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Jackson, Mississippi is one of several communities of color around the country being oppressed by environmental redlining.
In the Magnolia State’s capital city where 82.5 percent of the population is Black, residents were being cautioned to “get out now” days before another cataclysmic flood hit –a warning they’ve had to heed in the past.
Torrential rain coupled with years of water issues put the city in a crisis as the waters of Pearl River engulfed multiple neighborhoods. There wasn’t enough water to fight fires, flush toilets or even hand out to residents while the city was under a boil water notice due to contamination.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has pleaded for mitigations so that the catastrophe does not become commonplace in Jackson. But unfortunately, it has become the norm in his city where politics and systemic racism impede environmental equity.
Nonprofit organization, Wayfinder Foundation, collaborated with elected officials and residents in the Mississippi Delta to capture the injustice in real-time.
Wayfinder Foundation also worked with independent journalist, Georgia Fort, to document the appalling conditions on the ground in Jackson.
In an interview, Criminal Justice Fellow Romona Williams called this ongoing crisis a human rights and public health issue. She said, “It’s a basic human right to have clean water. Why is the city of Jackson’s infrastructure crumbling? I don’t understand–but I do understand systemic and institutional racism.”
In the aftermath of the storm, Mayor Lumumba echoes the sentiments of his constituents and is also calling for action:
“Jackson residents are worthy of support, they’re worthy of clean water, they’re worthy of dignity and it’s humiliating to not have water in their systems, it’s humiliating for children to not be able to go to school and have to do virtual learning, and it’s humiliating for businesses to have to shutter because of these issues.
When this is no longer front-page news, the responsibility is still there to ensure that we don’t have a fragile system because we’re always in a state of emergency.”
Activists are calling for Mississippi’s Governor, Tate Reeves, to invest federal funding into overhauling the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment plant in Jackson and are urging supporters to call or write to the White House to provide direct financial assistance and oversight for infrastructure repair throughout the state.