Avoice Webcasts - Leadership and the Environmental Justice

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Avoice Environmental
Justice Exhibit Lunch
September 26, 2008

Dr. Elsie Scott:
New exhibits on voting rights; the anti-apartheid movement; the women of (inaudible) founding of the CBC.  So today, you are the first ones to see the launch of the newest exhibit, which is on Environmental Justice.  You know, a lot of people in the African American community have been engaged in environmental justice issues, but we haven’t gotten a lot of credit for it.  When people start talking about green and thinking about green, many times they think about the white community.  They don’t think about all that we’ve done, where there have been a lot of grass roots movements throughout the country and especially in some of our poor rural communities, where people have been very much involved in trying to prevent toxic waste and other things from coming to their community.  So we're happy that you're here today with us, and that you will go forth and tell everybody else about this wonderful exhibit, tell everybody else about this online site and get people coming to learn more about the history of the CBC.  So I'm very excited - let me give you the address but you have documents on your table – so I’ll give you the address.  The address is www.avoiceonline.org; that’s www.avoiceonline.org.  Or if you forget the address just Google Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and look for Avoice.  So thank you very much for joining us today and please tell all your family friends and associates about this wonderful site.

Adrena Ifill:
Now I’d like to (inaudible) introduce you to one of our great friend, Kevin Brown, from Dell Incorporated, who’ll give you some remarks as well; thank you.

Kevin Brown:
On behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and Dell I’d like to welcome you to today’s event.  Today, we’ve got a very, very important topic we’re going to discuss as Dr. Scott said, and that’s environmental justice.  And what environmental justice means is that burdens such as toxic waste and pollution are not disproportionately shouldered by the less fortunate.  And thinking back 200 years ago, United States Supreme Court Justice John Jay wrote, “Everyone is entitled to justice without regards to numbers, wealth or rank”.  And when I saw that quote, it made me think about what the CBC’s done.  And if you think about the CBC in terms of their focus and their commitment to the environmental justice cause, I think that quote actually symbolizes that.  And for over the last three decades, the CBC has been a trailblazer in the arena of environmental justice.  And activities like the Environmental Justice Brain Trust - activities like we are having today are further evidence of that.  The video will be the first public viewing and it's important because it's our sixth of many exhibits that we are going to have as part of this wealth of knowledge and history to ensure that we have new and revised legislation for clean air and clean water regulations.  They've also gone off and promoted environmentally friendly energy legislation, and I think the focus that the CBC’s had in this area and the focus that they are going to continue to have will ensure that African-Americans and other underrepresented groups, that their voices will be heard in environmental policy as well as decision-making.  With regard to Dell, we share the CBC’s deep commitment to both the environment and the cause of environmental justice.  Our commitment here is clear and it's focused in terms of - we intend to be the leader, we intend to set the higher standards for environmental standards in our industry and we’re focused on trying to get to a point where we become the greenest technology company on the planet.

And that's our commitment to our customers, to our shareholders, but most importantly, that's our commitment to all of you.  Before we show the video on environmental justice, we’d like to introduce Congressman Clyburn and recognize him for all that he’s done for environmental justice. He started the first Environmental Justice Brain Trust; he's been a leader in environmental awareness for many years.  And when Dr. Scott talks about the commitment and the focus of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Clyburn’s been a key member of the legislation that has actually been driving the commitment and the focus in our communities and in many communities in the United States – Congressman Clyburn (applause).

