On MLK Day, the NY Times ‘Dotearth blog’ described Uniontown as a modern day battleground for civil rights. The article, “In Alabama, West Point Cadets Explore Polluted Civil Rights”, was written by one of the U.S. Military Academy professors who shared his 2014 experience and visit in Uniontown.
Black Belt Citizens hosted national environmental justice advocates, civil rights activists, and international media in Uniontown during the special Selma Jubilee weekend. The Guardian covered their experience in Alabama and with the Black Belt Citizens President in this article, “Fifty years after Selma, Alabama at the heart of a new civil rights struggle.”
Cadence Bank, Uniontown’s only bank announced its immediate closure. Black Belt Citizens, Uniontown residents, and concerned families wrote letters, made calls, and eventually convinced the bank to stay open.
An NPR reporter visited Uniontown to cover the story of Arrowhead advertising for more coal ash while the state was under investigation for its permitting. The reporter was taken to water run-off leaving the landfill and nothing was reported in the article.
Green Group Holdings joined the World of Coal Ash Conference to continue advertising for coal ash. Here is a copy of their press release from the event.
Black Belt Citizens and Al Young, Black & Green hosted Building Bridges for Justice to counter the landfill’s request for more ash. The program was facilitated by Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide. The event featured Uniontown residents and allies from around the SE including: Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, Hands Off Appalachia, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Al Sierra Student Coalition, Al Rivers Alliance, Magic City Agriculture Project, Al Sustainable Agriculture Network, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). Here’s a small recap from SACE about the event.
Black Belt Citizens held a press conference on the steps of the Uniontown City Hall to address concerns with the cemetery and landfill, the sewage overflows, and the odors from the cheese plant. Watch this small video by an UNA student who captured her experience.
Al Jazeera America wrote a piece covering wastewater problems in Uniontown and around Al’s Black Belt region entitled, “Filthy water and shoddy sewers plague poor Black Belt counties.” The reporter stated the overflows of raw sewage pose serious health risks, including returns of diseases thought eradicated in the US.
Black Belt Citizens traveled to North Carolina to address the Lee County NAACP and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League about NC’s proposals for new coal ash landfills near their homes. Black Belt Citizens urged the community to keep fighting no matter what!
The Southern Movement Assembly held an Organizing Intensive in Uniontown, in part to learn about and support the struggle against environmental violence. The multi-day training was held at historic Quinn Chapel AME Church and included teachings, planning sessions, and a march on City Hall.
The Center for Public Integrity and NBC released reports about the struggles in Uniontown. CPI called their piece, “Thirty miles from Selma, a different kind of civil rights struggle.” NBC covered residents with videos, they called their story, “Welcome to Uniontown: Arrowhead Landfill Battle a Modern Civil Rights Struggle.”
Black Belt Citizens participated in the Alabamians for Restoration Conference, a day of community workshops, cross-sector conversation, and training with a diverse group of partners who united under a common banner to work towards social and climate justice. The conference was organized by the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise, AL NAACP, Center for Earth Ethics, Equal Justice Initiative, Alabama Rivers Alliance, and the Climate Speakers Network.
Black Belt Citizens traveled to Montgomery to address the Dalriada United Methodist Church on the dangers and hazards of living near coal ash.
An Alabama Power Company executive met with the Black Belt Citizens and tried to negotiate and offer partnerships. APCO is Al’s largest producer and holder of coal ash.
Arrowhead Landfill continued to have unpermitted water run-off at its SW corner and reported trespass inside New Hope Cemetery at its NW corner.
Arrowhead released a video with attempts to advertise its landfill as a great corporate neighbor.
Black Belt Citizens traveled to Montgomery to share her experiences with the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women.
AL NAACP and Black Belt Citizens held a press conference at Pitts/New Hope Cemetery about the on-going trespass and desecration of the Black cemetery by the landfill.
In 2016, Black Belt Citizens partnered with Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide for strategic goals towards health and justice including the ability to accept tax deductible donations. In 2016, Black Belt Citizens Officers hired their first-ever staff, a part-time coordinator, to assist their efforts for health and justice. In 2016, Black Belt Citizens Officers and Coordinator met 2-3 times per month to strategically coordinate work and accomplish the following:
- Participated in and/or led 21 educational programs and advocacy events in Uniontown and the Black Belt;
- Developed 16 programs with Al students featuring Samford University, Stillman College, Tuskegee University, University of Al Tuscaloosa, University of Al Birmingham, and University of Montevallo;
- Coordinated 10 programs with faith groups whom provided us safe space, locations for strategic meetings, fellowship, and much more;
- Participated in 9 national trainings, workshops, and speaking engagements in 7 different states including the US Commission on Civil Rights in Washington DC, the Extreme Energy Extraction Collaborative Summit in PA, the Southern Peoples Organizing Intensive in Atlanta, Southern Movement Assembly in Chattanooga, the National Conference for Black Lawyers in Chicago, CoopEcon in Epes AL, the Southern Human Rights Organizers Conference in Jackson MS, and the US Human Rights Network’s FIHRE, Fighting Injustice through Human Rights Education (FIHRE), Retreat at legendary Highlander Research and Education Center in TN.
