By: Pearl Kuo, Refinery Efficiency Initiative Intern
Last week, the LABB interns took a Hidden History tour with Mr. Leon Waters. We followed the footsteps of the slaves that revolted in 1811. The slaves marched from present day Norco towards New Orleans on River Road. As the slaves continued to march with minimal artillery, the volume of people grew progressively as they passed each plantation. Many of the slave owners fled such a scene. The owners escaped to New Orleans and organized a counter attack to suppress the revolt. As a result, the rebellion failed, and all the captured slaves had their heads staked on display at their respective plantations. However, the slaves never stopped fighting for their freedom which was eventually obtained. The courage and spirit of the slaves are not forgotten as Leon and others tell us their story.
Many Norco residents are descendants of the rebellious slaves that took joined the march. It is evident that the courage and persistent spirit has been passed down during the fight against Shell Chemical. The community wanted just compensation for the adverse health effects caused by the company’s pollution. They wanted fair relocation away from the community and family they had known all their lives to have a chance at living a healthy life. The fight had been going on since the 90’s, and the community never gave up. LABB joined forces with these admirable residents and were victorious in relocation in 2000.
This success story is only one in dozens of communities that are still facing the same problems in both cases- environmental injustice. Many fence line communities have not been relocated and are still being affected by the refinery pollution to this day. The community that I have been working with this summer is the Community Empowerment for Change (CEC) of Baton Rouge. The members are facing the same obstacles as those in the past and present. They are trying to get compensation from ExxonMobil for their diminishing quality of life. The data on ExxonMobil’s emissions in 2009 alone was 674,558 pounds and 59,769 gallons. The fence line residents are frustrated and angry at the conditions they have to live in, but like the slaves during the rebellion of 1811, they have never given up and will continuously fight to rectify the injustice that has fallen upon their community.