Congressman Clyburn:
Thank you Kevin.  Thank you very much.  Thank you Kevin.  Thanks to Dell.  I apologize for having to request that we go out of order here today.  I suspect I owe a bigger apology to the Brain Trust that just got completed because I didn't show up there at all today.  And I apologize for that as well.  But let me say a couple things to you.  You're going to hear from my colleague, from South Carolina, Harold Mitchell in a few minutes.  And so he will talk to you about things that are very, I think, productive and informative for you to hear.  But I want to thank Dell for reinforcing a lot of what we’ve been trying to do with the Brain Trust that I started when I became Chair of the CBC some eight years ago.  But I want to talk to you, just for a few minutes in broader terms.  One of the things that I found out, and it didn’t come clear to me when I had my first significant introduction to this condition, until I began to work here in the United States Congress.  And now, I don’t need to tell you all that our country…… our country is teetering on catastrophe.  I don’t have to tell you that.  A lot of people say, well how do we know exactly what the numbers are?  Well we don’t know exactly what the numbers are.  The problem isn’t in exactly what the numbers are.  The problem is in the perception.  It’s what people perceive the condition to be.  Because however people perceive conditions, they begin to conduct themselves that way.   And if you begin to conduct yourself that way, that’s why you hear some talk that nobody wants to use the word “recession” because it will become self-fulfilling.  And so a lot of talk is taking place because people are trying to keep people’s nerves calm.  Now, it means that we all have rolls to play in this.  And the reason I’m out of order is because I didn’t get to the session that we’ve had votes in, this morning.  We’re going to be having votes in a few minutes.  There’s a debate going on down in Mississippi; and there will be a debate tonight in Mississippi (applause).  And some of us will be working late tonight.  We’ll be here tomorrow; I know you all will be here in session, but we will be in session tomorrow on the Hill; we will be voting tomorrow. And it could very well be that those people who’re expecting me in Saginaw, Michigan on Sunday evening - I hope I get to Saginaw; because we may be here – I see Michigan over there – we may be here.  But let me tell you why…. let me make two points here.  As I thank Dell and the Foundation, Dr. Scott and all others here.  When I was a college student in South Carolina State, I was very active in the so-called student movement.  Having been part of the group that seven of us organized – the first sit-ins in South Carolina.  And the last time I went to jail, was in Columbia, South Carolina.  It was an arrest that resulted …. and those of you who went to Law School and used the case book method; you probably studied a case called Edwards against South Carolina.  It was the landmark breach of the peace case.  It was the one case that the Supreme Court decided that it would use to draw guidelines so that Southern states could not be using breach of the peace statutes, in order to arrest people and convict them and give them arrest records as they’re doing now with other drug legislation.  That night as we sat in jail in Columbia back in…. it was March of 1961; I decided that I was not going to jail.  I dressed up in a three-piece suit.  I was going to go down, and I was going to participate in the march.  But as soon as they told us to turn around, we were going to get back in our car and go back to Orangeburg.

Well, I was marching with – leading a group of high school students that day, who had never marched before and had never went to jail before; and it was a kind of exciting idea to them.  And so, when we got down to the State house and Chief of Police at that time; (inaudible) JP Strong (11:00) walked up to us and said, Clyburn, you’re all going to have to turn around.  This is as far as you’re all going to be allowed to go.  When I turned around to tell the students it was time to go back, they said “Oh no, hell no; we ain’t going back.  We’re going inside the State House today”.  I knew then that I was in trouble.  And of course in a couple hours I was in jail.  That night, about two o'clock in the morning, I'm making a point here that I think is very, very important.  That night, about two o'clock in the morning, as we lay there in the basement of the jail; they had put us on the rifle ranch; they had sent out to Fort Jackson; they got all these cots.  These canvas field cots, and had them all lined up on the rifle ranch, and we’re all laying there; 2 o'clock in the morning; it was getting very anxious.  One of those high school students came up to me and said “Clyburn, I thought we were going to get out of jail.”  I said yes, we are going to get out.  He said, when?  I said well, Dr. Newman, I. DeQuincey Newman, some of you all may remember him.  I said, Dr. Newman is out there raising the bail money, and as soon as he gets the bail money raised, we’ll all get out of jail.  Well, he walked away.  Came back a little while later, he said Clyburn, who did you say was out there raising the bail money?  I said, Dr. Newman.  He said, well, is he that little man with the goatee?  I said yeah.  He said, well, he’s back in that corner over there.   Now, it was three days later before we got out of jail.  And that little green, olive green, three piece suit that I had on that day, I never put it on again; I stayed in there for three days.  But I learned a very important lesson on that day.  And the lesson is this: we all have roles to play; we all have roles to play.  There are roles that you can play, that I can’t play.  As a member of Congress, as a legislator, there are roles that I can play, that you can’t play.  And we will get these environmental issues, we will get these energy issues, we will get these economic issues solved if we all play our roles as best as we possibly can.  