Experts Discuss the Ongoing Flooding Crisis in Black Neighborhoods

“I Flood & I Vote”

This is the rallying cry of Black community leaders around the country who are battling chronic flooding and fighting back against the cultural erasure and displacement from sea level rise, real-estate development, tourism and gentrification, all issues central to many movements advocating for Black liberation and challenges that impact Black journalists living and reporting in these areas.

Here are highlights from flood survivors, activists, and journalists advocating for Black communities that struggle against these compounded threats. You can find the full recording here.

Hilton Kelley

How Black people ended up living in high risk communities…

Hilton Kelley is an environmental justice community organizer in Port Arthur, TX
Hilton Kelley is an environmental justice community organizer in Port Arthur, TX (photo courtesy of Hilton Kelley)

“After the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, of course African Americans were free. We had the ability to go wherever we want, providing we weren’t marginalized or discriminated from being there, which we were. Therefore, the only options that were left for us when it comes to residence and where we could live, were those low lying areas. That’s where we were forced to live, because all the other communities were basically marginalized and pushing us away by various means, through violence, through racial intimidation, and through the KKK organization.”

Are climate migrants refugees?

“A reporter asked me how did I feel about being dubbed a refugee when we have to go to other communities. And I said, ‘Well, very much like the people of New Orleans back during Katrina, when they had them on the news, they were [reporters] saying many of these people have become refugees.’ You cannot become a refugee in your own country. Refugee is a definition of a person that had to flee their country due to war or natural disaster of some sort. We are living in our country. We are all Americans.”

Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine

How living in the pathway of the storms takes a toll on local communities…

Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation
Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (photo courtesy of Queen Quet)

“What do we have to have in heart and spirit going forward is resiliency, and resiliency spiritually, intellectually, and physically, with our bodies and minds. Because people don’t realize how taxing it is on your soul, on your spirit and on your psyche to first deal with the predictions, for days, sometimes a week ahead of time, daily, you’re inundated with trying to figure out what’s the prediction. Is it coming to me or not? Am I prepared enough? Do I have everything boarded up? Do I have it sandbagged? Do I have the things I need to come back? Do I have money to go anywhere? All that’s part of that process.”

Is there empathy for coastal communities?

“The lack of consideration for people’s lives and what the impacts are of any type of natural disaster, the pandemic or any of the storms you’ve mentioned, has not been considered. Even us not being counted in the census is not usually considered. And that is critical to how we bring about change, how we get the resources and the communities like Brother Hilton Kelly pointed out, FEMA ain’t even counting some of us. They’re not helping us because we’re not a number that matters until somebody wants to just come around for a few days on the campaign trail.”

Britney Hamilton

On covering storms in newsrooms…

Britney Hamilton is a Meteorologist, Physicist, and Producer with The Weather Channel
Britney Hamilton is a Meteorologist, Physicist, and Producer with The Weather Channel (photo courtesy of Nadia Tolbert)

“I try to include as many things as possible in terms of how it’s impacting communities. Can we get some actual video and sound, so people can really understand, because as much as I love science and as much as I love showing maps and radar and satellite, sometimes that doesn’t drive the point home for people. People need to feel connected and looking at a map, they just like, ‘Oh, whatever. That doesn’t concern me.’ Usually, I just try to keep that in the forefront of my mind and realize that it’s our tendency just to jump to the next thing, but these things are very important as they’re happening to communities and disproportionately happening in communities that may be in poverty or may not have the resources.”

Is evacuation always feasible?

“A lot of times, we talk about evacuating when there’s storms and things like that, but you have to realize where are people going? Where are they getting the money to go? It’s more than just, ‘Hey, well we told you guys it was coming. Why didn’t you leave?’ There’s a lot of aspects of it, and I think that’s something that, in the weather community, especially being a Black woman, you don’t see a lot of Black meteorologists in the community.

“I’m also a physicist. You don’t see a lot of Black physicists either, so when you’re talking about these things, it’s almost like you have to tell people to check their privilege because not everybody can just get up and go when it comes to storms and evacuating, so I try to just keep these at the forefront of people’s mind as much as possible, but sometimes it is a little bit of a challenge, because you may, what you want to talk about may get bumped for something else.”



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