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NAACP Endorses Statement on the Nation’s Ethical Obligation on Climate Change

November 29, 2011

The NAACP has endorsed the Statement on the Nation’s Ethical Obligation to Address Climate Change. In signing this statement, we recognize that climate change is a real, dangerous, and rapidly worsening problem with deep moral implications. We must also acknowledge and act on our long-standing moral obligation to protect current and future generations from suffering and death, to honor principles of justice and equity, and to protect the great Earth systems on which the wellbeing of all life, including ours, depends.

To read the full statement and endorse, please click here.

Below, please see some of the statements made by NAACP faith leaders:

Reverend Theresa Dear, NAACP National Board Member and Dupage County Branch President


In this video Reverend Dear, NAACP National Board Member and Dupage Illinois County Branch President, provides testimony for the EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Rule for Power Plants Hearings which took place in May 2011 in Chicago, IL.  In this video she talks about the effects of lead on children, child bearing women, and fetuses in utero.  She calls on us to speak for them in telling the EPA that lead level compliance needs to be brought down from 5% to 0%.

Pastor David Bullock, Branch President, Highland Park NAACP

In this video PastorDavid Bullock, is at the Michigan Town Hall Meeting regarding pollution from coal fired power plants, which took place in Detroit Michigan in July of 2011.  Pastor Bullock talks about how environmental toxins polluting our air, water and land are adversely affecting the health of communities.  Pastor Bullock speaks of the need to stand together in solidarity in calling on the EPA to enact stronger standards to protect communities from air toxins.

Reverend Wendell Anthony, Detroit Branch President, NAACP

In this video, Reverend Wendell Anthony, Detroit Branch President is at the Michigan Town Hall Meeting on coal fired power plants which was held in Detroit, MI in July 2011.  Reverend Anthony speaks of how the coal fired power plants have created severe health problems, particularly in communities of color around our nation.  Reverend Anthony calls on members of Congress to help maintain healthy communities.


Nature’s Fury—the Impact of Climate Change in the US South DAY VII Saturday—PART III

May 22, 2011

Rescue Operation in Silver City

As daylight faded on a long and productive day, the team considered whether we should just make a beeline back to Jackson. However, there was one more stop we had to make in response to a call from Cliff Tanner in Silver City who said that there was a woman who had yet to evacuate from her flooded neighborhood.  We arrived at the house and found that the street adjacent to the house was completely flooded to the extent that one would need a boat to go down the street and all other homes had long since evacuated.

The street that became a river

We were still able to pull in front of the house and we met with Ms. Robertson. She shared that she is legally blind and thus can’t drive at night. She also shared that the reverse feature on her truck does not work.  She went on to say that she was planning to wait it out for another night and then head to her brother’s in the morning. She feared leaving her TVs and her deep freezer, which was filled with meat.  Ms. Robertson had received a visit from FEMA that morning and, though they acknowledged that the entire community with the exception of Ms. Robertson was waterlogged and had vacated the area, they said they couldn’t do anything for her until the water was actually in the house.

Slow but steady, water approaches Mrs. Robertson's back door

We saw that action was needed.  So 14 hours into our journey, in the dark of night, sometimes with only the flashlight from my camera as a guide, the team went to work packing up Ms. Robertson’s belongings so that she could make the hour plus drive to her brother’s house in Lexington.  The TV and deep freeze were loaded into the trailer hitched to the back of Ms. Robertson’s truck.

Frank, Jesse, and Cliff moving the deep freezer


Frank carries one of the televisions out into the car


There were many other items we could not load in or attach to the truck. However, the intrepid team found creative means of saving the balance of the items in the home. All were determined that the distraught Ms. Robertson would leave her home that night with relative peace of mind that all measures were taken to secure her belongings, as well as her safety.

Tough problems--creative solutions--suspending the couch on a ladder to evade the flood waters


Another creative maneuver--suspending the other couch on the kitchen counter


More creative maneuvering to save possessions

As we left, Ms. Robertson gave profuse thanks for the fortuitous arrival of the team.The next day, we heard from branch president, Cliff Tanner, who had alerted us to Mrs. Robertson’s situation in the first place, that he drove by her street and saw her bench floating in the lake that had become her front yard. Clearly we had arrived just in time.

