Rev. Robert Campbell speaks to a packed RENA Community Center at the Groundbreaking Ceremony.
Mr. David Caldwell addresses the crowd at the Groundbreaking Ceremony.
After a 45-year-long struggle, the Rogers-Eubanks community saw the promise of environmental justice at last fulfilled. On June 21, the Rogers Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA) Community Center hosted the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of sewer infrastructure in Rogers-Eubanks, a 155-year-old, majority African American community in Orange County, NC.
RENA leaders Reverend Robert Campbell and David Caldwell were among the speakers celebrating the landmark day. Reverend Campbell, the president of RENA reminded those in attendance of the numerous other residents and advocates who played a critical role in bringing justice to the community, including Mrs. Gertrude Nunn, Bishop Ila McMillan, Mr. Fred Battle and the late Dr. Steve Wing.
In 1972, local officials convinced Rogers-Eubanks residents to agree to the construction of a landfill next to the community in exchange for subsequent community amenities, including water and sewer, and a community center and park. In the following decades, while the adverse impacts and intensity of solid waste uses increased, those promises went unfulfilled. The community organized to challenge the environmental injustices visited upon their neighborhood, and in other similarly impacted communities across the state. The community formed the Coalition to End Environmental Racism and became part of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network.
In 2010, The UNC Center for Civil Rights represented RENA in a Title VI complaint filed with EPA, and later, assisted the community in stopping the placement of a waste transfer station in the neighborhood. The Center also worked alongside RENA to, present research and public education to compel local governments to fulfill their promises and remedy the discriminatory impacts of the landfill. The community led critical efforts to improve the quality of life for residents and to demand needed public services. These efforts included water testing, community surveys and public education and assisting the county in securing CDBG funds. As a result of these efforts, the landfill was finally closed in June 2013, and in 2014, a new community center opened its doors. The local governments paid for the community center, and RENA operates it. The primary focus, however, remained access to sewer, the most expensive of the necessary reparations. After years of study, meetings and sustained advocacy, the Historic Rogers Road Task Force (which included David Caldwell and Rev. Campbell) issued a comprehensive report and recommendation for the provision of sewer, estimated to cost $5.8 million. The Orange County Board of Commissioners, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and the Chapel Hill Town Council adopted the recommendation, and initial construction began three days ago.
“What really changed was that they began to understand and began to hear the conversations that were taking place,” Rev. Campbell said in an interview with WCHL. “They began to look at the science. The science proved that the contamination was there. The research that showed that the septic tank system was failing … So they began to understand that in order to maintain affordable, resilient communities that somehow the municipalities have to work together to bring forth this change because all three municipalities owned and operated the landfill at one time.”
Posted by Allen K. Buansi on Fri. June 23, 2017 10:37 AM
Community Inclusion, Environmental Justice, Pitt County, Race Discrimination