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Why Illinois?

July 14th, 2015 by Andy Myers


A week long tour of Coal Ash Stories just wrapped in Illinois. Working Films partnered with 20 organizations from around the state to bring the series and filmmaker Rhiannon Fionn to 5 cities. The tour drew public and political attention to the toxicity of coal ash, which is especially important right now, because the state is in the process of creating rules for handling and disposing of this hazardous waste.

There are more than 90 coal ash pits across Illinois, and water contamination has been found at every site tested. Most of the ponds are unlined and were built in floodplains, on top of mines, and near rivers and lakes where they threaten Illinois’ water supply. The threat is also growing – more than 4.4 million tons of coal ash waste is produced in Illinois every year. Events took place in Alton, Chicago, Vermillion County, Springfield, and Peoria.

See what happened on Storify.

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Fracking Stories

April 27th, 2015 by Andy Myers


Fracking Stories is new compilation of six short documentaries that expose the public health and environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing, and the ways that communities are coming together to protect their land and water.

The series will launch in North Carolina, which lifted a moratorium on fracking last year. Events will take place across the state from mid-May to mid-June in Asheville, Durham, Fayetteville, Pembroke, Raleigh, Reidsville, Salisbury, Wadesboro, Wilmington, Pittsboro, and Winston Salem. A full schedule is listed below.

The NC screening tour is co-presented by The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Appalachian Voices, Clean Water for North Carolina, and Working Films.

If you live in another state, stay tuned. Fracking Stories will be showing in communities at risk of drilling in other parts of the country later this year.

For questions, contact Andy Myers,

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 10.27.56 AM

Film still from Dr. Theo Colborn, one of the 6 shorts in Fracking Stories shows a drilling site less than 150 feet from an elementary school.

In conjunction with Water Warriors
Tuesday May 19th, 6:30pm
Chatham Mills
480 Hillsboro St, Pittsboro, NC 27312
Hosted by: Appalachian VoicesThe Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Clean Water for North Carolina, and The Haw River Assembly

Saturday May 23rd, 11:00am
Cameo Art House
225 Hay St, Fayetteville, NC 28301
Hosted by: Sustainable Sandhills

Tuesday May 26th, 7pm
Community UCC
814 Dixie Trail, Raleigh, NC 27607
Hosted by: Triangle, Sierra Club Capital Group, and The Justice in a Changing Climate Group at CUCC

Thursday May 28th, 7pm
Hampton B. Allen Library
120 S Greene St, Wadesboro, NC 28170
Hosted by: Pee Dee WALL

Tuesday June 2nd, 7pm
Ferguson Auditorium at AB Tech
340 Victoria Rd. Asheville NC 28801
Hosted by: The Mountain Peoples AssemblyClean Water for North Carolina, and WNC Frack Free

Thursday June 4th, 6:30pm
Pembroke Public Library
413 S Blaine St., Pembroke, NC 28372
Hosted by: Winyah Rivers Foundation

Winston Salem
Thursday June 4th, 7pm
Temple Emmanuel
201 Oakwood Dr, Winston-Salem, NC 27103
Hosted by: NC WARN, Temple Emanuel Environmental Movement (TEEM), and The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League

Fayetteville (Second Event)
Thursday June 4th, 7:00pm
Cumberland County Public Library – Headquarters Branch
300 Maiden Lane Fayetteville, NC 28301-5032
Hosted by: Sustainable Sandhills, and Clean Water For North Carolina

Tuesday June 9th, 7pm
723 Rigsbee Ave, Durham, NC 27701
Hosted by: Clean Water For North Carolina, and The Durham People’s Alliance

In conjunction with Water Warriors
Friday June 12th, 7pm
Jengo’s Playhouse
815 Princess St, Wilmington, NC 28401
Hosted by: The New Hanover County NAACP, The Cape Fear Group of the Sierra Club, and Working Films

