Greetings to all the good folks who are coming together on this day to fight together against an important Environmental Justice issue. It inspires me to see that friends in the environmental movement and friends in the prison abolition movement are seeing some essential common ground, to join forces and visions in their work.
Many, many years ago in Detroit, I and a small group of neighbors got together to oppose a trash incinerator that was being built in the city, in our neighborhood. At one of the many public hearings, I accosted an EPA official who had signed off on a report that said that the fatalities due to the operation of this monstrosity would be about 40 people. His answer to me, was that was only if people were exposed to the toxins coming from the stack every day, all day. His assertion was that most people would go away from the area, either by moving or for vacation or for work…..but this was a false assumption. The poor people of my neighborhood were stuck there, many were house-bound elders or small children, and most of us who were able to work did so minutes away from the faculty. We were in essence a sacrifice community, deemed expendable because of our poverty or our race. We eventually lost our fight, for the most part. But were able to get them to put the state of the art capture technology on the Incinerator that would NOT have been put in place had it not been for our intense struggle. Direct action really does get the goods, but you have to be in it for the long haul.
No one is more locked into one spot for the long haul than are the prisoners incarcerated in the United States; so many for decades on end. Many are prohibited from transfer and would certainly be exposed relentlessly to any toxic source that was on the premises. And as recent litigation has proved..hardly anyone is less likely to be served as to their medical needs. So the curse of a toxic facility on a prison population is doubled by the lack of access to any monitoring or treatment. Given that the prison population is overwhelmingly people of color, trans and queer folks and poor people – the result is a great human rights tragedy as well as the thoughtless destruction of an environment that is literally coming apart, unable to withstand the damage that our society is inflicting on it.
As an environmental and animal rights activist, as a trans prisoner of conscience, as someone whose choice and whose voice are so often taken away by the system – I am infinitely grateful to all of you who are here today to insist that we want a world that cares and respects all beings and this Earth. Thank you for speaking for so many who cannot. I wish you strength and success in your campaign.
We are all in it for the long haul, love and solidarity,