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High school students lead advocacy rally for environmental justice
Policy reform and corporate accountability demanded
Published Friday, October 23, 2020 10:20 pm
by Ashleigh Fields | For The Charlotte Post

Stefania Arteaga speaks Friday during the Dissent Duke Energy rally at Romare Bearden Park. The rally, organized by high school students Jacqueline Dinh and Laura Saavedra, was a call for environmental justice and policy change in the government and corporate sectors that impact communities of color.

Effective. Efficient. Equal.

Those words describe the environmental justice reform two local high school students are encouraging leaders and corporations to align with. Jacqueline Dinh, a sophomore at Olympic High, and Laura Saavedra, a senior at Charlotte Country Day, joined forces to rally for change as co-coordinators for the Dissent Duke Energy event through Extinction Rebellion Youth Charlotte.

“We are a nonpartisan, decentralized group of youth that work together to promote reform and accountability within the local government, the Charlotte community, and the broader region of the United States through the use of direct actions,” said Dinh.

Their organization launched a campaign called “October Rebellion” to demand rebellion from corrosive systems, reparations led by and for Black people, and respect for the stolen land citizens occupy.

“Our personal experiences as women of color inspired us to create this Duke Dissent event,” said Saveedra. “This is a rebellion for ecological, social, and climate justice.”
The event focused on denouncing Duke Energy’s involvement in unleashing toxic levels of coal ash into Charlotte’s urban neighborhoods.

“Allen Steam Station is one of the most toxic power plants in America and is located in Belmont,” Dinh said. “The pattern of the wind causes coal ash to blow into West Charlotte, which is historically Black.”

Duke Energy manages the site, which generates 1,140 megawatts and has been operating since 1957. The company received a lot of backlash after the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, in collaboration with Sierra Club, Earthjustice and other organizations, obtained and analyzed all of the groundwater monitoring data that power companies posted on their websites in 2018. They found that at Allen Steam Station, coal ash dumps were built beneath the water table and leaked cobalt, which causes thyroid damage, into groundwater at concentrations more than 500 times above levels considered to be safe.

Duke Energy is “really good at green washing themselves and making it seem like they are an eco-friendly corporation when they pollute Black and indigenous communities, so we are here today to rebel against them” Dinh said.

In addition to creating a safe space for poets and performers to express their outrage, the activists also invited other organizations like Sunrise Movement Charlotte, F.U.E.L Collective and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP to help spread their message.

“This event is extremely important because environmental racism impacts a lot of minority communities,” said Nyah Cottle of F.U.E.L Collective. “Everyone needs to understand what’s going on so we can collectively work to combat it.”

The Rev. Corine Mack, president of the NAACP branch, agrees.

“It’s very easy to implement anything in the black community because most of the time black people won’t say anything because they don’t know,” she said. “This is why it’s important to educate people, so they know the harm that’s being done.”

Mack also expressed how unlikely it is to see racial injustice perpetrated upon upper class neighborhoods.

“You can’t go into Myers Park and do this or Ballantyne because you know they won’t allow it,” she said. “Many times, because we are ignorant to what’s going on, they get away with murder. People are dying and don’t know why they’re dying.”

That doesn’t make it acceptable, Saveedra insists.

“The time for change is now,” she said.



WOW! So impressed with knowledge and energy these young folks possess and are implementing. Environmental activism is should be one of the foundational fronts that urban communities operate from. Much love for those at the forefront of this campaign!
Posted on October 28, 2020
This is an awesome and inspiring article. I'm quoting it in my Environmental Studies class at UCSD
Posted on October 27, 2020
Environmental Justice is crucial in addressing the disparities in communities of Color. Help support Environmental Justice for All. https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/landmark-house-legislation-centers-environmental-justice-concerns
Posted on October 25, 2020

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