EJOHP

In collaboration with the Rural Beacon Initiative, this collection represents the collective knowledge and experiences of environmental justice advocates and allies across the region. 

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The Gulf South has historically sat as a sacrifice zone for legacy pollution from the oil and gas industry. Houston, Texas, now further threatened by climate-caused severe weather, has contended with the cumulative impacts of toxic waste dumps, petrochemical facilities, and displacement from highway construction. In New Orleans, Louisiana the unprecedented destructive Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the subsequent lack of government response, “Cancer Alley” a stretch of petrochemical facilities that results in air pollution that disproportionately impacts low-income and Black communities, and substantial coastal land loss. This mini-collection spotlights the experiences, cultures, and protests of several Gulf South residents and activists. 

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Union Hill is a community in Buckingham County, Virginia that was settled by formerly enslaved peoples. In 2013, this historically Black community started what would be a 7 year protest against the placement of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) in the middle of their neighborhood. Their consistent protest and advocacy for historical preservation status for the community led to the ACP’s cancellation, a major win for the Environmental Justice Movement. Today, Union Hill continues to fight against industry-caused environmental harm, a collective that refuses to yield to continued government and corporate disenfranchisement.

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Why the U.S. South?

The U.S. South is a land of fraught histories –  longstanding instances of racialized violence as well as some of the deepest foundations of the Civil Rights and Environmental Justice Movements. Today, the South is projected to be hit first and worst by climate impacts: severe weather events, extreme heat, flooding, and more. At the same time, this region – as a result of systemic racism and a history of natural resource exploitation – has seen some of the least community and infrastructure investment in the country. In a world coming out of COVID-19, which has also had devastating impacts across rural communities in the American South, stories and memories of community elders and other first-hand observers of environmental injustice are more critical than ever. 

Oral Histories Collection

Oral history is characterized as the study and preservation of historical events through the voice and knowledge of recorded individuals. This practice, which has existed as a central means of history-saving for many cultures and communities for generations, has – to an extent – become a complicated and historically extractive academic exercise.

This project is a practice in accessible oral history, utilizing academic and journalistic protocols as well as community storytelling to build something meaningful.

Oral histories are a form of intergenerational wealth. Stories of environmental justice and land history urgently need to be documented, archived, and passed down both for the communities themselves – on their own terms – as well as for advocates of the environment, humanities, medicine, and public policy who seek to promote more equitable policies.

The goal is to build a repository of oral histories that provide evidence of the pervasiveness of environmental injustice and positive land connections in this country, especially in rural Southern and POC communities.

Oral histories are a conversation. The videos shown are unedited and designed to preserve the integrity of the narrator and their story as it was shared with us. If you’d like to learn more about our interview and transcript protocols, check out the “Research” section of our Media & Resources page. 

**For additional context, fact checks/corrections, and clarifications, please refer to footnotes in the transcripts.
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ALEX EASDALE

Executive Director for the Southeast Climate & Energy Network

EJ Advocates Collection

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BETH ROACH

Co-Founder of the Alliance for Native Seedkeepers

EJ Advocates Collection

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BLAKELY HILDEBRAND

Senior Attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center – NC

EJ Advocates Collection

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CHANDRA TAYLOR

Senior Attorney and Leader of the Environmental Justice Initiative at the Southern Environmental Law Center

EJ Advocates Collection

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CRYSTAL CAVALIER

Co-Founder of Seven Directions of Service & Afro-Indigenous Climate Justice Advocate

EJ Advocates Collection

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DANNA SMITH

Founder and Executive Director of the Dogwood Alliance

EJ Advocates Collection

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EMILY ZUCCHINO

Director of Community Engagement for the Dogwood Alliance

EJ Advocates Collection

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FAITH HARRIS

Director of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light

EJ Advocates Collection

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HOLMES HUMMEL

Founder & Executive Director of Clean Energy Works

EJ Advocates Collection

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JASMINE WASHINGTON

Associate Attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center

EJ Advocates Collection

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KAREN CAMPBLIN

Environment and Climate Justice Committee Chair for the Virginia State Conference NAACP

EJ Advocates Collection

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MARIA SAVASTA-KENNEDY

Clinical Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

EJ Advocates Collection

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RORY MCILMOIL

Former Senior Energy Analyst at Appalachian Voices and Researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

EJ Advocates Collection

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RYKE LONGEST & LEE MILLER

Director & Lecturing Fellow at Duke’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

EJ Advocates Collection

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RYAN EMANUEL

Associate Professor & Co-Chair of Community Engagement and Environmental Justice at Duke University

EJ Advocates Collection

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VERONICA CARTER

Member of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Advisory Board, Department of Environmental Quality

EJ Advocates Collection

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ANNE WHITE HAT

Sicangu Lakota herbalist and Water Protector & owner of Maypop Herb Shop
Gulf South Collection

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ALVIN BYRD

Community Leader The First Super Neighborhood Council President of the Fifth Ward in Houston, TX 

Gulf South Collection

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DANIELLE GETSINGER

Co-Founder and CEO of Community Lattice
Gulf South Collection

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DARRYL MALEK-WILEY

Senior Organizing Representative with Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice and Community Partnership Program

Gulf South Collection

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HALI DARDAR

Language Vitality Program Coordinator at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Gulf South Collection

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IGALIOUS “IKE” MILLS

Nacogdoches, Texas Farmer – J&R Mills Family, LLP

Gulf South Collection

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REV. JAMES CALDWELL

Founder & Director of the Coalition of Community Organizations

Gulf South Collection

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CHAD OBA

Co-Founder of Friends of Buckingham

Union Hill Collection

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JON SOKOLOW

Attorney and Activist from Reston, VA
Union Hill Collection

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SWAMI DAYANANDA

Faith Leader and Activist in Yogaville
Union Hill Collection

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ELLA ROSE w/ CHAD OBA

Union Hill Residents and Community Advocates against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
Union Hill Collection

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