By: Tony McCray
The Wedgewood/Rolling Hills Homeowners Association, Unity in the Family Ministry led by Dr. Calvin Avant, and the Mayor of Flint, Michigan joined the Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) from around the nation at the 4th Annual Climate Change Conference in New Orleans at Dillard University with the theme “We Are One with Flint”. LaFanette Soles-Woods, a member of the Pensacola-based homeowners association, presented the environmental challenges of the Wedgewood/Rolling Hills community from the same conference stage where Flint, Michigan told their story. Dr. Karen Weaver, the Mayor of Flint, Michigan; the Flint NAACP Branch President Frances Gilcreast; Dr. Robert Bullard of Texas Southern University, and the NAACP Climate Change and Environmental Justice national staff presented their case to the public in attendance.
The communities of Wedgewood and Rolling Hills were represented by LaFanette Soles-Woods and Larry R. Williams, Sr. at the Conference as experts on the Community Panel: Climate Change and Communities of Color. The stage was shared with representatives from New Orleans Neighborhood Advisory Commission and Africa Town in Mobile, AL. Dr. Avant and Tony McCray represented Unity in the Family Ministry which operates an environmental jobs training program which recently graduated twenty-two students from its first class. Avant and McCray along with Soles and Williams also participated in a workshop on a proposal to establish an HBCU Consortium for the institutions to provide technical assistance and support to underserved communities.
Soles stated, “It was a great honor to share the stage with these great people and to share information about the history of the Wedgewood community and how one day the community was a thriving farming community where the people were raising fruits and vegetables, with animals and children playing outside. Now we are surrounded by 11 Landfills with eight (8) being active. We are being suffocated by Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) that reaches levels of more than 200ppb”. She went on the say, “It was very enlightening to take part with the people of New Orleans, Flint, and Mobile on the issues similar to ours. Our issues were different but the yet same”.
Dillard University’s Deep South Center for Environmental Justice in collaboration with the Barbara Jordan/Mickey Leland School of Public Policy at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas hosted the HBCU Climate Change Conference March 30 – April 3rd. The purpose of the conference was to bring together HBCU faculty and students, researchers, climate professionals and environmental justice and coastal community residents impacted by toxic facilities and severe weather events to bridge the gap between theory and the experiential realities of climate change. The conference addressed issues related to climate justice, adaptation, community resilience, global climate issues, and other major climate change topics (i.e. transportation, energy sources, carbon emissions, green jobs/green economy, just transition, and community economic development).