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On the Capitol Steps
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State Capitol Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The Kids of Pray for Our Air

There is a two mile area around Exxon-Mobil and the  LDP Office.  During our Pray for Our Air initiative when Exxon was asking for a new permit we discovered several important facts with the help of the Environmental Background Information Center. The Exxon Refinery released 5,645,686 lbs of toxic chemicals into the environment in 1999. 

 

Still today the top ranked   chemical releases from the refinery in terms of health risk are Benzene, which is known to cause Leukemia and Lead and  causes neurological damage and a number of other negative health effects.  

 

In this two mile area around the plant there are 2421 children under the age of 5 years old.  This densely populated area also houses the largest historically African American college  in the United States and there are 9639 people under the age of 18.   Each of the elementary schools in the area are in academic remediation.   This means that they are so far below the state average that they must pull up their scores or face closure/losing their funding.  

 

Voting and the People

 

Voting 

 

According to the October 26, 1999 edition of the Baton Rouge Advocate, only 48 percent of the registered voting population participated in the 1999 fall elections.  The turnout represented the lowest electoral participation in Louisiana in the last 25 years.  However, these numbers represent more than a decline in overall voter participation, but also a decrease in public participation in the public policy arena that makes day-to-day decisions that affect every Louisiana citizen.

 

Public policy makers that have a direct impact on every citizen of the state are deciding everyday issues.  However, under our current political system, the influence of money determines what constituent is able to have his or her issues addressed by those individuals who serve in an elected leadership position. 

 

For example, the issue of a quality education is a high priority throughout our state.  However, there are many barriers to such an education for communities of color including: (1) The continued need for the existence of court-ordered desegregation; (2) State and local school boards who do not address issues presented by the community; (3) School systems which tolerate the rampant disrespect of people of color; and (4) The staunch refusal to adequately incorporate the issue of culture diversity into school curriculums.  As a result of these conscious and inherent choices of inequality and oppression, African-Americans and other communities of color suffer a disparate impact poverty, illiteracy, and joblessness.

 

Similar analysis may also be done in relation to issues involving, transportation, the environment, and a host of other real community concerns.  The unmistakable fact of the matter is while communities of color bear the greatest burden of these obstacles; those same communities are systematically excluded from the democratic process of formulating the policies that govern the educational system. However, in addition to these apparent public policy obstacles, organizers who speak out against such injustice encounter more direct fears including the threat of termination, being vilified by the press, and being ostracized by the very community that they seek to serve.

 

Therefore, in order to address this problem, the following three critical areas must be addressed: (1) The creation of a state coalition that provides a vast support system for activists and progressive organizations that minimizes a feeling of isolation;  (2) The creation of a vehicle that can serve as a conduit for respected and trustworthy information on campaign finance reform in Louisiana, and (3) The creation of the opportunity to develop and empower new grassroots leadership.

 

 

 

We would like to use what we have learned in our Pray for Our Air  initiative to begin the process of contacting parents of the under 5 year old  population in the 2 miles around Exxon-Mobil  to make them aware of  the toxic issues that face their children and of the process to help protect them.   

In the pass we have held forums to help public school parents understand high stakes testing and how they will impact the children.  Now we need to explain the environmental issues in the community and how they  impact the children.   

 

 

 You can help by joing Louisiana Democracy Project, Inc.

Membership $25 per year

4070 Fairwoods Drive

Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70805

(225) 907-1459

 

 

LaDemocracy Project-Social Justice Link