Hey, community members and allies,
I am passionate about the fight for environmental justice. As an environmental activist, I am deeply committed to positively impacting our planet. As the founder, director, and CEO of The Vessel Project of Louisiana, my mission has always been to amplify the voices of marginalized communities in southwest Louisiana, especially regarding their right to clean air and water.
But it’s important to note that the fight for clean air and water isn’t just about the environment. It goes much further than that. The rights, health, and well-being of folks in our community are at risk because of the systemic oppression that makes them invisible to many decision-makers.
It’s a well-known fact that the burden of environmental hazards falls disproportionately upon the shoulders of marginalized communities. Whether it's noxious burning flares surrounding us or industries leaching toxic chemicals into our waterways, impoverished and BIPOC communities often have little say in the decisions that place such hazards right in their backyards. There are multiple causes: socioeconomic disparity, racial discrimination, and a lack of political power combined with public officials willing to ignore the harm that industry perpetuates. The consequences? Elevated rates of respiratory diseases, contaminated drinking water, and reduced life expectancies. The human cost is too high.
In southwest Louisiana, we are seeing this narrative in real-time. Companies came with promises of jobs, progress, and prosperity. Towering industrial complexes overshadow our communities. Our parish governments allow Industrial Tax Exemption Program credits to draw even more pollution ever closer, clouding our skies and poisoning the water. Our children, the future stewards of our region, are clearly at risk. Is this the legacy we want to leave to them? It’s our responsibility to stand up, not just for the environment but for their future.
We have something that previous generations didn’t: social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even TikTok have made it easier to disseminate information. Anyone, regardless of background or resources, can amplify their voice.
We can leverage social media for the greater good. It’s about advocacy, mobilization, and creating a ripple effect of local awareness. When we share the stories of Southwest Louisiana, we humanize the issue. We are not just statistics. Our communities are full of real people with real struggles.
Our young people are not just the future—they are the present. Their voices, fresh perspectives, and innovative ideas are paramount in this fight. They are often more adept at leveraging social media for change than any other group. By empowering our youth and providing them with the tools, knowledge, and platforms, we can ensure that the movement for clean air and water continues and thrives.
With social media, we can educate others. Share resources that shed light on the environmental challenges in marginalized communities. Awareness is the first step toward change.
We can mobilize. Whether you are organizing or participating in a rally, a community clean-up event, or a community meeting, sharing about it on multiple social media platforms helps get the word out.
We can collaborate. It’s a big world, and we don’t have to limit our conversations to just those in our communities. Connect with environmental organizations, researchers, and activists from all over. Bring together strategies and knowledge to create impactful change.
We can pressure decision-makers. Don’t just hold the corporations accountable. Speak truth to power, to local politicians, as well. Launch petitions and initiatives to demand action. This should be in addition to attending public meetings and providing comments to your public officials.
We can celebrate wins. Every small victory deserves recognition. Whether it’s an annual Earth Day party, a beach clean-up, or a successful community meeting, these moments deserve recognition. We inspire others to join us in our efforts by celebrating our wins.
If there's one thing I've learned from leading the Vessel Project, it's that collective action is decisive. When marginalized communities come together, armed with determination and a unified voice, change is not just possible; it's inevitable.
Our fight in Southwest Louisiana is not just a local one. It’s symbolic of the struggles faced by countless communities worldwide. It’s a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring hope that we can reclaim our right to clean air and water.
I urge everyone, whether you are from Southwest Louisiana or halfway across the world, to join this fight. Share our stories, participate in our campaigns, and be a part of this movement. Together, we can and will create a world where everyone can access the fundamental human right of clean air and water, regardless of zip code or background.
Let's harness the power of social media, raise our voices, and ensure that the winds of change blow strong and clear, ushering in an era of true environmental justice.
Roishetta Sibley Ozane.