Magazine article The Crisis

Black Mayors Take on Environmental Justice

Magazine article The Crisis

Black Mayors Take on Environmental Justice

Article excerpt


It's no secret that communities of color bear the brunt of toxic dumping in this country. A report issued eartier this year by the United Church of Christ found that 1.8 million African Americans and 2.5 million Latinos reside in areas with at least one toxic waste plant. The problem is so pervasive, in fact, that the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM) recently instituted a new program to help curb it. The 33-year-old organization will partner with Historically Black Colleges and Universities in order to study the impact of toxic dumping on Black communities.

The Crisis spoke to Robert Bowser, mayor of East Orange, N.J., and former president of the NCBM, about how the partnership came about, how it will function and what the NCBM hopes to achieve through it.

Why is this such an important issue for the NCBM?

We were shocked to find out about the high percentage of landfills that were in minority communities. There are a lot of environmental problems that come from that - not only in air but in the water as well. We're trying to get some of these sites cleaned up and make people aware of the problems that these landfills contribute to.

What is the connection between environmental justice and the NCBM?

Most of our membership is in the South. A lot of them are very small, agricultural communities. A lot of times, where the landfills are put are primarily what is considered "open space." However, there are a lot of problems that come from that [especially] when those landfills infiltrate the water systems in those smaller communities. …

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