We will be confused and we will not get these things done, if we keep meddling in other people’s roles.  I want to tell you just to remember that.  Because I’m going to tell you, I have seen it too many times, one of the biggest problems that we have on Capitol Hill today, is when you have these fights, Committee fights, over jurisdictions – whose jurisdiction this is; which committee or subcommittee is best to address this issue or that issue.  That is why the only way we’ve been able to get going on environmental issues is through Executive Orders; you all know I’m telling the truth.  We have never been able to come together and pass good, environmental justice legislation through the United States Congress because we can’t get the roles squared away.  And so but for Executive Orders, we would not be this far along.  Now the problem we’ve got is, Executive Orders rely upon who the Executive is (applause).  If you get a statute, get it in law, you got a shot.  But if an election goes wrong, or goes the way that may not be favorable to those issues that we are concerned about, and then we will have what we are having now.  No enforcement of the Executive Orders, no putting in place of policies and procedures, just   laissez-faire kind of activities, and that’s what gets us into these kinds of issues.  Now the only way you get around these issues is what Dell is doing now, and that’s to empower the rank and file.  You’ve got to go right by some of this.  You've got to use this technology; A Voice or Avoice, however ……I don’t get mixed up in all this technology; I’m a little better than … well I don’t know all the technology.  But I do know how to send out e-mails and I know how to read them, and that sort of thing.  So, the point I’m trying to make here, is we can't be laissez-faire about this.  We've got to get actively engaged; and we’ve got to use these partnerships; we’ve got to use the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Dell; we have got to get information out to people as best we possibly can because we never know what result the election will yield.  I don't care what you may think, or how you may feel.  I have been around long enough to know.  We had serious meetings this morning; serious meetings starting at 9:45.  I would not have missed this brain trust where these meetings not so serious.  And these meetings are serious because irrespective of all that you hear, we spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill reading the tracking polls, and reading what people are saying, and reading all of these results that are coming in.  And let me tell you, it is as good of an effort, as ours are on these issues of cleaning up communities, making sure that environmental laws are fair to all communities.  Our position on these issues, our position is not currently the majority position in the United States Congress.  Now that may sound strange to you.  But I’m telling you, it is not the majority position in the United States Congress.  If it were, we would have the statutes that you need.  There are significant forces that we’re up against.  I’m going to close with this, and I know that you're probably expecting to hear something different from me, but I am what I am.  About two weeks ago, I was out in California.  And I was with a meeting of corporate Directors.  These were basically African Americans who sat on – who continue to sit on big corporate boards.  In fact one of them in that meeting was Robert Harris.  Was Robert here at this meeting today?  Harris was here?  Well he was one of the people in this meeting.  Everybody was down; people were down in the dumps.  Over 200 people - 200 of the wealthiest people in this country, who helped to make great policy decisions.  Just down and out because of the mood of the country.  So when I got home to South Carolina, usually when I get home after ten or twelve days, my wife’s got this little, long list; just a litany of things that I have said that she disagrees with.  Or something I have done that she thinks was stupid.  A little list of what I need to say to Barack Obama, or what I need to say to Nancy Pelosi or what I may need to say to some other of my colleagues.  She’s got it all written down with their names sitting right by; here’s what’s so stupid about this, that or the other.  When I got home two weeks ago, there was no list; no list.  And she didn’t talk to me about politics.  I knew then that something was bad; wrong.  I mean, when I ain't catching hell in my house, something is wrong.  I don’t know about you all.  So I decided that I’d better get away from politics for awhile.  So I decided to turn on the television and watch a football game.  Now some of you all may remember this football game.  Saturday before last; University of South Carolina playing Georgia; Georgia at the time, the number two in the country.  And South Carolina has always got a little way of disrupting Georgia’s march to a championship.  And so I thought this might be an afternoon to watch South Carolina once again, disrupt Georgia’s march.  Now around the second quarter of the game, a referee made a call, which I thought was just a bad call.  A little while later, another call went against us and in favor of Georgia.  And I knew then, I said, you know everything is bad.  Politics’ bad; my wife ain’t talking to me.  Now, the referee is making all these calls against my team.  We got to the last two minutes, and the score was 14 to 7 in favor of Georgia.  Two minutes left to play; and we’ve got the ball; South Carolina’s got the ball - first and goal on the three yard line.  And just as we expected, the ball went to our best Back.  He politely fumbled into the end zone.  Georgia recovered the ball; touch back, and we lost the game by one touchdown.  And I sat there and I said, you know, those darn referees.  If those referees had not made those bad calls, we would not have been in the position.  But then I started thinking, I said, you know, what if we had decided to take the referees off the field after a couple of calls went against us.  