By Ronesha Johnson, LABB Environmental Justice Corps Fellow
For our second week in New Orleans, we did many interesting things. I spent most of my time in the office working on agenda items for the North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action (NAPECA) grant that the Bucket Brigade recently received. The grant is used to fund programs and get more awareness about environmental justice in the neighborhoods around which I will be staying. My main goal is provide a medical aspect to the grant. I have been researching medical professionals throughout the region that handle toxic exposures. I have also been helping with categorizing and identifying health impacts related to chemical releases.
One of the things I did that I enjoyed a lot was that I got to watch a second line. I have never heard of a second line or of the traditional Jazz funeral before. It was all new to me especially when I realized that the crowd is the parade. I have been in many parades as a performer for flag line in high school but I have never been in a parade that the audience moves with the performers. It felt very different that the parades that I have been in. While the band is in uniform and marching, this band in the second line was in regular clothes and dancing along with the music. They were very talented.
I went back to Baton Rouge for the second time to finish canvassing in the Standard Heights community. This time we went to different streets and talked to different people. One of the things that I will remember is the odor that affected me as I was walking down the street. I smelled what seemed to be manure or waste. The scent was light at first. Then as we got closer to the side where the oil waste facility was, it got stronger and I could not travel any further. It made me nauseous and I got a headache. It was really bad. I can’t believe that the state allows for people to live so close to something like that. I saw children playing outside and all they did was to cover their noses like nothing was going on.
To wrap up the week, I attended the Fenceline Neighbors Network (FNN) Conference hosted by the Bucket Brigade. There were many organizations that were there from around the state. I had a good time listening and learning from what others had to say.
Mama Seabel made a great lunch that made it even better. I am hoping to use some of the things I learned from there back home in my own community to get some involvement and action.