Black Belt Citizens and Al Young, Black & Green hosted Building Bridges for Justice, MLK weekend, featuring a tour of Uniontown, Saturday Prayer Supper, community listening session, and cultural infrastructure workshop with a focus on civil rights, environmental justice, and community empowerment.
Black Belt Citizens traveled to Washington DC on request from the US Commission on Civil Rights to share testimony about living with toxic coal ash. The USCCR stated they would visit Uniontown and investigate Arrowhead. Reporters from the Center for Public Integrity continued their coverage on EPA’s handling of coal ash and environmental justice.
Black Belt Citizens addressed the Southeastern Student Summit for Justice and rallied students from multiple campuses against dumping coal ash in Uniontown. Calhoun’s presentation inspired one of the students to submit a news article.
Black Belt Citizens hosted another Building Bridges for Justice program bringing together community members and different organizations to analysis and plan for health and justice. The event was scheduled for the visit of the US Commission on Civil Rights and included a fish fry.
Arrowhead Landfill’s attorneys filed a slapp lawsuit against 4 Uniontown residents for alleged slander.
BBC hosted Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Montgomery for a Fighting for Human Rights Tour. Groups visited the sewage sprayfields and New Hope Cemetery where they noticed recent bulldozer work and a parked bulldozer inside the cemetery.
Black Belt Citizens traveled to Pennsylvania to join the Extreme Energy Extraction Collaborative Summit and connected with community leaders and environmental justice experts from across North America in a 4 day workshop.
ACLU filed for dismissal of the landfill’s slander suit. Their piece, “This Poor, Black, Polluted Alabama Town, Speaking Up Gets You Sued,” can be found at this link.
Black Belt Citizens attended the Southern People’s Organizing Initiative in Atlanta, Ga with Women Watch Afrika, Project South, the Southern Movement Assembly and over 65 freedom fighters from around the Global South.
Black Belt Citizens attended the US Human Rights Network’s FIHRE, Fighting Injustice through Human Rights Education (FIHRE), Retreat at legendary Highlander Research and Education Center to plan a human rights campaign and tactics for Uniontown.
Black Belt Citizens and Federation of Southern Coops hosted “Growing Local Farmers” which brought together 35 farmers, community leaders, government agency staff, and organization’s from Al’s Black Belt region to discuss black land loss, growing small businesses, family farms and cooperative models, and more.
Black Belt Citizens and the US Human Rights Network hosted a community program, “Clean Water and Working Sanitation NOW” featuring a community tour, solidarity action with BBC, and community tribunal. The people’s action was scheduled for and located at the City Council meeting and may have influenced its sudden cancellation.
Black Belt Citizens hosted the Uniontown Assembly and political forum at Quinn Chapel AME Church. The community program united people from Uniontown in the creation of a shared political platform.
The Uniontown Assembly & Political Forum II brought together 45+ Uniontown residents who demanded transparency and justice from the candidate (not the incumbent) who attended. The forum immediately followed the City Council meeting in the City Hall auditorium.
US Commission on Civil Rights released their report, “Environmental Justice: Examining the Environmental Protection Agency Compliance and Enforcement of Title VI and E.O. 12,898,” mentioning Uniontown over 70 times regarding the US Environmental Protection Agency’s role in environmental justice, complying with the Civil Rights Act, and policies and actions related to coal ash. Center for Public Integrity wrote an article, “Report slams EPA Civil Rights Compliance.”
5 Black Belt Citizens members attended and participated in the Southern Movement Assembly in Chattanooga, Tn along with 350 other freedom fighters.
Black Belt Citizens attended and presented at the National Conference of Black Lawyers in Chicago, Il.
Black Belt Citizens members joined the CoopEcon workshop hosted by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives to learn about cooperative development in the Black Belt.
Black Belt Citizens helped create and host the Boykin Peoples Movement Assembly in Gees Bend focusing on protecting water, land, and culture. The event was co-created by the Boykin Improvement Association, Project South and US Human Rights Network and the program included an assembly-style discussion, shared lunch, and farm tour.
4 Black Belt Citizens members attended the 20th Bi-Annual Southern Human Rights Organizer’s Conference (SHROC) at historic Tougaloo College in Jackson, Ms.
In 2017, Black Belt Citizens continued to be led by those most impacted by toxic waste, sewage overflows, corruption, and poverty. Black Belt Citizens Officers and Coordinator met 20+ times to strategically coordinate and accomplish the following:
- Led and/or participated in 40+ programs centered around health and justice;
- Attended all 17 City Council meetings and led and/or hosted 4 educational meetings with elected officials;
- Conducted 10 events with Churches and their congregations;
- Led 10 community-based programs in Uniontown with schools;
- Organized 8 educational programs at Uniontown’s City Hall immediately following 8 City Council meetings;
- Attended 5+ trainings outside Uniontown including Mobile, Tuskegee, Atlanta, North Carolina, and Vermont.
