letters Committees