Tuesday June 16th, 7pm
Whitcomb Student Center, Activity Room at Rockingham Community College
484 County Home Rd, Reidsville, NC 27320
Hosted by: The Good Stewards of Rockingham

Wednesday June 17th, 7pm
Stanback Auditorium at the main Rowan County Library
201 W Fisher St, Salisbury, NC 28144
Hosted by: Clean Water For North Carolina




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Gallatin’s Coal Ash Story

March 10th, 2015 by Andy Myers


Fifty-five years worth of coal ash waste adds up – to over two billion gallons.  And that is what is stored in several coal ash ponds surrounding Tennessee Valley Authorities’ (TVA) Gallatin coal fired power plant. For decades, these ponds have been leaking toxic chemicals into nearby groundwater, threatening public health. Many area residents and environmental groups blame this on The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s (TDEC) weak and unenforced standards.

A recent investigation revealed that TVA wanted TDEC to step in to file a lawsuit, in order to block environmental organizations from doing so. With TDEC’s track record of inaction, it’s not hard to see why. In a score for TVA, this lawsuit moves the case out of federal court, and into state court, where fines are lower -$10,000 per day. In federal court, the fines per day could have been up to $37,500.

If this tactic sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. Just last year, an investigation found a series of internal emails between Duke Energy and NC state regulators in communication after environmental groups threatened to sue in January of 2013. The state stepped in to sue, halting these attempts. Less than a month later, a Duke Energy plant in Eden, NC spilled millions of gallons of coal ash into the Dan River.

Now Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), The Tennessee Sierra Club, Climate Nashville, Ecogal – The Curious Consumer, and Physicians for Social Responsibility have joined with Working Films to bring Coal Ash Stories to Gallatin. The event will offer information and engage local residents in conversation and action to address the continuing impact of TVA’s coal ash landfill, the recent lawsuit filed by the state against TVA, and what it means for the future of the Gallatin community.

This event follows a similar community forum held in Kingston in February. That event resulted in on-going, open discussion with TDEC, and opened the door for Kingston community members to have a say in how TDEC approaches future public hearings and comment periods on the TVA coal ash issues affecting them.

The Gallatin event will be held in The Palace Theater on March 25th and begin at 6:30pm CST. Admission is free and open to the public.


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Coal Ash Stories tours Missouri

March 3rd, 2015 by Andy Myers

Missouri is home to twenty-one coal fired power plants, most of which are in vulnerable floodplains and along our nation’s two largest rivers – the Missouri and the Mississippi. These plants produce 2.68 million tons of coal waste per year ranking the state 16th in the nation for the production of coal waste. Many in Missouri are not happy with the way state regulatory agencies are handling this waste.

In December 2014, the federal EPA released coal ash rules which provide guidance and regulatory language for states to adopt and enforce. “Our attention to this issue is critical – now that the federal EPA has left the enforcement of the coal ash rule in our hands. We must get Missouri Department of Natural Resources to adopt the federal guidelines and agree to enforce them in all cases if we are to protect Missouri communities and our valuable water resources. ” says Patricia Schuba of Labadie Environmental Organization. They are one of eleven organizations partnering with Working Films to present a statewide tour of Coal Ash Stories taking place March 12 – 19th.

Coal Ash Stories events will pair four short films with a discussion led by those who have worked on, and are impacted by the issue in Missouri. Rhiannon Fionn, filmmaker and creator of the documentary-in-progress Coal Ash Chronicles, will be at each of the screenings.

One of the films being screened features Joe Grohs of Festus, Missouri (pictured below), commenting on an EPA damage case in Crystal City: “…behind me and beyond the lake used by kids for fishing is 140,000 tons of coal waste that has leached toxins into the lake. After hearings, meetings and lots of talk, they have decided to leave the waste in place. The ash is toxic and now the lake is toxic. This needless situation could have been avoided if the state only monitored utilities and enforced sound regulations.”

