On Saturday, July 11, 2020, Keisha Brown, a resident of North Birmingham, in collaboration with the environmental group GASP, and the local advocacy group PANIC (People Against Neighborhood Industrial Contamination) organized the Caravan Against Environmental Injustice, which was deemed a success.
“The main goal for years has been to bring attention to North Birmingham; local leaders have been overlooking us. We have visited with ADEM, City Hall, and other leaders about water, soil, and air contamination,” Brown said.
“With all the problems with our contaminated water, soil, and air, residents are sick. We have a new cement plant coming; yet, no one is paying attention to the Northside. North Birmingham is a polluted area and with COVID-19 the situation is tough,” Brown added.
Balch & Bingham ex-partner Joel I. Gilbert was convicted in a money laundering and bribery scheme that suppressed African-Americans in North Birmingham from having their toxic property tested by the EPA. North Birmingham is 92.5 percent African-American.
“The individuals who caused injustice need to come to the people of North Birmingham in an open forum and apologize. They need to be sincere, and we understand that we all make mistakes,” she declared.
Every Saturday for the past several weeks, Brown in collaboration with GASP, the environmental group that was targeted by Balch during the bribery scheme, is operating a for-free pop-up market in Harriman Park that hands out fresh produce, non-perishable items, face masks, hand-sanitizer, and other essential items.
North Birmingham’s contaminated and toxic property does not allow local residents to grow fresh vegetables due to the health risks.
We, the CDLU, recently met with Brown and Charlie Powell of PANIC, the leaders of the Caravan, who both told us the EPA and government clean-up “was wasting time.”
“We are always washing our hands and covering our mouths even before COVID-19 because of these bad chemicals. Pollution travels. We have been impacted by the train tracks, trains carrying coal, a cement plant, heavy-transport trucks, Bluestone Coke across the street, and the ABC Coke plant which is half a mile away,” Keisha said.
Start to relocate people. Instead of wasting money in moving dirt around that appears to be futile, it may be easier and healthier to simply move local residents to another community.