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Louisiana is the home of beauty in its rawest form. A gem that cannot be found anywhere else, so it is not meant for everybody.

However, developers in the industrial and non-renewable energy industries feel otherwise. 

The Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans has endured continuous displacement, confinement, neglect, and discrimination for decades. 

The community is filled with families who have lived there for more than a century but are treated otherwise. It is not uncommon to see transplants purchase a luxury home with solar panels next to a long-term homeowner’s dilapidated abode. 

Rachel Breunlin, an anthropology professor at The University of New Orleans, spoke with a former resident of the Desire Public Housing Development who said, “I grew up with my neighbors eating my food. Yeah, and we ate their food. They [the city] don’t think about that, they just looking at the quality of the land. ‘I could put a mall there.’ They aren’t thinking about the generations.”

Meeting the community where they are at

The Hip Hop Caucus (2004) is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that combines environmental justice, social justice, and hip-hop to bring about national camaraderie and change through solution-driven community organizing. 

Hip Hop Caucus was the first organization to lead a major protest in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Furthermore, the community-led annual commemoration remains active to this day. 

Hip Hop Caucus
Photo Courtesy: Hip Hop Caucus

Further, they also helped raise and distribute $100,000 in direct relief to families in Louisiana affected by Hurricane Ida.

Hip Hop Caucus’ Senior Director of Campaigns and Advocacy, Russell Armstrong said, “Louisiana is at the center of environmental injustices rooted in toxic racism, voter suppression, and economic depression. The petrochemical, chemical recycling, and LNG plants responsible for increased cancer, asthma, and other significant health impacts follow the same path as Mississippi’s trail of plantations and stolen land eroding the coastline.”

Moreover, their mission and goal are to help community members and organizers realize that climate justice is racial justice and show how local organizing power and national storytelling can amplify change and ignite collaboration.

The Hip Hop Caucus works directly with community partners

Armstrong said, “In 2021 and 2022, the Hip Hop Caucus led two virtual days of action called We Shall Breathe, which demonstrated the connection between environmental injustice and racial injustice. More recently, we have worked with groups like Rise St. James and the Vessel Project, walking with them on the ground for toxic tours and being detained by police while trying to record evidence of the vastness of the local petrochemical projects.”

When asked about the community’s response to their efforts, Armstrong expressed, “Community members like Ms. Sharon Lavigne and Breon Robinson appreciate the sincerity of our work and our willingness to follow their lead and amplify the voices of the local community. We work in concert with our people rather than try to overtake their voices.” 

The Hip Hop Caucus is open to building partnerships with individuals, groups, and organizations that are facing environmental and social injustices throughout Louisiana. 

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