MO Joseph Grohs Crystal City

If you’re in Columbia, Springfield, Kansas City, Jefferson City, Union, or Kirkwood please join us for Coal Ash Stories and spread the word! Details below:

Columbia Thursday, March 12, 7:30pm: Strickland Hall, Room 113 University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211. Hosted by: Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO), Osage Group/Missouri Sierra Club, Mizzou Energy Action Coalition, Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, and Missourians for Safe Energy

Springfield Sunday March 15, 7pm: Moxie Cinema, 305 S Campbell, Suite 101, Springfield, Missouri 65806
. Hosted by Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO), White River Group/Missouri Sierra Club.

Kansas City Monday, March 16, 7pm: Westport CoffeeHouse
, 4010, Pennsylvania Ave. Kansas City, MO 64111. Hosted by Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO), Thomas Hart Benton Group/Missouri Sierra Club, and The Little Blue River Watershed Coalition.

Jefferson City Tuesday, March 17, 7pm: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Jefferson City, 1021 Northeast Drive, Jefferson City, MO 65109. Hosted by Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO), Osage Group/Missouri Sierra Club, Show Me Solar, and The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Jefferson City.

Union Wednesday, March 18, 7pm: East Central College, Health and Science Building, Room 100, 1964 Prairie Dell Road, Union, MO 63084. Hosted by Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO), Eastern Missouri Group/Missouri Sierra Club, and the East Central College Green Committee.

Kirkwood Thursday, March 19, 7pm: Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Film Night 335 South Kirkwood Rd, St. Louis, MO 63122. Hosted by Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO), Eastern Missouri Group/Missouri Sierra Club, Franciscan Sister of Our Lady of Perpetual Help



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CMSI interviews Working Films’ co-director, Molly Murphy

February 10th, 2015 by admin


Working Films’ co-director, Molly Murphy will present as part of the Media Impact Tools Showcase: Meet the Experts panel at the CSMI’s 11th annual Media that Matters conference. Check out CMSI’s interview with her for a glimpse of what she’ll cover:


I co-direct Working Films, a fifteen-year-old national nonprofit that uses documentary media to advance social justice and environmental sustainability. We broker strategic partnerships between filmmakers, nonprofits, and issue experts so that every time a viewer asks, “What Can I Do?” we have an answer. We utilize documentary storytelling to build community participation in issues that impact people’s lives. We support coalition building by designing and coordinating collaborative film initiatives that deepen the relationships among organizations within and across issue areas. We also offer training and technical assistance to nonprofits and issue leaders to increase their capacity to use films and interactive documentary media to reach their goals.

Right now, Working Films is focused on using story-driven films and interactive media to advance organizing for solutions to climate change, dirty energy practices, and economic inequality. As states have increasingly become the battlegrounds for social and environmental issues, we have started using documentaries to strengthen civic engagement at the state and local-level. In just the last year, we’ve partnered with more than a hundred organizations to launch collaborative community engagement campaigns in North Carolina, Maine, Texas, and Tennessee. We are now starting to replicate the best practices we’ve gleaned from these efforts as we expand our work to many other states this year.

In each state in which we’ve worked we we’ve contributed to a shift in nonprofits’ and grassroots organizations’ perception of what documentary film and participatory art can accomplish. Through our trainings, strategy convenings, technical assistance, and events, organizations are increasing their commitment to film as a critical component in their communications and advocacy toolbox.


I joined Working Films in the summer of 2001. I was in Sarajevo, Bosnia when I received the job announcement and came back to the town where I’d recently graduated college to take the first full time staff position alongside our late founding director, Robert West. My background before joining Working Films was in campus and community organizing. I used films to interest and involve people in issues of economic and criminal injustice, and to bring together diverse sectors of a deeply segregated southern community. In my time at Working Films, I have served as outreach coordinator, engagement coordinator (when that term replaced “outreach”), director of community initiatives, deputy director, and now co-director.


