Cultural Extinction on Louisiana's Gulf Coast

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Sarah Macaraeg
sarah@haymarketbooks.org
773-583-7884

Haymarket Books

Cultural Extinction on Louisiana's Gulf Coast

Award-winning New Orleans-based Journalist, Author Jordan Flaherty, on the BP Oil Spill and the History of Corporate Pollution in the Region

NEW ORLEANS, LA - Jordan Flaherty,
New Orleans-based independent journalist and author of the forthcoming Floodlines:
Community and Resistance from Hurricane Katrina to the Jena Six
 (Haymarket
Books, Aug 2010), uncovers Louisiana's history of community
displacement as a result of corporate pollution; and highlights the
Point-au-Chien Indian tribe's struggle to maintain their ancestral
coastal land, livelihood, and way of life in the wake of the BP spill,
on Huffington Post.

As BP's deepwater well
continues to discharge oil into the Gulf, the economic and public health
effects are already being felt across coastal communities. But it's
likely this is only the beginning. From the bayous of southern Louisiana
to the city of New Orleans, many fear this disaster represents not only
environmental devastation but also cultural extinction for peoples who
have made their lives here for generations.

This is not the first time
that Louisianans have lost their communities or their lives from the
actions of corporations. The land loss caused by oil companies has
already displaced many who lived by the coast, and the pollution from
treatment plants has poisoned communities across the state - especially
in "cancer alley," the corridor of industrial facilities along the
Mississippi River south of Baton Rouge.

"The cultural losses as a
consequence of the BP disaster are going to be astronomical," says
Advocates for Environmental Human Rights (AEHR) co-director Nathalie
Walker. "There is no other culture like Louisiana's coastal culture and
we can only hope they wont be entirely erased." Walker and co-director
Monique Harden have made it their mission to fight the environmental
consequences of Louisiana's corporate polluters. They say this disaster
represents an unparalleled catastrophe for the lives of people across
the region, but they also see in it a continuation of an old pattern of
oil and chemical corporations displacing people of color from their
homes.

Harden and Walker point out that at least five Louisiana towns -
all majority African American - have been eradicated due to corporate
pollution in recent decades. The most recent is the Southwest Louisiana
town of Mossville, founded by African Americans in the 1790s. Located
near Lake Charles, Mossville is only 5 square miles and holds 375
households. Beginning in the 1930s, the state of Louisiana began
authorizing industrial facilities to manufacture, process, store, and
discharge toxic and hazardous substances within Mossville. Fourteen
facilities are now located in the small town, and 91 percent of
residents have reported at least one health problem related to exposure
to chemicals produced by the local industry.

The southern Louisiana
towns of Diamond, Morrisonville, Sunrise, and Revilletown - all founded
by formerly enslaved African Americans - met similar fates. After years
of chemical-related poisoning, the remaining residents have been
relocated, and the corporations that drove them out now own their land.
In most cases, only a cemetery remains, and former residents must pass
through plant security to visit their relatives' graves.

For the full
Huffington Post article, please visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jordan-flaherty/fears-of-cultural-extinct_b_612626.html#

Jordan Flaherty is the author of the forthcoming Floodlines:
Community and Resistance from Hurricane Katrina to the Jena Six
 (Haymarket
Books, Aug 2010) and a journalist and community organizer based in New
Orleans. He was the first writer to bring the story of the Jena Six to a
national audience, and his award-winning reporting from the Gulf Coast
has been featured in a range of outlets including the New York Times,
Mother Jones, and Argentina's Clarin newspaper. He has
produced news segments for Al-Jazeera, TeleSur, and Democracy Now! and
appeared as a guest on CNN Morning, Anderson Cooper 360, and “Keep
Hope Alive” with the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
To
arrange an interview with Flaherty or request a review copy of Floodlines,
please contact Sarah Macaraeg, sarah@haymarketbooks.org,
773-583-7884.
###

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