January 20, on the day of the Presidential Inauguration, Black Belt Citizens met to strategically plan 2017 goals. On January 21, over a dozen Black Belt Citizens members, young and old, joined the “Black Belt Social Change Leaders” program in Selma hosted by the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy, the Black Belt Community Foundation, and the Grantmakers for Southern Progress.
Arrowhead Landfill withdrew its $30 million lawsuit intended to threaten four Uniontown residents. Please learn more from ACLU’s article, “Landfill Drops
Only 3 days after the landfill dropped its lawsuit, The AL Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) approved and renewed the landfill’s permit for another 5 years. On the same day, Black Belt Citizens hosted a learning tour of the failed sewage sprayfield with professors, engineers, and local experts. On February 11, Black Belt Citizens met to protect and defend the community from the landfill and state government.
Black Belt Citizens hosted New Beginnings Ministry’s (from Brighton, Al) youth group and the Al Sierra Club’s Birmingham ICO program in Uniontown for 2 days of community living and programming. The weekend’s programs were captured by ‘Portia Takes on the Black Belt’s’ BBC Show.
Black Belt Citizens featured in report discussing philanthropy in the South, “As the South Grows”.
Black Belt Citizens traveled to Montgomery and opened account at a minority-owned bank.
Black Belt Citizens hosted University of AL Huntsville for community health research and education.
Black Belt Citizens hosted Black Warrior Riverkeeper for a strategic meeting in Uniontown.
Five Black Belt Citizens members traveled to Clarkston, Ga for Southern Peoples’ Organizing Intensive training with Women Watch Afrika, Project South, and the Southern Movement Assembly.
Black Belt Citizens welcomed US Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and many special guests to Uniontown for day 1 of their Southeastern environmental justice learning tour. Black Belt Citizens members toured the Senator’s staff, Hip Hop Caucus, Now This News, National Geographic, Yale Law School’s Environmental Justice Clinic, Earthjustice, Shepherd Productions, and others to the cheese plant, the sewage sprayfields, the landfill, and New Hope Cemetery.
Black Belt Citizens attended the Uniontown City Council meeting and then hosted the ACLU of AL for a “Know Your Rights, Uniontown” training. It was standing room only in the Council meeting that was jam-packed with discussions and topics as well as people. The Council motioned to increase residential water bills. Perry County Commission Chair, Miller, who represents the district around the landfill spoke to the Council with the landfill’s attorney. The Council also went into an extended period of Executive Session. The overall council meeting ended at 8 PM. Black Belt Citizens and ACLU’s program was previously and publicly announced for 7 PM and/or immediately following the Council meeting. Black Belt Citizens members felt the meeting was extended to hurt the KYR training. Black Belt Citizens members also learned that the Mayor planned and promoted a “free food” give-away on the other side of town at the same time of the KYR training.
Fusion’s Project Earth published “The Black Belt Citizens Fight for Clean Air and Water in Uniontown.”
Black Belt Citizens members attended Uniontown’s Council meeting then hosted Salaam Green and Literary Healing Arts for “Health and Healing, Uniontown.” On August 21, Black Belt Citizens members attended Uniontown’s Council meeting then hosted Portia Takes on the Black Belt for “Hands Off the Black Belt”.
Welcome to Uniontown, where residents say they are being poisoned by the very air they breathe
Posted by NowThis Politics on Saturday, September 9, 2017
Black Belt Citizens attended Uniontown’s Council meeting then hosted Green Jobs Development program with Federation of Southern Cooperatives with guests Boykin Improvement Corporation.
Black Belt Citizens members toured two Black Belt farms as part of the BBC Green Jobs Development Program.
November 6, Black Belt Citizens hosted voter drive and then hosted ACLU of AL for “Know Your Rights.” On November 7, Black Belt Citizens hosted Funders for a Just Economy for a learning tour and community discussion.
Black Belt Citizens hosted US Congresswoman Sewell for discussion about Uniontown’s sewage problems.
Black Belt Citizens led learning tour of sewage pollution, attended Uniontown’s Council meeting, and hosted “Clean Water NOW.”
Black Belt Citizens members attended the US Human Rights Convening in Atlanta. December 9, Black Belt Citizens President, Esther Calhoun, was awarded the 2017 Human Rights Defender Award.
Welcome to Uniontown, Alabama, A Town Facing Environmental Injustice, September 2017
In 2018, Black Belt Citizens dedicated their work to economic and environmental justice including protecting sacred space, working for clean water, and demanding equal rights. Black Belt Citizens Officers and Coordinator met at least 15 times to strategically guide the organization and accomplished the following:
- Led and/or participated in 40+ programs in Uniontown and Alabama’s Black Belt centered around health and justice;
- Attended all 19 City Council meetings and participated in 5 educational programs with elected officials;
- Conducted 10 events with faith-based groups in Alabama’s Black Belt and Churches in Uniontown and the surrounding area including their congregations;
- Attended 10 trainings in North Carolina, New York, Tennessee, Detroit, Missouri, Mississippi, Maryland, Louisiana, and Wisconsin;
- Participated in 20 voter education work days and 10 green jobs work days;
- Supported research, environmental science, and data collection with 6 colleges including Judson College, Auburn University, Dominican University, Columbia University, University of Maryland College Park, University of Alabama in Huntsville.
