Historic Wedgewood Church Hosts Launch of Environmental Research Project
By Tony McCray
Unity in the Family Ministry and its CEO/Pastor Dr. Calvin Avant and Ann Walker the President of the Wedgewood/Rolling Hills Homeowners Association will welcome Dr. Beverly Wright of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, along with Dr. Bullard of Texas Southern University, and University Professors of Florida A&M to the All Faith Community Church at 7525 Rolling Hills Road, led by its spiritual leader, Pastor Josea Moultrie. The welcome is being extended to this professional group of environmental experts because Unity in the Family has been awarded a contract to implement the collaboration between the Wedgewood Community and what is called “The HBCU-CBO Gulf Cost Consortium”! The meeting begins at 11:00 am and will adjourn at 2:00 pm with an introduction to the community on the focus of the Kellogg Foundation Grant and a discussion on what the community identifies as priority needs to improve the area’s quality of life.
Wedgewood and Rolling Hills in the Olive Heights area were identified as the communities to be focused on for the project. Two Wedgewood residents, Ms. LaFanette Soles-Woods and Larry Williams accompanied Dr. Avant of Unity in the Family Ministry to New Orleans for the official announcement of the $3.8 Million Grant that provides funding to selected community-based organizations (CBOs) like Unity in the Family Ministry in Pensacola. The selected CBOs then collaborate with the Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) on research into the issues that impact the quality of life in the historic African-American communities on the Gulf Coast.
The All Faith Community Church that is the site of the meeting had a very strategic and historic role in the life of the Wedgewood Community prior to the onslaught of construction and debris pits in that area. Pastored by Reverend H.C. Calloway, the ribbon-cutting of the newly constructed church brought President Jimmy Carter and many Pensacola and Escambia County officials to Wedgewood for the event. Local officials included the then Mayor of Pensacola Vince Whibbs, former City Councilman, Dr. Donald Dale Spence, the former Elections Supervisor Joe Oldmixon, and Eugene Brown the Former Executive Director of the Pensacola-Escambia Human Relations Commission.
Texas Southern’s Robert Bullard is known in academic and environmental justice circles as the ‘Father of Environmental Justice’ and Dr. Beverly Wright, is known (as she states) as the ‘Auntie of Environmental Justice’ known for her work in what has been branded as ‘cancer alley’ in Louisiana; in Flint Michigan fighting for the residents, in Pensacola on the relocation of the residents of Escambia Arms and Rosewood Terrace and her involvement with President Obama at the Paris Climate Change Summit, just to name a few! In fact, Dr. Wright was responsible for LaFanette Soles-Woods and Larry Williams representing Wedgewood on the same stage as Flint residents at an Environmental-Justice Conference.
In a recent interview, Dr. Wright commented that she has not seen any other community in the country inundated with the high number of construction and debris pits like Wedgewood in Escambia County, Florida. Dr. Avant has made it clear to his Unity in the Family staff that, “Our focus will be on Wedgewood, in partnership with Florida A&M, to determine if there is a documentable connection between the death rate and illnesses in Wedgewood to the many fuses and toxic wastes in the C&D pits and landfills.”