Working Films’ primary programmatic initiative is Reel Engagement, which positions award-winning documentary media in target states across the U.S. to address major issues of our time. As I mentioned above, we are focusing on advancing solutions to climate change, dirty energy practices, and economic inequality. We are working in states where these issues are at a tipping point, where there is potential to reach beyond “the choir”, and where efforts can provide innovative models for change across the nation.

Working Films recently started using short form documentaries. We’ve found that shorter lengths offer more time for face-to-face information sharing, discussion, and action when the lights come up. We’ve also begun working with multi-media installations that fuse documentaries and visual art. The art adds another point of entry and more dynamic ways for viewers to interact.

Coal Ash Stories represents our first foray into shorts. We responded to the Duke Energy coal ash spill in the Dan River in North Carolina by identifying four short films that have been paired with issue and policy experts in cities and towns around the state to educate residents and draw public and political attention to the toxic impact of the disaster. Now Coal Ash Stories is expanding to Tennessee, Missouri, and Florida. We have started pairing the series with NYC based artist Greg Lindquist’s Smoke & Water: A Living Painting installation.

We are finalizing another series of shorts about energy extraction that will be used in target states. And we will work with Michael Premo and Andrew Stern’s Water Warriors multi-media exhibition this spring to engage communities threatened by fracking.

We will also be expanding our economic justice efforts this year, with a focus on supporting organizing by low wage workers, addressing the racial wealth divide, and advancing a clean energy economy.


Very simply, visual media can express things that words can’t. Films and interactive media are a resource for building public understating of issues and empathy among viewers who otherwise might not relate to situations of critical social and environmental importance. Documentaries offer a convening point for communities to come together with each other, and with issue leaders, to build solutions. Our belief in media as a powerful tool for change has been reinforced by the outcomes of our efforts over the years – from the introduction of a new line of carpeting as a result of industry leaders viewing Blue Vinyl, to the significant rise in public opposition to fracking in North Carolina and Texas where we have worked extensively with the films Gasland 2 and Split Estate. Just a few months ago a new grassroots organization was formed by participants who came to a Coal Ash Stories event in an area threated by waste storage pollution. Our partner organizations credit our work for building their base of support, deepening their connections with allies, and driving them towards their goals.


I’m excited to connect with other people who are passionate about using documentaries for change. I’m very interested to explore how Working Films fits in to current conversations about impact assessment, which often center on the use of one media project. We use many documentaries within multi-year, issue-driven initiatives, and we develop our tracking processes and evaluation tools based on specific goals and desired outcomes that vary depending on where we are working and with whom we are partnering.

The audience can expect to learn more about Working Films’ approach, which is deeply rooted in collaboration and a belief that lasting change happens from the ground up.


You can find out more about Working Films on our website:, and social media and on twitter @workingfilms.


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Call for Media about the Racial Wealth Divide

February 5th, 2015 by admin

SOD Cover ArtworkUnited for a Fair Economy and Working Films are looking for short and feature length films that delve into the story of the rising income inequality, as told through the lens of Race. Media should touch on or complement the topics that United for a Fair Economy has focused on over the last 10 years, including financial exclusion, housing, healthcare, tax policy, lack of employment, voting rights, government austerity/cuts, foreclosure, disinvestment and others. We want to pique the interest of audiences, spur discussion, and generate action to address these critical issues.

We will use selected media within a Southeastern screening tour, where the pattern of the racial wealth divide is rooted in history and injustice, that still plays out today. Events will offer opportunities for storytelling, both through films screened as well as community dialogue the media catalyzes. We will capture and compile these stories on a platform that is linked to the topic areas of each report.

To submit media, contact Michael Young at

About United for a Fair Economy
United for a Fair Economy is a national nonprofit focused on challenging the concentration of wealth and power that corrupts democracy, deepens the racial divide and tears communities apart. We support social movements working for an equitable, resilient, and sustainable, economy.