Bench that was later found floating down the street

Nature’s Fury—the Impact of Climate Change in the US South DAY IV–Wednesday

May 12, 2011

Underserved, But Rallying in Western Alabama (Reform, Carrollton, and Aliceville)

As one drives through Reform, at first you don’t really have a sense that anything has happened unless you know to identify the trucks carrying huge logs as being ones who are clearing up the wreckage of fallen trees due to the tornado. Then, as you pass the elementary school and go up into one of the neighborhoods you see where the tornado dropped down with almost laser focus and did its damage on a swath of houses while leaving all else untouched.

Damage in Reform


More Damage in Reform

In talking with the folks in Reform they said that though some assistance was set up for a couple of days at the National Guard building, soon after anyone needing help would have to travel to Carrollton.

In Carrollton I stopped for gas. After emptying my purse to fill my tank, I was about to go into the station and ask about where the disaster services were being provided when I looked across the street and saw the Pickens Baptist Association Disaster Relief Center.  I went in and found a lovely operation with a set of volunteers providing food, clothing, and a variety of household goods.

Pickens Baptist Association--A Mission to Provide Relief


Pickens Volunteers Sorting Donations


Two conversations revealed additional dimensions of this disaster and the quest for provision of appropriate, accessible assistance for survivors.  I spoke to the daughter of the head of missions of the Pickens Baptist Association. The women described a serious challenge with how dispersed families are and how information and resources aren’t reaching people in distant areas. She also talked about the challenge of people who had homes that had been passed down from generation to generation, but where there is no longer homeowners insurance. She spoke of concern around how families will fill the gap between the total need and the assistance FEMA will provide.

There were two women there collecting goods for six families in Aliceville, which was representative of the very comment made by the volunteer. With a limited number of operational vehicles available and long distances to travel to get assistance, a few people are charged with working the facilitate fulfillment of the needs of the many. Fortunately, this woman is graciously shouldering the weight.

Resilience and Prudence in Geiger

My day wrapped up with a stop in Geiger, AL, a small town of just over 200 people on the border with Mississippi. As I rolled into town, one of the first places I encountered was a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center. I dropped in and found out that the center was actually in City Hall. 

Welcome to Geiger AL!


As I was greeted by reception she introduced me to the mayor.  The mayor spent a generous amount of time with me describing the situation in Geiger. Being a part time truck driver, the mayor was out on a job when the tornado struck. He described his journey into town which, from the highway usually would have taken a half hour, but took 2 hours, due to the clearing of road debris that was necessary for him to arrive into his town. He said as he drove into town and saw the destruction all he could do is stop and hang his head.  He arrived home and found his roof damaged and his shed on top of his truck. In total 56 homes were damaged. He said his town members were walking about in a state of sheer shock, not knowing what to do.

Geiger Damage


Geiger on the Road to Recovery


Mayor Cunningham lauded the efforts of both Red Cross and FEMA. He said that Red Cross came and visited every house in the community conducting assessments. Similarly he thought that FEMA was very responsive and that they had been prompt in paying claims within the promised 8-10 days.   Otherwise he was concerned that some well-meaning folks were giving them more of what they don’t need and not enough of what they do need.  For example he said they don’t need clothes or food, but they do need building materials, heavy equipment, and funding to finance the rebuilding process, particularly for single mothers and elderly people on a fixed income for whom FEMA funding won’t be enough.

FEMA Providing Much Needed Assistance at the Geiger City Hall


Perils of Post-Disaster Diets

At the end of the day on Tuesday I found myself fairly famished and commented on it to one of the Red Cross workers. She pointed out that there was fried chicken and pizza earlier and chided me for not having any. My reply was that I was holding out for something a bit more nutritious and stuck with the one banana I managed to scrounge from somewhere. She looked at me quizzically and said, “That’s disaster relief.”  At first I felt guilty…actually I felt guilty for some time after that I was being a prima donna while folks are really suffering. But then I heard folks at two different relief centers commenting on how they couldn’t get food they could eat because they were diabetic . A friend and staunch social justice advocate friend of mine in Jamaica was found dead on Tuesday of uncontrolled diabetes.  This was a wake-up call. Whether it’s me as a disaster relief worker or the survivors of the disaster, we should have access to foods that aren’t going to victimize health compromised survivors again, on top of the trauma of the disaster. This is a particularly critical point for African Americans with our high rates of diabetes. Fortunately, at one of the disaster recovery centers I noted that Red Cross had “diabetic meals”. We need to work on making sure that life sustaining meals are available and provided in a way that is safe and appropriate for those in need.