What kind of game, would we have had if we had tried to play the second half without referees?  Well, ladies and gentlemen, that is what is happening to us in this country.  We are afraid of the food that we are buying out of the supermarkets, because we now know that less than three percent of the food that you purchase in the supermarket is being inspected, because we have taken all of the inspectors out of the Department of Agriculture.  That's what we’re doing.  We now know that the toys that are coming into this country for our children to play with are toxic; and we’re afraid to purchase these toys because we’ve taken all of the inspectors out of the Department of Consumer Affairs and nobody is inspecting the products that’s coming in the country.   What’s happening on Wall Street is because nobody was inspecting; no referees were on the field; nobody was looking over the shoulders of the bankers in this country.  And that's what is happening to environmental conditions in this country.  There aren't any referees.  We don’t have the people that we need to oversee the environmental conditions that we have in this country.  Just ask the people who used to work and some who still work at EPA.  That’s what is happening in this country.  And so, that’s why this kind of empowerment is so important.  We’ve got to empower people at the grass roots level to begin to take some of this into their own hands, and know what is happening to them, and know how to fight this.  We’ve got to get them the language as well as the process for them to begin to do what is necessary.  We've got to put referees back on the field.  If you don't put them in striped shirts, let’s put them on the field in people's homes, in their living rooms, in their kitchens, so they will be empowered to go out and take some of this stuff in their own hands.  That's what this is all about.  And that is what it’s going to take to change the direction of this country.   We’re going to have to put referees back on the field.  And thank you all so much for volunteering for the positions (applause). 

Kevin Brown:
Thank you, Congressman Clyburn for those great remarks.  At this time I would like to show you the short video on Avoice’s new exhibit on environmental justice.  (Video starts: 26:00. Video ends 27:55).
Well; and so in closing, I would like to close with a quote on – there’s an inscription above the west portico of the United States Supreme Court, and it reads “equal justice under the law”.  If you think about it, for over 30 years, the CBC’s committed the time, the energy and the resources to make that vision a reality in the area of environmental justice.  So on behalf of each and every member of the Dell family, we would like to thank the CBC for their commitment to this worthy cause that has literally impacted the lives of millions of people.  And as Congressman Clyburn identified, I think this all starts with a focus and an effort, not just at the Congressional level, but all of us have to get engaged, all of us have to get involved because this is an important topic that impacts everybody's everyday lives, and the lives of our kids and our family.  Thank you (applause).

Adrena Ifill:
Again, I want to say, welcome.  My name is Adrena Ifill; and I’m the Project Director of the Avoice project.  It’s a virtual library of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and it was founded in 2006 when we first launched here at ALC during that year.  We started with four exhibits and we’re very proud to have Dell as our founding sponsor and also in collaboration with the Moorland-Spingarn research Center and the University of Texas at Austin.  Since then, we have launched two other exhibits; The Women of the CBC and now Environmental Justice.  We're also pleased to have for this session our speaker, Harold Mitchell.  I want to tell you a little bit about him before he comes up to speak.  I’m just going to highlight a little bit about his accomplishments.  He's a relatively young man, but he has had a lot of accomplishments and I'm sure he'll go into details and you can visit with him personally and hear more about them; and also get involved with his group called ReGenesis.  He's the founder of that organization and since 1998, he’s been driving the process and tasks associated with correcting environmental contamination and environmental justice issues around the Arkwright community in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  He spearheaded the development of community-wide movement called the ReGenesis project, to accomplish the healthcare, legal representation and revitalization goals of this community.  Some of his accomplishments include getting a healthy living initiative at the USC upstate community outreach and education center; winning a $700,000 youth build grant to build trade programs for disadvantaged and minority youth; and also a  brown fields revitalization project, which was designated as one of 15 demonstration projects nationwide.  He's been very busy.  He's also in the South Carolina State House, and he of course does that in his spare time.  He serves on the Environmental, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee of the South Carolina House of Representatives.  He was the 2007 South Carolina affordable Housing Coalition Legislature of the year.  He’s been a panelist and guest speaker around the country.  In 1999 he received the Trailblazer award from the African-American Environmental Justice Action Network.  During the first term, he sponsored several legislative bills that are now laws in South Carolina, and they include criminal domestic violence bill, a low income housing tax credits for affordable housing bill, and he established the Affordable Housing Caucus in the South Carolina General assembly, which is the second largest caucus.  He also was the recipient of the largest competitive grant ever awarded by South Carolina to his district.  And now I present to you Mr. Harold Mitchell (applause).