From January 13-15, Black Belt Citizens hosted eight young organizers from Mobile and Birmingham for discussions and planning how to support each other. On January 15, MLK Day, Black Belt Citizens held a strategic meeting in Uniontown and then visited the Boykin Improvement Corporation’s meeting.
On February 6, Black Belt Citizens hosted the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and their 2018 Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity for community lunch at Quinn Chapel AME Church and learning tour in Uniontown. On February 16, on the same day members traveled to Montgomery and heard the state of Alabama’s decision to renew the landfill’s permit, Harper’s Magazine published its story about Uniontown, “Empty Suits, Defamation law and the price of dissent.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency closed Uniontown residents’ discrimination complaint against the state of Alabama Department of Environmental Management stating “insufficient evidence” on March 2. From March 2-3, Black Belt Citizens hosted partners from Mobile in Uniontown during the annual Bloody Sunday programs in Selma.
3.9.2018 Free Speech TV “How an Alabama Town Is Fighting Against Cancerous & Toxic Coal Ash Dumping—No Thanks to Trump’s EPA”, https://freespeech.org/stories/how-an-alabama-town-is-fighting-against-cancerous-toxic-coal-ash-dumping-no-thanks-to-trumps-epa/
3.11.2018 Rich Eilbert recounting the story of Uniontown, Alabama, https://soundcloud.com/richeilbert/uniontown
On April 7, Piggly Wiggly closed and the Selma Times Journal covered the event, “Lone Grocery Store in Uniontown Closes Down.” From April 24-25, Black Belt Citizens Green Jobs Development Program planted 100 blueberry bushes around Uniontown.
4.19.2018 AL.COM “Visit at your own risk: Uniontown’s residents plagued by sewage disaster”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhJEsscB3-g&t=1s
4.20.2018 AL.COM “Sewage problems still plague Uniontown after $4.8 million in repairs”, http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2018/04/uniontown_sewage_problems.html
Black Belt Citizens was featured in the May edition of the Essence Magazine article, “Meet The Women Who Turned The Tide In Alabama”. From May 9-10, Black Belt Citizens hosted organizations, Campaign Legal Center, The Ordinary People Society, and the Extreme Energy Extraction Collaborative to register voters in Uniontown. On May 10, Black Belt Citizens organized a Political Forum in Uniontown to educate and engage voters in the June 5 Primary Election. Black Belt Citizens conducted voter education work days on May 16, 18, and 24 and organized a Political Forum on May 25.
5.30.2018 Essence “Meet The Women Who Turned The Tide In Alabama”, https://www.essence.com/news/women-who-turned-tide-alabama-women-voters-and-organizers
On June 5, the same day as the Primary Election, the AL Department of Environmental Management revoked their own “Civil Rights and Environmental Justice Complaint Reporting and Investigating Process” due to improper implementation. On June 5, the people of Perry County voted and elected a new commissioner for Perry County District 5, Ben Eaton. On June 6, professors from Auburn University, University of Alabama, and University of South Alabama sent a letter to Uniontown’s Mayor and advised the City to seek a second engineering opinion for the needed wastewater solutions.
6.10.2018 The Black Belt Observer “Call Him Commissioner Ben Eaton” https://ashepherdproductio.wixsite.com/asprod/blog/call-him-commissioner-ben-eaton
From July 18-19, Black Belt Citizens hosted the Performing Our Future program in Uniontown. The workshop brought together groups from California, New York, Wisconsin, Maryland, Kentucky, and Alabama to learn, share, and build.
7.18.2018 AL.COM “Alabama investigating absentee votes in the Black Belt”, https://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2018/07/alabama_investigating_absentee.html#incart_river_index
From August 15-16, Black Belt Citizens hosted the Southern Poverty Law Center’s AL Voting Rights Project (AVRP) for voting rights work in Uniontown, Demopolis, Marion, and Greensboro.
8.20.2018 World Socialist Web Site “Alabama: Deteriorating rural sewer and septic systems”, https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/08/20/alab-a20.html
From September 4-6, Black Belt Citizens hosted Stateline media for a story on Uniontown’s pollution problems. On September 5, Black Belt Citizens met with members of the Ashurst Bar Smith Community Organization in Selma to discuss environmental justice.
9.13.2018 Bustle “10 Environmental Groups To Follow In The Fight Against Climate Change”, https://www.bustle.com/p/10-environmental-groups-to-follow-in-the-fight-against-climate-change-8864648
From October 5-7, Black Belt Citizens members attended the National Creative Placemaking Summit in College Park, Maryland. On October 8, Black Belt Citizens hosted Church Women United Montgomery at Uniontown Church of God for amazing fellowship, mutual learning, and visiting sites of pollution and injustice. After the gathering, Black Belt Citizens traveled to Wilcox County and attended a special community meeting held by the Boykin Improvement Corporation.