Nature’s Fury—the Impact of Climate Change in the US South DAY III–Tuesday

May 12, 2011

Survival in Rosedale

A group of us went to visit Rosedale where Mr. Carter stewarded us through visiting the areas and assessing the situation. We saw a ravaged area and met up with a group of young boys bouncing a basketball down the street. One of the boys had survived the storm in his home with his family. They huddled together in the bathtub, remembering some words of guidance from some past advisories on storm response. After the storm passed the young man with whom we were talking said he raised his head and found himself on the sidewalk outside and there was nothing left standing of his home. Fortunately, the rest of his family survived as well. He showed us his mom’s car which had been found several hundred yards away from the home.

Family car, found blocks away from the home

Communities Coming Together in Tuscaloosa, AL

The branch in Tuscaloosa was hard at work at one of the disaster recovery centers. They were doing the critical task of organizing donated clothing for distribution to families in need.

Sorting Socks in Tuscaloosa

Their frustration was evident as they stated, “We’ve seen Bill Cosby, Condoleeza Rice, Charles Barkley, and others. That’s fine that they have come to visit but our question is what are you here to do? Are you going to help us sort these shoes? Are you bringing some money? We need help!!”

Nature’s Fury—Chronicling the Devastating Effects of Climate Change in the US South

May 8, 2011

Home No More....

When I arrived in Huntsville, Alabama yesterday I was met by Alice, Veronica, and Reverend Shanklin (former NAACP Alabama State Conference President) the intrepid members of the Huntsville Branch of NAACP who have been doing relief around this disaster since it struck including delivering goods, helping people access services, connecting lost family members, etc.

We stopped for breakfast and met up with Second Vice President of the Alabama State Conference, Steve Branch. As we sat munching, the store manager who overheard us making our plans to for the day came over and shared that he and his co-worker lost a high school friend in “The Storm” and that the same friend had lost a home. He then introduced us to Sherry who shared that her house had been leveled. Her 13 year old son, who was home alone, somehow survived with only a few cuts and bruises.  She said that when he came out of the house and saw nothing but wreckage as far as he could see, he thought he was “the only one left” which was a chilling thought. He just took off running and ran and ran until he finally came across some people.

We left the restaurant and headed for Harvest, which is a community near Huntsville. There we found a center, run by the Harvest Youth Group, that had been set up to process volunteers and provide assistance. In Harvest there were previously 80 homes, but after the ravaging of the community by the tornado of April 27th 2011, there were only 9 homes still standing.

Wreckage in Harvest


Belongings Saved From One Home

We went to a press conference/resource fair where booths were set up to do grief counseling, mental health assistance, FEMA was set up to provide guidance on claims filing, insurance companies were providing information, etc. On the stage political representatives were sharing availability of resources and representatives of the Red Cross and FEMA were doing the same. Inside a large gym was set up where they had trays and trays of all kinds of food that was being given for free to all.  One thing that struck me was the disparity of those on the stage giving out information and those holding the ladles dishing out food, VERSUS those on the ground at the microphone seeking assistance as well as those holding the plates receiving food.  As you’ll see below, every last person on stage holding the power and the information were white and most of the questioners were African American and all of the folks giving out food were white while those receiving the food were significantly more African American than not.

People in the Drivers Seat of the Response and Relief Efforts


People "waiting for a ride on the bus" seeking assistance at the press conference


Food Line--Racial Disparity in the Seeker and Providers of Assistance


Mr. Branch and I went our own way from Harvest and headed for Tanner where we joined up with Wilbert Woodruff, the President of the NAACP Limestone County Branch, at a store and encountered a woman, Ms. Pryor who told us of her story of being in her home when the tornado struck. We went out to take a look at her property. Ms. Pryor and her son had managed to find relatively secure shelter in a hallway while much of her home was demolished around her. She is now in a struggle with her insurance company who refuses to write off her home in spite of the statements by several contractors that her home is a total loss. Oddly, the same company wrote off the home next door which had much less in the way of visible damage, as compared to her home where have of it was literally a pile of rubble.

Ms. Pryor's Home


Ms. Pryor's Home II


Ms. Pryor's Neighbor


Ms. Pryor, her son, and Mr. Woodruff

Otherwise, Mr. Woodruff had been hard at work with communities in Tanner that had been severely impacted by the tornadoes. He took me on a drive through the communities.