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Coal Ash Stories in Tennessee

February 3rd, 2015 by Andy Myers

coalashstories fb2

When a Duke Energy coal ash pond spilled millions of gallons of toxic sludge into the Dan River last year, Working films responded with Coal Ash Stories. This 30 minute short film compilation explains the toxic impact of coal ash and showcases community-driven solutions. Our goal in developing the series was to enhance the efforts of organizations working to protect residents from coal ash pollution and to hold Duke Energy accountable. In the last six months, we have co-hosted 15 community screenings in partnership with 32 locally based groups across the state, increasing their reach and turning audience members into active participants on the issue.

Our neighbors in Tennessee experienced an even larger spill in 2008 when a coal ash dam failed, sending 1.1 billion gallons into the town of Kingston. The spill destroyed homes, and decimated the health of the local environment and surrounding community. Now Tennessee Valley Authority wants to store it’s coal ash in the same area, which has unsuitable topography for a landfill, and will likely result in further ground water pollution. Concerned residents and environmental groups will not let this happen without a fight. Together, we will use Coal Ash Stories to generate public comments in response to TVA’s landfill permit request.

We have partnered with Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM) and the Kingston Community Advisory Group to host the first screening of Coal Ash Stories in Kingston next Thursday, February 5th.


Aftermath of the 2008 TVA spill in Kingston.


Additional events will take place around the state this spring to build public pressure and ensure regulatory agencies do their job. According to SOCM member David Wasilko, “The messages in Coal Ash Stories resonate throughout Tennessee’s coal mining communities, particularly in Kingston where so many have been affected by the disastrous TVA spill of 2008. SOCM members in Roane County are proud to work alongside their neighbors, friends, and coworkers to ensure that a coal ash spill never happens again.”

If you’re in Kingston next Thursday, stop by the Banquet Room of the Kingston Community Center at 201 Patton Ferry Rd. The event will start at 6pm and is free and open to the public. Stay tuned to our blog and Facebook page, where we will list upcoming dates of additional screenings happening in Tennessee this spring.

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Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek Tours North Carolina

January 30th, 2015 by Kristin Henry

Working Films, Bennett College, UNC-Chapel Hill and Warren Wilson College are bringing filmmaker Leah Mahan on a tour across North Carolina this February. Screenings of her documentary Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek will connect faculty, students, and local residents to issues of environmental justice in the state.

February 10, 2015, 8pm
Warren Wilson College
Holden Auditorium, Holden Arts Center, Asheville, NC 28815
Public parking available on campus. Please RSVP to ensure your seat:, or 828-771-3062.

February 11, 2015 at 6 pm
Bennett College
Global Learning Center Auditorium, 521 Gorrell St., Greensboro, NC 27401
Free public parking on campus.

February 12, 2015 at 6pm
UNC-Chapel Hill
1301 McGavran-Greenberg Hall, School of Public Health, Chapel Hill, NC 27759
Public parking available at Dogwood deck, Manning Drive across from UNC Hospital.

Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek follows the painful but inspiring story of Derrick Evans and the African American community of Turkey Creek on the gulf coast of Mississippi as they battle developers and politicians in an effort to save their community’s land, history, and culture. Encapsulating pertinent issues of environmental racism, land loss among African American communities, urbanization, and lack of political recognition, the story of Turkey Creek parallels and reflects the story of many communities in North Carolina who have organized for environmental justice and land security.

The tour will kick off at Warren Wilson College where the event is hosted by The Office of the President and The Wilson Inclusion, Diversity, & Equity Office. The goal is to encourage dialogue and inspired action against intersecting oppressions – including race, class, and environmental injustice in western North Carolina. Following the film will be a discussion with filmmaker Leah Mahan and the audience of students, faculty and community members.