10.1.2018 Stateline Media “Small Town vs. Big Pollution: Black Residents Allege Environmental Racism”, https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2018/10/01/small-town-vs-big-pollution-black-residents-allege-environmental-racism
On November 14, members of Black Belt Citizens attended a special dedication for Perry County Commissioner Districts 4 and 5 then hosted a community celebration for District 4 and 5 at Chatinos Mexican Grill in Marion. Students from Judson College in Marion visited the Uniontown sprayfield and sampled overflows again on November 15. November 16, members of Black Belt Citizens and residents of Uniontown attended a special stakeholders meeting at the U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Montgomery to learn about proposed plans for Uniontown’s sewage system.
11.16.2018 AL.COM, “USDA approves $23M for Uniontown sewage fix”, https://www.al.com/news/2018/11/usda-approves-23m-for-uniontown-sewage-fix.html
On December 14, Black Belt Citizens hosted a special community celebration at Quinn Chapel AME Church in Uniontown to highlight the efforts of residents and partners and then traveled to Greensboro to visit the Safe House Black History Museum. On December 22, 10 years after the TVA Coal Ash disaster, Black Belt Citizens and partners published a video of the pollution in Uniontown.
12.25.2018 AL.COM “25 People to Watch in 2019” and Ben Eaton was highlighted
Visit at your own risk: Uniontown’s residents plagued by sewage disaster, April 2018
In 2019, the members of Black Belt Citizens strived towards economic, environmental, and political justice in Uniontown and Alabama’s Black Belt. Black Belt Citizens held monthly board meetings to strategically guide the organization and successfully led monthly community programs and accomplished the following:
- Led and/or participated in 40+ programs in Uniontown and Alabama’s Black Belt centered around health and justice;
- Attended all 18 City Council meetings and participated in 3 educational programs with elected officials;
- Conducted 10+ events with faith-based groups and/or events located in Churches in Uniontown and Alabama’s Black Belt;
- Attended 10+ trainings out of state including Montana, North Carolina, New York, Tennessee, Mississippi, Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina, and Wisconsin;
- Participated in 10+ strategic meetings, trainings, and work days for voting rights and voting restoration;
- Led 10+ deliveries of donated clothing and furniture, used books and toys, and more to Uniontown and the surrounding areas;
- Participated in 10+ green jobs work days featuring planting 100+ blueberry bushes and 1,000 collards and delivering fresh produce to residents;
- Supported public health research, environmental science projects, and student-led data collection with 6 colleges including Judson College, Dominican University, Columbia University, Yale University, University of Maryland College Park, University of Alabama in Huntsville, and University of Alabama at Birmingham.
On January 18, Black Belt Citizens joined the first public screening of “Uniontown” in York, Alabama at the Coleman Center for the Arts. The event included conversations with the filmmaker, local foods and culinary artist, a panel and discussion, and more! From January 18-19, Black Belt Citizens hosted out of town partners in Uniontown for an unique home-stay experience and strategic planning meetings. On January 19, Black Belt Citizens traveled to Wilcox County and met with Boykin Volunteer Fire Department and Boykin Improvement Corporation. On January 20, Black Belt Citizens attended and presented at the University of Montevallo during another “Uniontown” Film Screening. On January 21, Black Belt Citizens hosted a special Martin Luther King Jr. Day “Uniontown” Film Screening featuring discussions on environmental justice and voting rights with residents and groups including Church Women United, Montgomery Improvement Association, and the AL Voting Rights Project. See attached picture of January 18 at Coleman Center for the Arts in York, Alabama.
1.2.2019 Workers World “Alabama People’s Tribunal: ‘Food, water, health are human rights’”, https://www.workers.org/2019/01/02/alabama-peoples-tribunal-food-water-health-are-human-rights/
On February 18, Black Belt Citizens met with Church Women United for a strategic meeting and then hosted a special Jimmie Lee Jackson Day program in Uniontown regarding access to health care with AL Arise. Black Belt Citizens and the AL Voting Rights Project organized voter education work days from February 18-19 in Perry, Hale, and Greene Counties. On February 21, Black Belt Citizens partner, Ashurst Bar Smith Community Organization, presented at a forum about environmental injustice in Lowndes County. From February 21-23, two members of the Black Belt Citizens Women’s Network attended “Uniontown” film screenings at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Montana. See attached picture of the February 18 community health program.
2.6.2019, CSR Journal, “Calling Out Environmental Racism”, https://thecsrjournal.in/csr-calling-environmental-racism/
From March 1-3, Black Belt Citizens hosted two home-stay guests during the annual Bloody Sunday weekend, an activist from Birmingham and student researcher from Dominican University. On March 2, Black Belt Citizens and the AL Voting Rights Project organized a voter education work day in Selma to interact with the weekend’s guests. Also on March 2, Black Belt Citizens attended programs about voting rights at Brown’s Chapel and Ebenezer Baptist Church. On March 4, Black Belt Citizens held a strategic meeting in Uniontown and then attended the Uniontown City Council meeting.