Harold Mitchell: 
Good morning.  I don't want to do like the Congressman and talk about the ineptibility of being technically challenged here in Washington.  But I do want to correct one thing with the Congressman on the referees, and that is, we know that the referees in the environmental justice movement and in the movement period, are called community organizers.  And I know some people have a problem with community organizers (applause).  My goal here today is to share with you the ReGenesis story in a way that, you know, when they talk about having measurable results that’s one of the things that we see that everybody is concerned about throughout different agencies.  What I want to do is to be able to share the story, look at the lessons learned, and pay attention to the programs; the grants that either no longer exist or have not been reauthorized by this Administration.  And that would include the Inter Agency working group on environmental justice; collaborative problem solving; just killing the knee jack, brown fields and super fund initiatives and the small grant program.  Now in this, what I want to do is to be able to just take you through and to show you that so often many people have talked about the ReGenesis story - that it's the Harold Mitchell story.  It's not the Harold Mitchell story.  It's something that I think the pioneers have pushed in the movement and have been able to create tools that we were able to use.  And from a $20,000 small grant, we’ve leveraged that into over $200 million.  So, what I would like to do, there is so many times that people say well, it's not the typical EJ story; so I want to show you just a little bit about the project and where we've been able to go from here.  As I stated, just pay attention to what has taken place, the initiatives that we used, and the initiatives that are no longer in place.  Now, I grew up right here in front of this abandoned fertilizer facility, which is the largest fertilizer producer in the world - IMC global.  One of the discrepancies here that you can see, and I am going to just shoot through, is that this is your typical site where the current owner was told to remove the sulfur.  What he actually did was dump it over the back of the fence next to (inaudible) Fairforce Creek, which is a creek that flows right to our - it’s a public lake where we have our public fishing and swimming.  But underneath that sulfur they found the old acid plant, and underneath the acid plant was the old well, about 20 tons of sulfur with that.  This is a stream where they released a couple million gallons of acid into that same (inaudible) Fairforce Creek, no fines.  In the facility itself, this is a clean closure.  You can see that there are over 48 tons of super phosphate fertilizer; the underground storage tanks, all the transformers were on.  There was no water at the site, just in case a fire had occurred.  And also in talking with EPA in the beginning, it was listed as an operational Texas storage warehouse; but it was abandoned in 1986.  The landfill which is adjacent to this, according to the state, it didn’t exist.  You could see the drums that were starting to come to surface.  Trees could not root because of the trash that was there on the site; kids would run through from the neighborhood.  And this is one of the test pits that EPA was able to pull up.  And you know, during this time in the investigation, there was a lady that rode with her husband every Sunday to dump at this particular site here.  And one of the boxes that she was concerned about, that they used to always take and dump, was one that she had no idea what was in that box.  And so one Sunday morning, she decided to go and take a look at the box, and within the box itself was a box full of fetuses.  So there was the truck with all those fetuses that they had there – that would go to this landfill.  And the landfill is - you could look at this wall and the residents’ backyards were closer than the wall here.  Everybody was on well water.  Now to move forward after seeing all this, gathered a lot of this information; and it was at that time, with this, I got in it by accident; trying to deal with the facility in front of our house.  I was sick for about nine months.  No one knew exactly what was going on.  Doctors couldn't determine – I was passing blood; throwing up blood; lost about 37 pounds; and out of that is where, you know, I just really wanted to see what was going on.  Did the facility – was what I was able to see – was that contributing to the causes and the problems.  So this is where, looking and moving forward – my father ended up with the exact same thing, and he died of lymphoma.  But before his death is when I decided that I needed to organize and move forward, because his last words that he spoke with me, you know – taking him to the hospital is “don't stop; you can't stop now”.  This information, which, my sister - she died of (inaudible).  And the waste material site was right in front of our house.  They had always basically said there was nothing wrong; there was nothing there.  During this time, this is when I started receiving a lot of the phone calls at either the office or at home.  And they would often call and it’s like, you trouble-making nigger.  Always hang up.  I would get that, you know, day in day out in the beginning of this whole process.  And it was at this point when I began to look at the presence of EPA and here at this meeting here, I put more teeth into that Executive Order than… I believe President Clinton probably should have sent me a little royalty on that one.  