I believe that South Carolina moved the United States this summer with such selfless acts as the Charleston Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church members’ forgiveness of the man responsible for the massacre of nine of their loved ones and the overwhelmingly bipartisan vote to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.
These events helped lay the groundwork for America’s Journey for Justice, an NAACP-sponsored march from Selma to Washington. Last month, S.C. Sierra Club member Virginia Sanders told the crowd at the Journey for Justice Rally at the State House about her work with the Sierra Club when she helped win a battle against developers who tried to build a gated community in the floodplain down near the Congaree River in Richland County. If they had succeeded, they would have diverted flooding waters into a low-income black community in Lower Richland. These developers attempted to buy off the residents with “suitcases of money” by taking folks out to eat and the like. The Sierra Club aided Ms. Sanders in turning out volunteers to educate the community; she and the community won that battle.
Now, Virginia Sanders and I encourage all people to come forward, learn and speak out against the environmental injustices that continue to impact the largely rural black Lower Richland community. Lower Richland is burdened with a coal-burning plant, a huge garbage dump belching methane gas into the environment, a business being fined for illicit dumping of waste material and a proposed pipeline (Dominion Carolina Gas Transmission) that would run through residents’ land and threaten St. Matthews Baptist Church’s expansion.
To be blunt, rural, low-income, black communities across South Carolina are on the receiving end of much of our state’s pollution and experience many other injustices. We can change this.
America’s Journey for Justice has followed in the footsteps of a visit from the National Sierra Club president, Aaron Mair, who has roots in Travelers Rest. He called for broader, more inclusive, diverse Sierra Club involvement in South Carolina. Please join me, President Mair, the NAACP and the S.C. chapter of the Sierra Club on this journey for justice.
Chair, John Bachman Sierra Club