Anneesha Stephens, Environmental Justice Corps and Residents for Air Neutralization Member
I’ve always heard it said that if you’re on the outside looking in you will never get the full effect and impact of what’s going on. I grew up in one of the communities bordering Calumet Refinery, actually two streets over. I never really paid any attention to the way that it was affecting my family, friends, community members, and I until Mrs. (Velma) White not only told me what was going on but showed me. Being a show and prove type of person this impressed me greatly. It made me open up my eyes, so to speak.
I started to volunteer any available time I had to further help people to understand that this wasn’t just something that they had to live with and tolerate. Through just being around and observing, I began to learn a great deal about what was allowed and what wasn’t pertaining to the refinery and our health.
So, as you can imagine when the chance presented itself to actually work for R.A.N. (Residents for Air Neutralization), I jumped for it. So far it has been one of the most rewarding journeys I’ve embarked upon and it’s just beginning. I think one of the most special parts of this whole endeavor has been the neighborhood canvassing and working with the youth in the community. I believe the educating the young people is a very vital part of this organization because one day they’re going to carry the torch and continue the fight. Every time we go out into the community we meet someone who, if not for this opportunity we’d never have thought to even approach, not to mention sit down in their home and listen to the way that the refinery has affected their families and livelihoods.
Through working with R.A.N., I’ve listened to stories that still resonate through me long after I hear them. This is what motivates me to do everything that I can to help R.A.N. help and educate the members of our community. Even though my time working with R.A.N. has just begun, I see this being a long, prosperous, and exciting venture.