The Long March To Environmental Justice Begins with First “Let Joppa Breathe Alliance” Meeting

Council Member Kevin Felder welcomes participants to the Let Joppa Breathe meeting at GoodWork last Monday night.

Approximately 20 representatives from advocacy groups, non-profits, and neighborhoods gathered last Monday evening at GoodWork for the very first meeting of the “Let Joppa Breathe Alliance.” It was the first step in organizing a city wide effort to reverse over a century of racist zoning and land use planning in Dallas’ oldest Freedman’s community.

Besides Downwinders, there were members of Joppa Freeman’s Township Assocition, the South Central Civic League, the Inclusive Communities Project, Paul Quinn College, the NAACP, North West Texas Legal Aid, and Mia Carmen Theater company. As impressive as the breadth of support was, it was also the first time in memory that whites constituted a tiny fraction of attendance at a citywide Dallas environmental strategy meeting.

Rage Almighty, the spoken word artist who MC’d the May 22nd Joppa benefit was back to facilitate. District 7 Council Member Kevin Felder was also back to welcome participants and encourage the building of the broadest possible coalition to win victories.

On the agenda were updates from the community, including photographic evidence presented by JFTA’s Temeckia Derrough of continued dust and diesel pollution problems from the existing Martin Marietta batch plant operation. There are continuing rumors about the company coming back to request a second chance at permitting the two proposed batch plants that were denied by the city council in March.

There was also discussion about how the group can estimate the emissions from all the short-haul diesel locomotives going  back and forth in the Union Pacific switch yard that runs the length of the entire community.  Usually the engines that end up in a switch yard are already old and in need of maintenance – yard duty is seen a step away from retiring the locomotive. Their exhaust contains a very toxic form of PM called Carbon Black that’s more carcinogenic than your average PM pollution. Electrification of these locomotives would eliminate a significant source of PM pollution in Joppa.

Misti O’Quinn with Downwinders reported that the group and UTD were very close to reaching a deal to place the first air monitor in Joppa, with a location to be announced soon. Another ten have been ordered and will probably be ready to be installed by November.  The search is on for locations, with emphasis on getting front line readings close to batch plant, switch yard and the TAMKO shingles plant.

Plans are in the works to have a neighborhood enforcement workshop that includes the staff from City of Dallas Office of Environmental Quality, North West Texas Legal Aid attorneys and others advising residents how to be more effective in making complaints that can stick and lead to changes. Tentative scheduling has it penciled in for a date in later October or early November.

Participants scheduled the next Let Joppa Breathe Alliance meeting for 6 to 8 pm on Tuesday, October 23rd at GoodWork Co-Working space, 1808 S. Good Latimer. All groups are invited to send a representative. This isn’t just an environmental issue. It’s a civil rights issue. The more groups we represent, the faster we can get needed change.

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