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Katherine Egland, environmental and climate justice committee chair for the NAACP national board of directors, is a longtime resident of Gulfport, Mississippi. She got her start as a young civil rights movement organizer in Hattiesburg, where she grew up. “We were actually fighting for access to some of the same areas where the environmental movement was fighting for protection,” she said. “We didn’t have the luxury of knowing about endangered species other than the fact that we were an endangered species. We didn’t have our rights.”

This past weekend, she helped organize a protest against police violence in Gulfport. And next door, in Biloxi, generations of Black residents protested last week on the same beach where between 1959 and 1963, people protested for integration and were violently attacked by a white mob as police watched. 

From New Orleans, Carly Berlin wrote about these protests and others in Gulf Coast states this week, and how many of them are taking place near or in areas where communities have been dealing with pollution and other environmental hazards. An excerpt, below: 

"In Africatown, Alabama, residents are fighting a shuttered paper plant for the pollution it caused in their backyards. In Cancer Alley — a stretch of the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge that is lined with petrochemical plants set next to predominantly Black communities — air pollution has contributed to high rates of coronavirus cases. As climate change brings more destructive storms to the Gulf Coast, Black communities often bear the brunt. In many cities, they see worse flooding because their neighborhoods have been built in floodplains, and government systems in place to help Americans recover after disasters often fail them."

Read the story.

Protestors gather in Cleveland, Mississippi on June 3. Photo by Rory Doyle

It's been another chaotic week in cities and small towns across the country, and especially in the South. I wrote last week about the importance of this moment and Southerly's coverage of it, and I wanted to reiterate it by sharing some more things I've been reading and learning:

Justin Wortland for Time on America's long overdue awakening to systemic racism. 

Photojournalist Jade Wilson wrote an essay for Scalawag and shared photos of protests in Raleigh. "Art is my tool for change. I’m documenting things as I see them—beautiful and harmful. My role as an artist is to show life as it is and present it in a way that most are refusing to see or aren’t used to receiving. The inspiration, the celebration, the confusion, the complicatedness, the care and lack thereof, the commitment, and the resiliency." 

For Texas Monthly, Amal Ahmed interviewed two criminal justice advocates, Scott Henson, who has worked on criminal justice reform for two decades, and Chas Moore, the founder and executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition. 

For Facing South, Olivia Paschal wrote about the significance of protests blocking highways that were built in Black communities throughout the South, including in New Orleans and Durham. 

Wendi C. Thomas, founder of MLK50 and a longtime reporter in Memphis, wrote for ProPublica about how police have spied on her, and many other Black journalists, over the years.  

—Lyndsey Gilpin, Founder, Editor, Publisher

Stories worth your time

Mississippi-based photographer Rory Doyle (who made the photo above) shared a collection of photographs of the Mississippi River with Mississippi Today. They're paired with poetry by John Ruskey of Quapaw Canoe Company. 

Pythons are devouring native animals in South Florida, so Florida Fish and Wildlife officials have turned to amateur and professional hunters to round up the reptiles in a competition called the Python Bowl. Rebecca Renner wrote about it for Outside

The disaster recovery groups helping rural North Carolina weather COVID-19

Robeson County is still picking up the pieces from two hurricanes. Now the local government and nonprofits are preparing for potential storms during the pandemic. Read our story.

Struggling Florida Panhandle towns face tough reopening decisions

The coronavirus pandemic has stalled local economies still reeling from the effects of recent hurricanes. Read the story. Download the PDF with tips on how to stay safe while vacationing. 

News flying under the radar 

Anderson County, Tennessee, officials are working to gain access to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Bull Run Fossil Plant so they can independently test samples of coal ash waste. For many years, as we've reported, the community has raised concerns about contamination from the waste. 

Almost a year after Fayette County, West Virginia residents requested an investigation into drinking water contamination from coal mining, environmental regulators are launching one. 

Alabama utility regulators approved Alabama Power's plan to add $1 billion worth of natural gas capacity, which would be charged to ratepayers. But they delayed a decision on allowing the utility to add solar and storage.

A Louisiana bill would make it a felony punishable by three to 15 years in prison if people trespass on oil and gas or flood control infrastructure when the parish or state is under an emergency order. The governor could veto it, and many are pressuring him to do so. 

Chemical company Chemours transported tons of soil potentially contaminated with toxic PFAS to an unlined landfill in Fayetteville, North Carolina — and now environmental regulators are making the company move it.
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