June 2, 2012, Washington, DC. the weather was perfect, the riders were fly and ready to embark on the Chocolate City Freedom Ride; EJCC’s first Community Environment Tour using just bike routes and the Washington Metro Public Transportation system.
Over 40 participants joined the ride including 15 fellows in town for the Frontline Fellows Training Program co-hosted by EJCC and the Energy Action Coalition. The informative, although at times, a bit daunting tour highlighted historic landmarks, polluting facilities, community sustainability projects and the rich national parks nestled throughout the Nation’s Capitol.
Washington, DC is home to seven Environmental Protection Agency recognized SuperFund sites and a number of historic legacy toxic sitesthat are under the jurisdiction of the District Department of Environment. EJCC Fellows, Falon Shackelford and Sheika Reid worked together with support from EJCC interim-director, Kari Fulton to design and develop the tour.
During the planning process, Reid and Shackelford consulted community organizations and gathered data on neighborhoods in Washington, DC that exemplified the meaning of Environmental Justice in the nation’s capitol. This included sites with deep ties to the Transatlantic Slave-Trade, cultural hotspots that are drastically changing due to gentrification and communities on the waterfront of the Anacostia River, one of the most polluted rivers in the United States.
The fellows utilized digital technology and mapping systems such as Google Maps and the EPA’s EJView: Map of Environmental Justice to locate and analyze the demographic statistics of potential tour stops. Reid set up a website documenting the tour stops and other notable sites we were unable to cover during the day-long tour. The mobile version of the site allowed participants to look up information about tourstops via smartphone or other web-enabled device.
Tour participants enjoyed sunny 75 degree weather as they rode down the Anacostia Tributary Trail crossing bridges, visiting power plants, cemeteries, solar homes and an unexpected tailgate party at RFK stadium. the tour ended in Historic Anacostia where participants gathered at Tendani’s Art Place for a reception and documentary screening.
Tendani Mpulubusi, artist, documentary filmmaker and owner of Tendani’s Art Place invited participants to watch scenes from his 2009 documentary Barry Farms, Past and Present. The documentary discusses the history of the Barry Farms Community that was established for newly freed African-Americans during the Post Civil War Reconstruction Era. Today, Barry Farms is a majority public housing community that is being displaced due to development and revitalization projects planned for the area.
Sincere appreciation to the organizations and individuals who came in to support EJCC’s first EJ bike and Metro tour of Washington, DC. EJCC is excited to continue enhancing community awareness of Environmental Justice and hosting future tours for organizations and school/university programs. The community concerns highlighted during the tour are ongoing and need local and national support. Please visit the links below to learn more about some great organizations across Washington, DC who assisted in the planning of the Freedom Ride.
Tendani’s Art Place
Photos Courtesy Ben Powless