But it was at that time that we tried to work with EPA to limit the expectations that the residents had in a lot of our workshops about, you know, now that the Feds are here they are going to remove this landfill.  Well that wasn’t the case.  And in pulling everybody together, you know, Senator Hollings and Congressman Clyburn came up couple of times, because the Congressman actually lived in the community when he did a student teaching at one of our schools.  So it was at this point that we got a lot of our elected officials involved; my Vice President at ReGenesis, we elected him to City Council.  And that's where, as far as organizing the community, they began to see that there's a little power when we come together.  This is some of the public meetings that we were able to, you know, pull together to address a lot of the problems that we have within the community.  And in this, environmental justice was the centerpiece; because health, social, economic and the environment - these were all things that people began to see that were the impact within our community.  The poor housing, the crime, you know, Spartanburg in this particular community, is the largest concentration of public housing within the state.  It's the poster child for domestic violence, anything wrong – you can see here.  So this is part of what we began to build and show the community what we could do while we were still working to deal with a lot of the environmental insults that had impacted the community.  Now this is the mill village.  This is the section here, where once the mill had shut down in the fertilizer plant, they became incubators for a lot of the drug activity within the community.  So the prostitution - this area here was one where I was standing take this picture and in back of me was the old recreational Center.  You can find the AK47 shells on the street right here, because on one side of the street they would shoot out against the other, because this is where the crack and heroin – that little street there.  And these were the conditions of the housing.  Now behind that is the landfill, where you can see the telephone pole there in the background there; and their well is in back, and that well is actually right at the driveway of the landfill.  This is something that we - once we received the HUD grant - looked at an alternate access, because one of the other things in the community was the lack of access in and out.  The rail line that we had there, about 27 trains a day would go through; blocking the residents in.  And one occasion, the fire department couldn’t get in because of the train on the track.  By the time they got there, the mother and her kids were charred on the couch, and it was never addressed.  So this is how we were able to look at the Federal highway and we had also integrated EJ as part of their initiative.  So we began to look at ways of designing an alternate access; which, working with Congressman Clyburn and Senator Hollings, got about $2 million to move forward with creating an alternate access road, which is called the Matthew Perry Parkway.  Also, in that, we began to look at assets within the community; you know, what are some of the assets that we have.  This is a dam which powered the textile mill back in the day.  And (inaudible) Fairforce Creek – I mean we had a lot of natural assets that people in the community didn’t even know that existed.  Now out of the IWG when we came in, we saw that, you know, the Department of Interior – there were initiatives that were there to help us address and make this a part of our overall Master Plan.  So, out of the IWG when we got that designation which is one of the things that, you know, bringing all the Federal Agencies to the table with EPA with the stick did wonders for our local government.  Now out of that, because of the health concerns in the community, we went out with Health and Human Services; we established our Community Health Center.  Our Community Health Center is one of the fastest growing centers in the State right now.  In the area, we have about 20,000 patients on that side of town that didn’t have any insurance at all, but right now because of the growth and what is taking place with our center, the State has a migrant health program where they’re turning over to our Health Center; and we just established a new Health Center in another County which is in Congressman Spratts’ District.  One of the other things that we were able to do is pulling in from HUD and the colleges; we have six colleges within the community itself in Spartanburg.  Now, it didn't make sense with all this technical support not to be able to plug that into the community, because a lot of times, communities are stripped or having the burden with grants to do some of the things that some of the colleges and universities are looking for, you know, programs that they can get engaged with.  So this is one that we were able to deal with a lot of the kids within the community, and one of - a couple of our low, at risk schools.  We created a program here – the digital storytelling in global classrooms.  This is one of the classrooms in Pretoria, South Africa, that our school, one of our at-risk schools that was about to be shut down – we’ve been able to engage the two schools; and it actually is the first digital story telling global classroom exchange in the country with our school and this one here in Pretoria.  And this is one of the students here, and one of our public housing students that went over with me to Pretoria.  But even in this, you can see how, on the screen, our students engage with the students across; and a lot of the perceptions that we see from South Africa and our students; I mean the engagement itself is just unreal to be able to tap our students and start thinking globally.  