November brought a round of new board members joining our ranks. It also brought an historic milestone. For the first time in our 25 year history, we’re now governed by a board whose majority is composed of people of color.
A year ago not many people at Dallas City Hall knew Marsha Jackson’s name. That’s not the case this December. Ms. Jackson is both the founder of her own neighborhood group, Neighbors United, and the citywide Southern Sector Rising Campaign for Environmental Justice. She’s also the nearest neighbor to Shingle Mountain, Dallas’ largest illegal dump and the highest profile symbol of environmental racism in North Texas since the RSR lead smelter clean-up in the early 1990’s. Like Luis Sepulveda almost 30 years ago Marsha Jackson’s name has become synonymous with the fight for Environmental Justice in Dallas.
Michelle is a long-time friend of Downwinders who finally decided to join the board. She was a student in the very first year of our College of Constructive Hell-Raising, where she met her unlikely Southern Dallas doppelganger and provided us with one of our favorite college stories. She’s a true Daughter of Dallas nobility but instead of resting on our laurels or trust funds, she’s worked tirelessly her whole adult life for people who haven’t been as fortunate, including being on staff at the International Rescue Committee and now as an Economic Empowerment Specialist at New Friends New Life, a group working to transition women out sex trafficking or exploitation.
Justina is a former District 4 City Council candidate, Southern Dallas dog rescuer and advocate, and member of the Southern Sector Rising Campaign Steering Committee. She’s also Director of the annual Women Texas Film Festival. Born and raised in Southern California, Justina owned a theater in Hollywood during the early 2000’s where she produced full length plays and storytelling events that included her original work.
Amber has degrees from Rice in Mechanical Engineering and trouble-making from our own College of Constructive Hell-Raising. She’s Technology Manager at the Victory
Co-Working space Hatchways and has bravely decided to help us in developing more sustainable local funding source. At Rice Amber led a student design organization that developed pro bono solutions for nonprofit organizations and social ventures in the Houston community. We hope she can do the the same for us.
An important part of Downwinders’ 2020 agenda got a big boost this last month when we learned we’d received a $20,000 Communities Foundation of Texas grant to take on Dallas’ environmentally unsound and racist zoning as part City Hall’s upcoming “forwardDallas!” land planning process.
Touted as a meeting-intensive opportunity to reshape Dallas neighborhoods by the residents who live in them, the last time the city went through “forwardDallas!” was also its first time, in 2006.
With our allies at the Southern Sector Rising Campaign for Environmental Justice, we proposed to use this new round of planning to reverse dangerously obsolete zoning in Southern Dallas where polluters are operating next door to homes, especially in predominantly black and brown neighborhoods like Joppa and West Dallas.
Employing the on-going Shingle Mountain scandal as a rallying cry, both groups see an opportunity to win real environmental justice progress if neighborhoods can be mobilized. Toward that end we’ll be engaging residents with door-to-door canvassing, neighborhood meetings, and appointments with officials from Pleasant Grove to West Dallas. Thanks to the Communities Foundation, we’ll be able to devote a sizable amount of resources to this campaign.
Working in our favor is the expertise of the recently-named “forwardDallas!” Chair District 11 Plan Commission Jaynie Schultz. Ms. Schultz earned an MA in Urban Studies from UTA, is Chair of the Plan Commission’s Urban Design Committee, and most importantly for this new assignment has been on the Plan Commission since 2014 consistently opposing the default dumping of new polluters in Southern Dallas in one battle after another.
Although this grant was written in part to help provide salary to our lone staff person, we’d really like to use the whole thing for program work. We can only do that if folks such as yourself respond with End-of-Year contributions and help us raise the $5-10,000 we need to pay the region’s only full time environmental community organizer.
Having the endorsement of the Communities Foundation is a huge plus for our local fundraising efforts and we’re very appreciative. Having your endorsement is even more important. Please help us stretch this grant. Thanks.
A new regional air quality network bringing 21st Century science to some of Dallas’ most polluted neighborhoods had it’s official coming out party on December 5th in the former Freedman’s community of Joppa.
A community meeting at New Zion Missionary Baptist Church sponsored by Downwinders at Risk in association with Paul Quinn College and Habitat for Humanity drew a standing room only crowd.
Food from Jason’s, door prizes, and the opportunity for a Parkland Hospital health screening made the meeting into a real community event.
Residents got to see a monitor up close and hear a presentation by the University of Texas at Dallas graduate students building them for distribution over the next year. 11 of the monitors are due to be installed in Joppa, with another 11 installed in near-by Southern Dallas neighborhoods by Paul Quinn College. In total, over 100 are scheduled to be distributed from Plano to Fort Worth to Midlothian in the largest non-government network of its kind in Texas.
Joppa is surrounded by multiple sources of Particulate Matter air pollution, including a concrete batch plant, an asphalt batch plant, a Union Pacific railroad switch yard, Loop 12 and the Tamko asphalt shingle factory. Because of its compact size an relatively small population, it has the highest per capita air pollution burden in Dallas.
That’s why Downwinders chose to begin building its part of the network in Joppa. Thursday’s roll out was the first attempt to find hosts for the monitors among the neighborhood’s residents.
There were lots of questions and lots of enthusiasm. At least two Joppa residents didn’t need any more convincing and wanted to know how fast they could get a monitor at their house.
The answer is….soon. District 7 Council Member Adam Bazaldua is assisting the network in coordinating the electrical and internet connections we need for the “mothership” that carries the load for 10 smaller solar-powered and wireless sensors. A utility pole Downwinders bought from Oncor for that very purpose is only about 30 feet down the street road the New Zion Church where the meeting was taking place. All we need now are the connections.
Downwinders will be following up this meeting with door-to-door canvassing in Joppa and updates to everyone who signed-in. Meanwhile, we should be scheduling similar meetings in West Dallas and Midlothian after the first of the year.
After years of planning and preparation, we’re finally beginning to see the payoff of our vision. Thanks to all of our supporters for helping us achieve this first, but important milestone