Come Hell or High Water will launch Bennett College’s Black History Month Film Series. The Africana Women’s Studies’ Dr. Valerie Ann Johnson will facilitate an interactive post-screening discussion. Our co-hosts include the Division of Humanities and Africana Women’s Studies departments, and the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters Foundation. Members of the grassroots environmental justice community in the Triad will offer their reflections on the documentary and update the audience regarding local and statewide efforts.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, event is part of broader initiative to strengthen an education-science-activism paradigm at the university, and to envision an urban planning approach that integrates science, community, and environmental justice. Local, long-time environmental justice organizers Omega Wilson of West End Revitalization Association and David Caldwell of the Roger Eubanks Neighborhood Association, will join with Assistant Professor Danielle Spurlock (UNC-CH City and Regional Planning) and the filmmaker to in a discussion moderated by Danielle Purifoy (Duke Environmental Policy). The screening is hosted by The Institute for the Environment at UNC, the UNC Department of Communication Studies, the UNC Department of Geography, the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, and Working Films.

Follow Working Films on Facebook for photos and updates during the events.

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Coal Ash Stories Events in Lumberton and Pittsboro

November 18th, 2014 by China Medel

We’re hard at work bringing Coal Ash Stories to even more areas in North Carolina, and two recent screenings highlight the importance of bringing these film to communities that face the potential hazards of coal ash pollution.

Events in Lumberton (Robeson County) and Pittsboro (Chatham County) were organized by local organizations who want to assure that their sites – and all 14 coal ash storage locations across the state – are properly cleaned up.

On the banks of the Lumber River and home to the Lumbee Tribe, Lumberton has a long history of environmental organizing. It is also home to Duke Energy’s W.H. Weatherspoon Power Station and its unlined coal ash pits. Given these dangers, Winyah Rivers Foundation and Center for Community Action in Lumberton partnered with NC WARN to host a screening October 23rd at the Robeson County Public Library.

CAS Lumberton Christine

Christine Ellis of Winyah Rivers Foundation shows the coal ash pits across the state.

CAS Lumberton NC WARN

Nick Wood of NC WARN shows the location of the coal ash pits in Lumberton.

During the Q&A, facilitated by the Christine Ellis of Winyah Rivers Foundation and Nick Wood of NC WARN, community members expressed concern over the lack of attention given to Eastern NC and the need to educate local decision makers on this issue. They also considered how to use the Lumber River’s Wild and Scenic designation and regulations requiring protection of Native American cultural heritage to leverage needed protection for their river, land, and communities. The Fayetteville Observer covered the the event, highlighting community member’s concerns. The screening served as the kick off to a series of meetings to demand the clean up of the Weatherspoon Power Station’s coal ash impoundments.

The Cape Fear Power Station is situated at the juncture of Chatham and Lee counties. Local groups are concerned about the effects of the coal ash impoundment there and joined together with Cape Fear Riverkeeper to host Coal Ash Stories.

This March, Duke Energy was caught illegally pumping coal ash wastewater from the Chatham County plant into a tributary of the Cape Fear River. Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette whose territory covers the entire Cape Fear River Basin, was invited to speak not only about the potential threat posed by the Cape Fear impoundment but also his continued work advocating for the clean-up and regulation of the Sutton Steam Plant facility in Wilmington.

CAS Pittsboro Kemp Elaine

Kemp Burdette of Cape Fear River Watch and Elaine Chiosso of the Haw River Assembly

The screening was held at the Chatham Community Library with a Q&A led by Elaine Chiosso of the Haw River Assembly, Kemp Burdette of Cape Fear River Watch, and Abundance NC. Elaine and Kemp encouraged the audience to voice their concerns to decision makers and to demand that all the coal ash impoundments in North Carolina be cleaned up. The audience was engaged, at times outraged, but also inspired by the work and commitment of their riverkeepers.

More screenings of Coal Ash Stories are happening across NC in the next couple of months! Please keep your eyes out for events in Asheville, Boone, Franklin, Goldsboro, New Bern and Sylva.

Here are the details on events happening in the next few weeks!