And this is part of the same discussion here.  We also have been able to incorporate our youth leadership institute within the community to start building our youth within the community, as well as, you know, going after a couple of grants where we look at our dilapidated housing.  This is a typical area where there was no resources available within our local government to address our housing conditions; so we went out with HUD again and qualified and received our Hope VI grants.  But in this particular grant ReGenesis was the recipient to deal with our section 3 participation; making sure that people within the community were trained for the employment.  So we ended up, we trained residents through asbestos abatement.  They were actually the first.  And what I did, I took people that were either high school dropouts coming out of rehab; they were the first ones to go on; they were trained.  The two ladies at the bottom; they actually did their training; went back and got some more training; did the grading on the site.  And now, actually, she’s living in the site in one of the new homes.  Just a year prior to her training, had never worked.  Now she's got three certifications.  Six of the people actually ended up going to Katrina; three going here to the Pentagon to do asbestos abatement.  So it’s just a thing of being able to create the opportunity; and when given a chance.  These are some of the homes that have been constructed and some of the people from our actual classes and the public housing.  We increased our minority participation – from the first Hope VI – was only 5% to this one around 42% minority participation.  And these are the homes here that we were able to take out.  Now, in doing that, we didn't have adequate retail space on the south side of Spartanburg.  After urban renewal, we lost about 70 black-owned businesses within our community.  Well, nobody's going to come in when you do an economic impact study, if there's no density of housing.  So one of the things with the grant and the rehabs and things that we were doing, we increased the density.  So right after that grant, we were able to go back.  One of the stores came in and said, well, we’ll take a chance on going in there.  Now, it’s one of the most thriving Save-A-Lots in South Carolina.  This is one of the recreational facilities that we just broke ground on two weeks ago; which the City as a partner, came into the project.  Now, the thing is, the City had no interest in building any new recreational facilities, but because of what had happened and the transformation within that same area where I showed you where the textile mill village was right across the street from us; we took a person from within the community; trained them; got their certification and they built nine of the houses using a lot of the people we used out of public housing and the impacted area to rebuild this.  And as it stated, we have a lot of people that actually come through, that we’re trying to teach and show about what we were able to do here in Spartanburg.  Now going back to the sites themselves, the sites – the textile mill – our organization was one of the first in South Carolina to go into a cooperative agreement to do the cleanup on the textile mill site.  We actually led and were the major stakeholder and driver in the cleanup of the textile mill.  Now, the lessons in this is, you know, achieving environmental justice requires a holistic approach and this is what we tried to do with our community; not run away from the table.  Because we had every right not to sit at the table with the City who was responsible for their landfill.  And looking at the housing, education, I mean, everything overlaps.  And a lot of times, they’re hell bent on seeing, you know, when there’s a public meeting, that they’re expecting for us to come in vent, scream, run away, nothing’s done.  So in the very beginning, we try to tell our community, folks, just hold your peace, if you got to scream, got to cuss,  go in the bathroom, do something; but don’t stop this meeting.  We’re going to get what we basically came after here.  So one of the things that you have to do, as far as in this empowerment, is this organizational structure, capacity building and the shared vision.  These are the things that currently right now, with our two Superfund sites, six brown field sites, with our cleanup - we have Fazio, Tom Fazio who is one of the top golf designers in the world, is looking at – we’ve cleaned up everything around but the inside of the donut, which was the properties that we can't basically put into reuse. We are about to design a public golf course, which there is not in Spartanburg; which would created about 32 jobs there.  And Arthur Hills, who is a gold-medal awardee of designing these environmentally friendly courses, is actually the designer who is coming in to do this.  So when you look at what has happened within the community; the leveraging of resources and what we need to do as far as moving forward with environmental justice, you've got to go back and incorporate those things that this administration has basically pulled the plug on.  And the funding, I can’t stress enough of how these grant programs – to help communities with the capacity building that they need to move – further their agenda to achieve justice and put back some of the things that we see in these communities that have been pulled out.  From here, we need to enact some legislation that once again, by using an example and that’s part of what we basically need; and the best thing I can say about Dell.  