Meet one of our community leaders, Helen Livingston, of Scotland County. I first met Helen through the phone when I started with PHW, and almost instantly we were kindred spirits. She was the reason PHW had our first webinar, and she continues to be a strong asset for the Central South-East Region where I work. She was recently honored by the Scotland County NAACP Youth Council. Because of the NC Council of Churches’ work with the NCNAACP, and because Helen Livingston is such a strong community leader in Scotland County, I wanted to share with you her remarks to the community. You will find that embedded within her eloquent words are the Council’s program charges: peace, justice, health, unity, collaboration, and a call to action. I hope you will enjoy her words as much as I did.
Thank you, members of the Scotland County NAACP Youth Council, and Madam Chairman. You have no idea how much I treasure this award. It is as if you are honoring me for what I would like to have been able to do, more than what I have actually done. You have honored my dreams. Both sides of my family have lived in the area for generations, and though I am almost the last family member here, I am grateful for their examples of love for the area, for the natural world, and for all of her people.
To receive this honor at a time when I am so proud of the leadership of the NCNAACP, not only in this state, but across the country, is touching. I was unable to attend the Moral March in February, but my brother, Tom John, came from Nashville, Tennessee to march, and then came to tell me all about how wonderful it was, and how it signifies the beginning of a new day in our country. The Rev. Dr. William Barber II focuses on the importance of We. He says, “’We’ Is the Most Important Word in the Social Justice Vocabulary.” The power of the coalitions that he is bringing together is our hope for the future against the money of the few.
You young people are so fortunate to be coming along at a time of such powerful leadership and engagement under Rev. Dr. Barber and the Forward Together Moral Movement; the powerful leadership of Ms. McNeil and engagement in ACT-SO activities and your meetings at the library; the example and engagement of such a fine State Legislator in Rev. Garland Pierce. There are, of course, many others from whom to gain the tools and resources to guide and support you to become a part of the Solution.
I’m going to give you some examples of how you can make a difference. Rev. Dr. Barber states that one of the five points that he wants to make is the importance of health and environmental justice. Indeed, environmental justice is all about health about keeping us free of toxins. Our health depends on the purity of our water, earth and air. And our financial health depends on our physical and mental health.
We in Scotland County are vulnerable to being targeted for environmental injustice, as industry tries to come in on a white horse to “save us” from high taxes, when, in actuality, the costs of these environmental injustices such as mega landfills would be far greater than any temporary tax savings. Our reputation and way of life would be compromised, placing our future in grave danger. The county would be left with exorbitant cleanup costs.
The successes against siting two mega landfills in the area are wonderful. We all owe a debt of gratitude to our legislators, then-Senator Bill Purcell, and Representative Doug Yongue, and the Reverend Representative Garland Pierce. A highlight for me was getting to see Reverend Pierce in action in Raleigh!
Two issues have arisen lately that bear our careful attention: both fracking waste and coal ash may be allowed in municipal solid waste landfills, making them even more toxic than they already are. The oil and power companies would love to transfer the responsibility for coal ash and fracking waste to landfills, where the ultimate responsibility would lie with the county. Either or both of these additions would add to the pressures already in place for new megadump sites for New York trash. We must tell our legislators in the upcoming short session to be very careful about waste industry attempts to further undermine the regulations that were put in place in The Solid Waste Management Act of 2007.
And did you know that the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission proposed spending $61,000 to study the viability of fracking in the Cumberland Marlboro Basin, which includes part of Scotland County? Rise to the challenges, young people. Engagement is fun, rewarding and exciting. Make your place in history, and for your future. Write letters, email, make calls, meet wonderful people, and especially, go to Raleigh! Say “No!” to fracking, to coal ash in landfills, to last year’s legislation that has taken North Carolina backwards in so many areas, such as voting rights, health, education, poverty, discrimination, the list goes on.
This morning I listened to the Palm Sunday sermon that Rev. Dr. Barber preached at The Riverside Church in New York City. The Moral Movement to Higher Ground has begun! Here is the link to the sermon. Members of the Youth Group, listen, so that you, too, can hear, and grasp the opportunity you have to become actively engaged in what Rev. Dr. Barber calls “The Battle for the Soul of America.”