November 20th,  6:30pm
Jackson County Public Library
310 Keener St, Sylva NC 28779
Hosted by The Canary Coalition, Jackson County NAACP, Occupy Western NC
For more information:

December 4th, 6:30pm
Appalachian State University, Plemmons’ Student Union Rough Ridge Room (415, 4th floor)
263 Locust St, Boone, NC 28608
Hosted by Appalachian Voices, Watauga NAACP, Appalachian Educators for Social Justice, Center for Appalachian Studies, and Sustainability & Environmental Education Club – SEEC
For more information:

New Bern
December 11th, 6:30pm
Craven County Public Library
400 Johnson St, New Bern NC 28560
Hosted by Carolina Nature Coalition and NC WARN
Featuring Q&A with Neuse Riverkeeper
For more information:

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Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek – An Organizing Tool for Environmental Justice in the South

November 13th, 2014 by China Medel

A few weeks ago, a group of activists and scholars of environmental justice met at The Franklinton Center at Bricks for the 17th annual North Carolina Environmental Justice Summit. The former slave plantation and early African American school in Whitakers, NC that has been repurposed as a training, retreat, and educational center for social justice, made for a profound setting for the opening night screening of Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek by Leah Mahan. Fifty participants gathered to watch and discuss the painful but inspiring story of Derrick Evans and the community of Turkey Creek on the gulf coast of Mississippi, which battled powerful developers and myopic politicians in an effort to save their community’s land, history, and culture.

Photo 1 (1)

Encapsulating pertinent issues of environmental racism, land loss among African American communities, urbanization, and lack of political recognition, the story of Turkey Creek parallels the story of many communities in North Carolina who have organized and come together in struggles for environmental justice. The goal for the screening was to help community members and advocates consider new ways to address environmental justice and land loss prevention.

Local and long standing environmental justice organizers Omega Wilson of West End Revitalization Association (WERA); David Caldwell with Roger Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA) and Coalition to End Environmental Racism (CEER); and Omari Wilson with The Landloss Prevention Project and the EJ Network facilitated the audience discussion.

The film elicited cheers, applause, outrage, and even some laughter was heard when Derrick Evans teases the young person working in the Boston community garden for pulling the collard greens rather than the weeds. During the question and answer session, the audience talked about issues like urbanization and the encroachment of development into their rural lands. David Caldwell reflected that Turkey Creek could be replaced with his community of Roger’s Road scene-by-scene. Others empathized with the destruction and loss of family land. Many audience members identified with the invisibility of their communities in the eyes of local politicians who “didn’t even know their community was there.” One person  asked if we had “ever heard of Shiloh?” a town near Cary that “used to be there.”  She pointed out that Turkey Creek could have easily disappeared like Shiloh had it not been for the commitment and ingenuity of Evans’ fight.

Photo 4.

Meanwhile, another environmental justice screening of Come Hell or High Water took place at the 25th annual Gullah/Geechee Seafood Festival at the Hunting Island Nature Center in South Carolina on October 25. This event is part of the larger Gullah/Geechee Heritage/Awareness Month celebrating the living traditions of the Gullah/Geechee nation, descendents of blended African ethnic and Indigenous groups that have lived on the barrier islands and coasts of North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida since chattel enslavement. The Gullah/Geechee work to preserve cultural heritage and food security, fight displacement due to development and destruction of coastal lands, and advocate for self-determination through various projects like the Sea Island Coalition and the Fishing Association.

Head of state and official spokesperson of the Gullah/Geechee, Queen Quet reported that the screening had standing room only and that, “People loved it and were deeply curious about what has happened to Turkey Creek since the making of the film.” Many expressed outrage at the ubiquity of displacement, landloss, development, and environmental injustice along the southern coasts from North Carolina to Mississippi and Louisiana. Queen Quet plans to continue using the film to engage more members of her community on how to protect their communities and lands.

Photo 5

Given its accessibility, locality, humanity, and  the ways in which it cuts to the core issues of environmental injustice and gives communities a chance to respond, Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek is becoming an important tool in the fights against environmental racism and landloss in the South. Future screenings are in the works including one with a coalition of professors at NC State and UNC Chapel Hill who are planning a screening and discussion with the filmmaker and local Environmental Justice activists in January.

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