Communities, and I can say for myself, ten years ago, in settings like this, I would sit in the back of the room and try to figure out what’s the next step; what do I need to do?  It was never an example; we had plenty of people that were constantly having to do battle at that time.  I see Bob and Beverly here, and some of the other pioneers that were kicking EPA.  I can’t start off with naming names, but a lot of you are on the front row; that you basically led the effort to make sure that communities like ours - and I just wanted to try to create an example that we can go out and show other people.  And I think by having the Avoice where communities can go look and see the lessons learned; look and see what works; look to see what they can implement; the tools, resources and things that are out there, I think will be for the better.  And this is where also in the state, because of what took place in our community, I was able to pass an environmental justice bill in South Carolina.  And Congressman Clyburn will tell you, it’s a Republican-controlled House and Senate.  This bill went without a reference.  And I had a lot of people – Mr. (inaudible) called and said man “how did you do that?”  And it was by example.  They couldn't argue with the facts of what had actually taken place in our community.  Now, we got our Police Chief now that’s quoting and going out and telling everybody that we’ve reduced crime within that section there by 90%.  Now that is from a community organizer (applause).  Now when you look at what has taken place within this community, we've addressed a lot of the issues; and I’m sorry, there’s a lot to this and I can’t put it all into the fifteen – twenty minutes.  But there’s a lot here that you can look and you can learn from; EPA has created a DVD to show the lessons here.  And I think this is where we need to move forward in the future, because if we bury the heads in the sand, looking at sources of alternative energy, I mean we’re going to be dealing with nuclear, coal power plants; and if we’re not at the table, we’re going to end up seeing the exact same thing of these facilities sited in communities.  No training, where the people from the communities are actually participating in the workforce.  And it’s going to be a new cycle of environmental justice.  And we’ll move from landfills and chemical facilities to nuclear facilities and power plants and some of the other things that we’re going to – I mean we are going to see it.  So we need to be at the table; and I think where the Congressman stated too, we definitely have to pull together, and look at the civic engagement; strengthen the environmental laws.  And once again, I just want to thank Dell and the CBC for taking this up – taking this exhibit.  And from last year, we had Senator Clinton to look at the Renewal Act on environmental justice.  So I think we are at a good time now, that all of this is taking place.  And the energy that Senator Barack Obama has put into the country, especially young people, and being able to see the technology.  I think we are going to move beyond trying to identify the environmental problems, to coming up with solutions of rebuilding communities.  So I don’t want to belabor the moment, but just wanted to just share with you; it's not a typical keynote speech, but we have to realistically look at where we need to go, and the mistakes that we do not want to have, where we’ve had with this administration; to put back on the table, and reauthorize what has worked.  Now they want to gauge something?  Come to Spartanburg, look at this, and you can see that it works; and we need to engage it so that we can have other communities to have this exact, same success.  You cannot have it without having the tools that we had in Spartanburg during the Clinton administration.  So, I ask those of you to look at that website; call your Congressman and we have really got to rev this thing back up.  So thank you; thank you Dell and thank you CBC.

Adrena Ifill:
Thank you, Mr. Mitchell.  That was really an inspiration and I know everyone will take it back to their communities and start small, and grow bigger and also go to Avoice online.org to see how the movement has grown forward.  And now were going to do what you probably all have been waiting for- is the raffle of Dell’s newest product – the Dell Hybrid.  Give me one second.  You want to tell a little bit …….? 

Kevin Brown:
Yes, I’ll talk a little bit about it.  As Adrena said, this is our most environmentally friendly computer that we just launched a little bit about a month ago.  And it's 80% smaller than the typical computers that we build.  It’s very environmentally friendly.  It actually has bamboo as the housing for the computer and its packaging friendly; 95% of the packaging is recyclable.  And so we're really focused at Dell, how do we build products and get products out that actually look really good that perform as well as our current portfolio, but that actually have an environmentally friendly focus.  So with that I’d like to – we’re going to give away one of these computers to one of our lucky guests today.  I’m going to pick the ticket here.  The number is 192209.

Speakers:
Dr. Elsie L. Scott, President and CEO, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc.
Adrena Ifill, Project Director, Avoice Virtual Library, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc.
Kevin M. Brown, Vice President and Chief Procurement Officer, Dell, Inc.
House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC)
Harold Mitchell, South Carolina State Representative and Founder of ReGenesis, Inc.

additional information and links.