The site of one of the tragic fatalitiesRemains of the Kitchen


 Throughout the day I heard stories of triumph and stories of tragedy, stories of miracles and many stories of resilience. Steve Branch spoke of how he was on his way to take his nephew to pay rent on the trailer. They reached the area where the trailer was and did a double take as they saw a scattered pile of debris where his nephew’s home used to be.  One person told the story of a four year hold boy who had been put in a deep freezer “by a man with wings”.  The home he was in came down around him but he survived, unable to free himself because of the debris on top of the deep freezer, but able to open to lid enough to get enough oxygen to survive until he was later discovered.

 On a note of hope, faith, and altruism, that I know will take the communities through this tragedy and beyond, I end with an image that personifies out communities have pulled together in the aftermath.  More tomorrow…..

"I Am My Brother's (and Sister's) Keeper"--Neighborly Grace at Its Best

Voices of the Gulf—Addressing Mental and Physical Health Issues

April 20, 2011

Both in my conversations with Gulf communities, and in my extensive reading on the impacts of this disaster I learned that physical and mental health needs have escalated with documented reports of high levels of volatile organic compounds in the bloodstream of Gulf Coast residents, physical effects from exposure to toxins, increases in depression, as well as alcoholism and substance abuse, etc. “The key concern expressed by the community in response to the report is the overwhelming need for access to health care. Over and over, people exposed to crude and dispersants from the drilling disaster told stories of serious health issues–from high levels of ethyl-benzene in their blood, to respiratory ailments and internal bleeding—and expressed an urgent need for access to doctors who have experience treating chemical exposure,” states LaTosha Brown, Director, Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health which provides grants and support to over 250 community organizations on the Gulf Coast.
In a recent commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), public health researchers warn that chemicals in the oil spilled from the Deepwater Horizon rig and the dispersants used to clean it up pose short and long term threats to human health, especially if they are inhaled or contact the skin. Also, certain harmful chemicals could accumulate in Gulf of Mexico fish and shellfish, posing a seafood contamination hazard for years to come. In Louisiana in the early months of the spill, according to the authors, more than 300 people, most of whom were cleanup workers, sought medical care for symptoms like headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, cough, respiratory stress and chest pain. These symptoms are often seen in people exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas or hydrocarbons, both products of the spilled oil, “but it is difficult to distinguish toxic symptoms from common illnesses”.

Mary Craft of Coden Alabama speaks both about health effects as well as community impact.

Denise Rednour, of Gulf Port Mississippi also shared about health and community effects.

Paul Nelson is a lifelong fisherman and community organizer in Coden AL. He has heard many stories of health impacts and shares several examples of health challenges faced by those in his community.

Voices of the Gulf—Distressed, Yet Resilient Communities

April 20, 2011

Pervasive frustration, anger, and resentment resulting from the above challenges and the lacking and/or flawed systems to support recovery, have resulted in conflicts between family members and within communities. This is manifested by increased domestic violence rates reported by police departments and service providers as well as a spike in incidents of road rage reported by highway authorities.

In Plaquemines Parish, in the first quarter 2010, there were 32 reported cases of domestic violence while in the second quarter of 2010, since the oil spill began, the number of reported cases of domestic violence more than doubled to 68. In her article “Collateral Disaster: Domestic Violence Up After Oil Spill,” Jenny Inglee reports that Mayor Stan Wright of Bayou La Batre, Alabama, told the BBC that domestic violence has risen by 320 percent since the Gulf oil spill began. She wrote, “There has been a 110 percent increase in daily calls and complaints to the local police department.”[1]

Yet communities are coming together with leadership from groups like the Louisiana Bayoukeepers Association, Gulf Coast Fund, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Advocates for Environmental and Human Rights, Louisiana Justice Institute, Louisiana Oystermen’s Association, Mobile Baykeepers, Steps Coalition, Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing, the NAACP and many, many more, to advance demands for justice in the wake of this disaster.

Derrick Evans of Turkey Creek Initiatives and Gulf Coast Fund Advisor shares about impacts on communities.
Sharon Gauthe and Patty Whitney of  the Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing speak of challenges for communities and the organizations struggling to serve.

Danny Patterson of the South Alabama Community Foundation describes how the communities are being impacted by this disaster including describing instances of domestic violence, road rage, and even an instance where a person was murdered because in a robbery for his claim check. He also describes challenges with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.