3.4.2019, University of Alabama Huntsville, “Environmental justice begins with awareness, advocacy”, https://www.newswise.com/articles/environmental-justice-begins-with-awareness-advocacy
From April 3-4, a member of the Black Belt Citizens traveled to New York and met with The Center for Health, Environment and Justice. From April 5-7, three members of Black Belt Citizens Women’s Network attended the McDowell Folk School – Bluegrass Music and Gee’s Bend Quilting Program.
4.15.2019 The Guardian “‘We’re not a dump’ – poor Alabama towns struggle under the stench of toxic landfills”, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/apr/15/were-not-a-dump-poor-alabama-towns-struggle-under-the-stench-of-toxic-landfills
Black Belt Citizens conducted an educational program at McRae-Gaines Learning Center in Selma on May 7 and showed the “Uniontown” film to students, parents, and teachers. From May 10-11, two members of Black Belt Citizens traveled to the University of Maryland, College Park for an “Uniontown” film screening and environmental justice summit. See attached picture of Uniontown residents at the May 2 “Uniontown” film screening in Atlanta.
From June 19-23, Black Belt Citizens hosted Cornell University in Uniontown. On June 20, Black Belt Citizens hosted Legal Services of AL for the monthly legal clinic in Uniontown. Members of Black Belt Citizens participated in the Uniontown monthly bike ride on June 22.
On July 9, Black Belt Citizens attended the Perry County Commission meeting in Marion where Uniontown residents observed the resolution to ban coal ash being voted down 3 to 2. On July 10, Black Belt Citizens picked up donated clothes and books in Birmingham and then delivered them to Uniontown on July 11 as part of the July monthly member meeting.
7.9.2019 Alabama News Room “Proposed Resolution to Ban Coal Ash in Perry County Fails”, https://www.alabamanews.net/2019/07/09/proposed-resolution-to-ban-coal-ash-in-perry-county-fails/
On August 13, members of Black Belt Citizens attended a Wastewater Hearing in Uniontown with the Uniontown Water Board, City of Uniontown, Sentell Engineering, and the AL Department of Environmental Management. Also on August 13, Black Belt Citizens and Project Horseshoe Farm delivered 40 dozen organic eggs from BDA Farm to members and residents around Uniontown. On August 14, Black Belt Citizens held its monthly Board meeting and hosted its monthly Legal Clinic with Legal Services of AL on August 15.
On September 19, Black Belt Citizens and Legal Services of Alabama hosted their monthly legal clinic in Uniontown. On September 24, members of Black Belt Citizens attended the Uniontown Water Board’s monthly meeting and then later attended the Perry County Commission meeting in Marion.
9.13.2019 TIME “Influential Civil Rights Advocate Juanita Abernathy Dies at 88″, https://time.com/5677314/civil-rights-activist-juanita-abernathy-dies/
In partnership with Safe House Black History Museum in Greensboro, the “Uniontown” film screened on October 3 as part of their monthly movie series drawing a crowd of 30+ people from across Alabama’s Black Belt. On October 4, Black Belt Citizens delivered used clothing and children’s books to Uniontown. The “Uniontown” film screened at Dominican University on October 5 as part of their Conference on Critical Dietetics. Black Belt Citizens members attended the October 7 Uniontown City Council meeting while the “Uniontown” film screened at the Oaxaca, Mexico Film Fest.
10.4.2019 ABA “Environmental Injustice in Uniontown, Alabama, Decades after the Civil Rights Act of 1964: It’s Time For Action”, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/vol–44–no-2–housing/environmental-injustice-in-uniontown–alabama–decades-after-the/
On November 2, Black Belt Citizens hosted a special meeting in Uniontown with artists and community leaders. Members of Black Belt Citizens attended the November 4 Uniontown City Council meeting. On November 7, Black Belt Citizens picked up donated clothes and furniture in Birmingham and delivered them to Uniontown and Greensboro.
11.19.2019 UAB News “Study aims to discover if hookworm, related intestinal parasites are present in Alabama Black Belt”, https://www.uab.edu/news/research/item/10831-study-aims-to-discover-if-hookworm-related-intestinal-parasites-are-present-in-alabama-black-belt
On December 7, Black Belt Citizens hosted a Uniontown community health fair at Quinn Chapel AME Church with the Alliance for Nurses for Healthy Environment, UAB Family Medicine Selma, Selma AIR, Legal Services AL, and more! On December 10, members of Black Belt Citizens attended the Uniontown Water Board monthly meeting and then attended the Perry County Commission meeting in Marion. Black Belt Citizens held their annual community luncheon on December 13. December 13,1819, Perry County was created and on December 14, 1819, AL was admitted to the union as the 22nd US state.
HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver “SLAPP Suits”, November 2019
In 2020, the members of Black Belt Citizens increased efforts towards economic, environmental, and political justice in Uniontown and Alabama’s Black Belt. Black Belt Citizens held 8 strategic board meetings during the pandemic to guide the organization which successfully led and accomplished the following:
- The Black Belt Citizens Board of Directors conducted eight successful Board Meetings in 2020; In regards to the Black Belt Citizens governance, amazing strides were completed towards organizational incorporation; Black Belt Citizens gained new members in 2020 and hosted monthly member calls during the pandemic; Members of Black Belt Citizens attended all the in-person Uniontown City Council meetings and the Uniontown Waterworks Board meetings; Countless volunteer hours and strong, local leadership guided annual accomplishments most listed below.
- Black Belt Citizens partnered with Campaign Legal Center to implement the Restore Your Vote (RYV) Alabama project; Black Belt Citizens hosted two very special voting rights programs in January and February, five RYV virtual trainings and ten RYV virtual strategy calls; Black Belt Citizens members in Uniontown helped register residents, aided restoration of voting rights, and increased in-person voting during the August, October, and November elections; Black Belt Citizens members worked with Black Voters Matter to distribute 90 gift baskets to elders in Uniontown and Faunsdale.
- Black Belt Citizens worked with Legal Services of AL to conduct two in-person legal clinics located in Uniontown in January and February highlighting heir property and estate planning; Legal Services of AL continued virtual legal services for Uniontown residents March through December.
- Black Belt Citizens participated in six film screenings of “Uniontown” including virtual five events; The March 2 event was held in Tuscaloosa and hosted by a student group and featured a panel with Black Belt Citizen and Campaign Legal Center; The May 21 virtual event consisted of residents from Al and Tn who were impacted by TVA’s coal ash disaster at Kingston, Tn; The July 2 virtual event was hosted by R.A.C.E. Matters SLO and featured conversations with film producer Fraser Jones and Perry County Commissioner and Black Belt Citizens Board President Ben Eaton; The September 1 virtual film screening was hosted by Partnership for Southern Equity and Working Films; EarthxTV led the October 7 virtual film screening and the November 13 virtual film screening was led by the Washington DC Environmental Film Festival. On August 14, WGBH of Boston published a story about movies and politics and featured the film “Uniontown” in their publication “What To Watch Now: 5 Elections That Shaped American History” (https://www.wgbh.org/programs/2020/08/14/what-to-watch-now-5-elections-that-shaped-american-history). In October The Redford Center, a partner in the film “Uniontown”, established a campaign to encourage voting through videos and “Uniontown” was featured in the Center’s efforts to increase voting. On October 30, 2020, The Hollywood Reporter covered the program in an article entitled “Redford Center Launches Environment-Themed Films to Encourage Voting.” The article can be found here: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/redford-center-launches-environment-themed-films-to-encourage-voting.
- The Black Belt Citizens Community Health Network (CHN) partnered with the University of Maryland to monitor air quality in Uniontown, purchased 1,500 facial masks and distributed the masks throughout Uniontown in May, June, and July, and facilitated the delivery and distribution of 1,000 cases of drinking water in May, July, and November; The drinking water was donated by Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Cahaba River Society, All Saints Church in Homewood, and families and friends in Birmingham; The CHN worked with UAB to build plans for researching intestinal parasites in Perry County in 2021.
- Black Belt Citizens worked with Black Warrior Riverkeeper and sampled waters around Uniontown’s sewage problems in January and then attended a February hearing on the motion to intervene in the City of Uniontown vs State of AL clean water act lawsuit; Black Belt Citizens and Black Warrior Riverkeeper observed the work of the Uniontown Waterworks Board and attended the monthly Waterworks Board meetings. On May 1, 2020, The Environmental Policy Innovation Center published a case study about Uniontown sewage problems entitled “Case Study 6: The Face of Sanitation for the American Poor: Uniontown, AL.” The study can be found here: http://policyinnovation.org/water/equity/case-study-6-rural-sanitation.
- Members of Black Belt Citizens collected plastic bottles and stored the bottles in the Black Belt Citizens Recycling Trailer; Coca-Cola Bottling Company donated 450 recycling bags.
- Black Belt Citizens Board members worked with families and local genealogists to designate New Hope Cemetery as “Historically Designated” by the AL Historical Commission.
- The Black Belt Citizens Green Jobs Development Program distributed 1,000 dozen organic eggs to Uniontown residents, purchased and distributed 50 pecan trees and 50 plum trees, and sponsored three members to attend the 128th Tuskegee University Farmer’s Conference in Montgomery in February; The Green Jobs Development Program also partnered with Lee Jackson Farms to share 40 pounds of local shrimp to Uniontown residents.
- Black Belt Citizens collaborated with Tuskegee University’s Community Engagement Core and Center for Rural Health and Economic Equity to develop the Black Belt Digital Network (BBDN); The project connected residents with educational info and Tuskegee University staff.
- The Black Belt Citizens Women’s Network supported the efforts of the Uniontown District Women’s Convention, Church Women United Montgomery, and the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative in Wilcox County.
- Black Belt Citizens participated in the national coalition, Performing Our Future, for the third year, helped develop a coalition cookbook, and supported three members’ travel to Baltimore in March.
