Teresa Bettis, Gulf Coast Fund Advisor and Executive Director of the Center for Fair Housing speaks with local residents before the Mobile City Council Meeting. Residents are urging the City of Mobile to pass a no tar sand resolution to protect the citizens and natural resources from the hazards of tar sands oil.
Residents of Africatown, an historic district within Mobile, are speaking out against the threat of tar sands
Teresa Bettis, executive director of the Center for Fair Housing, says the danger to the community far outweighs any potential benefit. “Forty-seven people died a horrific death after the recent train derailment in Canada, many burned so badly they can’t even be identified or properly buried. A large part of their town, comparable to our entire downtown, was gutted — left utterly unrecognizable and uninhabitable. Mobile is much more densely populated. With every train allowed to roll through here, the city is risking the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of its citizens.”
Africatown resident Robert Lewis, a descendent of the community’s original settlers, is also worried about the tanks. “The last big one [hurricane], Katrina, moved the Africatown bridge on one side…it was out for about 6 months. So what are we doing? If we have a hurricane it’s going to mess those tanks up, it’s going to spill all over the city.”
Despite its status as a nationally significant historic site, recognized by the US Park Service, residents of Africatown are beset on all sides by environmental racism
Africatown was the site of the last known shipment of slaves to the United States, in 1860, more than 50 years after the importation of slaves was outlawed. Thirty-two of these West Africans founded the self-governed community of Africatown, where they preserved their native language and traditions well into the 20th century.
"In 2012, the Africatown Historic District was recognized by the National Park Service and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In spite of this recognition, Africatown is surrounded by industry and is already disproportionally impacted by the effects. To put corrosive, toxic tar sand oil, a substance rejected by communities across the country, in a thirty-plus year old pipeline under our homes, parks and schools only further overburdens this historic community, and it’s unacceptable," Bettis explained.