Joppa Benefit Shows What a New Dallas Black-Green Alliance Could Look Like

by jim on June 4, 2018

L to R: Jabrille McDuffie, Natasha Dunn and Temeckia Derrough of the Joppa Freedman’s Town Association

 

Picture Gallery>>>>

Sticks Mania Video Sample>>> 

We raised another $3600 for air monitoring in Joppa amidst the most diverse “environmental” Big D event many could ever remember, with a program that won rave reviews from an overflow crowd. If you squinted, you could see the future. Thanks.

 

By almost any measure, the May 22nd benefit for air monitoring in Joppa fit the definition of success.

Packed crowd. Check
Engaging Program. Check
Moneymaker. Check
Political Game Changer…..Depends on what happens next. 

As important as having a full house…was WHO was in the house. Here was a table of 10th Street Historic Neighborhood Association members, there was a table of Sierra Club members. Frazier Revitalization members sat next to Dallas Green Alliance leadership. For every green group represented there was a South Dallas neighborhood group also present and accounted for.

Not only was the event a success for Joppa, it has the potential to inaugurate a new era of cooperation between green and black groups in Dallas. One of the last orders of business were members of the Joppa Freedman’s Town Association reading a long list of needed reforms to be included in what they called the “Joppa Environmental Preservation District” that could be a model for other historically distressed Dallas neighborhoods. What started in Joppa could end up traveling to West Dallas, Pleasant Grove and Cedar Crest.

It was clear from the start this wasn’t going to be a staid program of speakers and performers. After about 30 minutes of eating, drinking, and mixing in the industrial chic of the GoodWork co-working space Downwinders now calls home, a booming ten-member section of the Sticks Mania professional drum line marched down Good-Latimer and directly into the event space. For the next 20 minutes, a sizable portion of a crowd at a Dallas environmental event could be seen sliding into outright twerking behavior, a probable first. You can see a video sample of Sticks Mania’s performance on our Facebook page here. 

And you can see a gallery of highlights from the benefit on our website here courtesy of Norman J Jones.

Dallas’ own spoke word artist Rage Almighty did a great job of playing ringmaster for the evening’s progressive variety show as well as wowing the audience with his own verbal gymnastics and gyrations through the English language and race politics.

District 7 Council Member Keven Felder showed-up to give a rousing welcome and rally his constituents to be on guard for the re-submittal of batch plant permits by Martin Marietta. He also promised he was working on bringing cleaner industries to District 7 and Joppa.

Keith Price and Douglas Carter performed two dramatic monologues from “The Freedmens” fresh off its run at the Wylie Theater downtown. They
received a standing ovation at the end, and it was the first of many times during the night the audience could be seen dabbing their eyes.

Solakio Music provided the right mix of laid back soul and jazz that buffered the different segments and set the mood for whatever was coming next.

Comic relief and some added inspiration was added by the staging of a brief 2018 graduation ceremony for this year’s Downwinders’ College of Constructive Hell-Raising class. Almost a dozen new activists now “think more like organizers” after a ten-session, five month long course in affecting change. Each got a diploma from College “Dean” Jim Schermbeck and faithfully recited the school pledge to protect people and planet.

This year’s graduates heard their convocation speaker, civil rights legend Peter Johnson, talk about all the similarities between the fight against segregation in the 1960’s and the fight for environmental justice in places like Joppa today.  Then they heard Dallas singer Vicki Larkin-Tovar belt out “Keeper of the Flame” as the class song:

“I’m the keeper of the flame
The teller of the story
For the ones that came before me
For the little pilot lights waiting to ignite
Like fireflies in the rain
Keeper of the flame”

After that it was Joppa’s turn to speak. Temeckia Derrough, Natasha Dunn, and Jabrille McDuffie from the Joppa Freedman’s Town Association gave effusive thanks to the crowd for their support and laid out the elements for “what environmental justice in Joppa would look like.” Ms. Dunn brought many to tears in describing the group’s struggle to organize itself and remain steadfast in the face of so much pressure to stop opposing the new batch plants.

Among the changes sought by the residents are a switch to electric locomotives in the 100 plus year-old Union Pacific rail yard, more and better pollution controls on the industry surrounding them, buffer zones separating people from polluters, and new zoning and enforcement provisions that will help them start to reverse decades of environmental racism.

Time and again the JFTA leadership reminded everyone they’ll need all the help they can get if they hope to see any of these reforms materialize. Downwinders and the Sierra Club have both committed resources to the community. That list of partners needs to get longer. In signing-on to help build a Joppa “Environmental Preservation District” Green Dallasites have an opportunity to take a big step in addressing our own historical blindspots as a local movement. Stay tuned as we try to make it easier for groups and individuals outside the neighborhood to provide support.

Meanwhile, thanks to the big crowd, a silent auction, bartender tips, and some sizable donations from the Sierra Club and Frazier Revitalization, $3600 was raised for the purpose of buying air quality monitors for Joppa. We’re combining that with the $1600 already collected, for a grand total of $5200. 

Thanks to everyone who contributed, whether it was $25 or $250. To see what your money will be buying for Joppa keep reading…..

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