- The Black Belt Citizens Appliance Ministry collaborated with All Saints Episcopal Church in Homewood for two different drinking water donations and a back-to-school materials donation for Uniontown youth; The Black Belt Citizens Appliance Ministry collaborated with Temple Emanu-El and Temple Beth-El for donations of children’s book and clothing; Families from several different faiths donated items such as used appliances, furniture, clothing, and household items such as 500 pounds of donated clothing, 5 washers, 5 dryers, 3 dishwashers, 2 stoves, 2 microwaves, 4 chairs, 1 dresser, 1 bed and bedding materials, 1 refrigerator, and more; The Appliance Ministry’s coordinated 10+ exchanges and partnered with the Black Belt Book Project and others to deliver 3,500 children’s books to Perry County and Wilcox County; This ministry included Quinn Chapel AME Church in Uniontown, Greater Mt Calvary AME Church in Beloit, Shady Grove Baptist Uniontown, Odessa’s Blessing Montgomery, The Bayard Rustin Community Center and Thrift Store Montgomery, New Beginnings Ministry Brighton, Freewill Church of God in Christ Hueytown, Rising Star AME Zion Birmingham, AL Poor People’s Campaign, St. Mary’s on the Highlands Episcopal Church Birmingham, Grace Works Birmingham, St. Thomas Episcopal Church Greenville, Temple Beth-El Birmingham, and Temple Emanu-El Birmingham.
On January 16, Black Belt Citizens and Legal Services of AL held a monthly legal clinic at Uniontown’s Public Library. The clinic’s discussion included heir property and the 2020 Census. Black Belt Citizens held a special voting rights program on January 20, MLK Day, in Uniontown at historic Quinn Chapel AME Church. Before the voting rights program in Uniontown, Black Belt Citizens traveled to Greensboro and visited the Safe House Black History Museum.
On February 7, members of Black Belt Citizens attended a hearing in Marion regarding Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s Motion to Intervene into the Clean Water Act lawsuit of the AL Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) vs the City of Uniontown.
From March 6-10, three Black Belt Citizens members traveled to Maryland and attended the third Performing Our Future national gathering held in Baltimore at the Arch Social Club.
Morgan State University President David Wilson (L) with long-time friend and Uniontown native Former Uniontown Mayor James F May
On April 27, the Black Belt Citizens Board of Directors hosted one of its eight Board meetings held in 2020.
On May 1, Black Belt Citizens conducted a Restore Your Vote strategy call with Campaign Legal Center. On that same day, Black Belt Citizens received 112 cases of bottled water (2,688 bottles) and 450 recycling bags from Coca-Cola Bottling Company.
Perry County Commissioner and Black Belt Citizens Board President Ben Eaton with staff from Coca-Cola Bottling Company
On June 10, Black Belt Citizens, in partnership with the Black Belt Book Program, delivered 1,500 children’s books to the Elected Members of the Wilcox County Board of Education and BAMA Kids Inc.
On July 1, Black Belt Citizens Board of Directors President participated in the Neighborhood Funders Group “Mulitracial Rural Equity Summit.”
On August 23, Black Belt Citizens attended the All Saints Church service and received donations of school supplies, clothes, toys, and recreational equipment and then delivered them to Uniontown a few hours before a “candidate and election parade” was held promoting the August 25 municipal election. On August 24, Southerly Magazine published an oral history project featuring the University of Alabama and three members and partners of Black Belt Citizens. On August 25, members voted in the Uniontown municipal election.
“Oral histories: 3 Alabama activists on their fight for environmental justice”, https://southerlymag.org/2020/08/24/oral-histories-3-alabama-activists-on-their-fight-for-environmental-justice/
On September 1, Working Films and Partnership for Southern Equity hosted a virtual “Uniontown” film screening at the same time Black Belt Citizens hosted a monthly member call.
Black Belt Citizens and Black Voters Matter delivered 90+ care packages to elders in Uniontown and Faunsdale on October 3. Black Belt Citizens attended the October 5 Uniontown City Council meeting. On October 6, Black Belt Citizens hosted its monthly member call. The Uniontown Municipal Runoff Election was held on October 6 and Ron Miller won a seat on the Uniontown City Council; Miller was the previous Perry County Commissioner of District 5 who lost to Ben Eaton in 2018.
Black Belt Citizens distributed 50 pecan and 50 plum trees on November 10 to members and residents of Uniontown as part of their Green Jobs Development Program. On November 12, All Saints Church in Homewood delivered over 700 gallons of water to Uniontown and members of Black Belt Citizens distributed the water to residents. Birmingham’s Temple Beth-el and Temple Emanu-el donated clothing to Black Belt Citizens on November 13, the same day the Washington DC Environmental Film Festival hosted a virtual screening of “Uniontown”.
On December 1, Black Belt Citizens held its monthly member call and discussed Uniontown’s water and sewage, a project with the Tuskegee University Community Engagement Core, research projects from UAB, and updates across the Black Belt. Black Belt Citizens hosted Temple Emanu-El’s clothing ministry in Uniontown on December 3 and distributed winter clothing to women and youth.