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Opinion: Community organizing takes over from government in Jackson water crisis | Opinion

Less than a three-hour drive from Baton Rouge, residents of Jackson, Mississippi, were left without drinking water during weeks.

Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, has an estimated population of 149,730, of whom about 83% are black, according to the US census.

According to reports from mississippi today.

Catherine Smith, a 22-year-old from Houston, Texas who graduated from LSU in May 2022 with a bachelor of science degree in environmental engineering, blames not Jackson’s water system engineering, but maintenance.

“I don’t think there’s an engineer out there that’s at fault so much as it’s the negligence of it all,” Smith said. “Nothing is badly built, per se, it’s more about not getting the maintenance it needs.”

According to the report of mississippi today Jackson, Mississippi’s water system “has been plagued with problems for years, including tens of thousands of residents losing water between one and three weeks during a winter storm of 2021”.

Smith said she sees parallels between Jackson and Flint, Michigan, which is notorious for water quality issues. In Jackson and Flint, black communities are represented by “more people who don’t have their best interests in mind,” Smith said.

Smith said Mississippi’s water shortage has similarities to Louisiana’s infamous Cancer Alley, the petrochemical belt that stretches from Baton Rouge to New Orleans and has been a source of health concerns. for residents. Both are public health crises that primarily affect black populations and are managed by seemingly apathetic state governments.

Megan Nge, another recent LSU environmental engineering graduate, sees similar parallels.

“Environmental racism is a huge thing,” Nge said. “Especially when you live in Baton Rouge or New Orleans.”

“These are two of the blackest cities in the United States,” Nge said. “When you look at cities that are majority black or don’t have huge white populations, you’re going to see bits of environmental racism everywhere.”

Smith believes the internet played a key role in bringing attention to Jackson’s crisis.

“Because the Mississippi water shortage ended up making it onto social media, I think there’s a sense of responsibility there where there wasn’t in the past,” he said. said Smith.

Nge believes that vital support for these environmental health crises lies in self-help efforts like Yes we cannibals in Baton Rouge and Jackson Cooperation in Jackson, Mississippi.

September 2 Instagram post of Yes We Cannibal, located at 1600 Government Street in Baton Rouge, used volunteer drivers to haul loads of water in McComb, Mississippi. United Campus Workers of Louisiana, which meets on site, asked members to bring water donations at their September meeting.

Cooperation Jackson distributed water to community members throughout September. These efforts continue even after the boil water advisory was lifted amid fears of further problems, the group said in a Facebook post. More information on where to donate funds is available on the organization website.

Near the crisis and at home, community activism efforts pick up where government support wanes.

“If you really care about these people, and you really care about the discrimination they face and the kind of health and safety issues they face, there’s a lot of merit in dedicating your time, your energy and money to mutual aid efforts in cities like Jackson, Mississippi,” Nge said.

Kathryn Craddock is a 22-year-old mass communications executive from Patterson.