[MUSIC] Mildred McClain/ Exec. Dir. Harambee House, Inc. I had a great lesson taught to me by two wonderful
women from Savannah, Georgia. A young woman Harriet Green and an elder Mrs. Evelyn Daniels.
When they came to me and asked for assistance to address the health impacts that they were
seeing in their community, as a result of them living near and around 17 industries…
and these two women came and said, “We need your help because we are sick and tired of
dying. And sick and tired of being sick! What can you do to help us?” And I got kind of
dumbfounded and I was like, “I don’t know. What can we do?” And they said you have to
do something. And that was my introduction to fighting for environmental justice. Working
with this small community of less than 300 people, to find out how their community had
been impacted over some 50 years by air pollution and what could be done about it. So my “Aha!”
moment was when we had our first house meeting and I listened to residents tell their story.
Then I had to think how are we going to do this? And we decided that we were going to pull
together and a group of people from many, many different backgrounds, from community,
from government, and we were going to do the impossible. We were going to bring business
to the table, industry to the table. And when we did, the industry said, these people are
too revolutionary we are not going to work with them. But through our persistence and
our diligent work with the residents of Hudson Hill in Savannah, Georgia, we were able to
create a consortium of diversified stakeholders that put their mind to it. Put the metal to
the pedal. And we have since come up with solutions to help that small little cancer-filled
community in Savannah. A lot of times we are so passionate and so angry about what is going
on and if it doesn’t happen overnight we are ready to fold and run and then continue to accept
conditions as they are. But in the environmental justice world we have learned that you have
to stay until the change comes. There was a song that we always sang, “Ain’t gonna let
nobody turn me round, turn me round, turn me round. Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round.
We are gonna keep on walking. Keep on talking, until we win.” So it may take five months.
Five years. Fifteen years. Twenty years and some of us have been on this case for thirty
years. But we are seeing change. We’re passing on a legacy to the younger generation that armed
with information, armed with technology and armed in arm with each other, you will actually win
and see a definite qualitative change in your neighborhood, in your community and, indeed,
in our country.