Beverly Wright: She’s spent a lifetime sounding the alarm on environmental racism

Born close to a highly polluted area along the Lower Mississippi River in Louisiana, Dr. Beverly Wright’s childhood experiences helped shape her research on the racial inequalities created by climate change. 

In 1992, she founded the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University in New Orleans. The organization, a community-university partnership, investigates the correlation between race and pollution, primarily focusing on a 85-mile stretch of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where cancer rates are disproportionately high. 

“All the birds had disappeared except for the crows,” said Dr. Wright in a July 2020 interview with Vice Magazine, referencing the conditions Black people were experiencing in that region. “Screens on their windows were rusting and falling off in like three months. The air was so corrosive that the paint on their cars was being melted off.”

Her organization helped New Orleans residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, offering training programs and helping displaced residents. Her group was also involved in the response to the Deep Water Horizon oil spill disaster in 2010. 

Dr. Wright helped reestablish the National Black Environmental Justice Network in summer 2020 and is now helping advise President Joe Biden on his emergency environmental plan. 

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