Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In Search of Environmental Justice

Growing up on the banks of the Anacostia River, in a small enclave of working-class black folks known as River Terrace, was a joy for microbrother and his boys. We played football and baseball there. We flew our kites during the gusty winds of March and fished for Catfish and Cod under shady trees in July.

Occasionally, we’d see rich white folks on their forty-footer “yachts” cruising down the river and wondered what it would be like to ride on a boat. The electrical power plant, PEPCO, was about a half mile on the river, just north of where we played. The large billows of black smoke coming from the plant were a landmark.

One day, we were in our football huddle planning our next play and some kid asked, “o.k., who busted their butt?” Of course, everyone denied it. But, the foul odor remained for hours. Later, I remember the grownups talking about the raw sewage being dumped in our sacred river and, at times, we saw tens of fish, floating dead.

It is now that I understand that I grew up in a toxic environment! Sometimes we could not sleep because of the foul odor coming from the Anacostia. My parents, along with other concern neighbors, began to speak out about our condition. When I look back, I wonder: could my father’s death, from multiple myeloma, could have been environmentally induced. What about Mr. McGhee’s death or Mrs. Anderson’s or Mrs. Whitehead's? We all lived on the waterfront.

Today, the world celebrates Earth Day while I search for environmental justice.


yummy411 said...

great piece for Earth Day!

i wiki-ed multiple myeloma =(

microbrother said...

Thx, Yummy...you, too grew-up not far from River Terace. Good to hear from you.