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Environment & Nature

'Increasing Visibility Is A Must': New Digital Archive Shows Dallas' History Of Environmental Racism

The site where Shingle Mountain used to reside is now mostly barren, with tiny piles of trash and holes left in its wake, on Feb. 26, 2021.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA
The site where Shingle Mountain used to reside is now mostly barren, with tiny piles of trash and holes left in its wake, on Feb. 26, 2021.

Story by story, Dallas residents can now scroll through the county's long list of environmental injustice fights that dateback to the 1920s.

The new digital tool, 'Dallas Environmental Injustice Archive' was developed by Paul Quinn College and the advocacy group Downwinders At Risk. It's the first part of a year-long partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative University, a program designed to develop leaders around the word. The groups will record and share oral histories from Dallas residents who have been impacted by environmental injustices.

"There is a need to collect and archive these stories of communities working towards environmental justice to make these mobilizations visible, amplify the voices and the experiences of those on the frontlines," said Cindy Hua, chair of the Particulate Matter Education Committee with Downwinders At Risk.

"We hope to amplify the voices and the lived experiences of those on the frontlines each day to have a more complete narrative of environmental justice in Dallas."

The digital tool chronicles the stories in a timeline and interactive mapping of trailblazers who've won battles against environmental racism that date back to the 1920s.

"We see our role very much as helping to archive and hold a place for these stories to be shared and not forgotten, because they do help inform the advocacy that we are doing today," said Evelyn Mayo, chair of Downwinders At Risk.

One of the conflicts the archive focuses on is Shingle Mountain, a huge pile of toxic waste used to loom over a predominantly Black and brown neighborhood in Southeast Dallas. It stood for three years until it was finally hauled away just this past February.

Mayo, who is also a professor at Paul Quinn College, rallied for the removal of Shingle Mountain. She hopes this will add momentum to her organization's fight to change environmental policy that hurts Black and brown communities.

A Chevy truck carries a yellow bulldozer that will remove the 100,000 ton pile of waste and shingles that has accumulated for the past three years. This is the first day of a long removal to teardown Shingle Mountain on Dec 17, 2020.
Keren Carrión
A Chevy truck carries a yellow bulldozer that will remove the 100,000 ton pile of waste and shingles that has accumulated for the past three years. This is the first day of a long removal to teardown Shingle Mountain on Dec 17, 2020.

"We felt it was necessary to archive this history because Dallas has a short-term memory problem," said Collin Yarborough, a member of the Clinton Global Initiative University who helped with historical research. "We hear about problems like Shingle Mountain and consider them isolated incidents."

Yarborough said this tool will help illustrate and bring attention to environmental racism in Dallas.

"There needs to be corporate and state accountability for the injustices seen in our city," said Hua. "The concentration of these industries in Black, brown and low-income neighborhoods is clear. Increasing visibility is a must."

The creators of the project have a podcast in the works that will debut later this year.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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