Black Climate Toastmasters (Monthly, 2nd Wednesday)

September 13 , 6:00 pm 7:00 pm EDT

By joining the Black Climate Justice Toastmasters, you will embark on a transformative journey toward becoming an exceptional public speaker. Through a unique peer support model, you will have access to a community of like-minded individuals who share a common passion for the Black communities on the frontlines of climate justice. You will learn to harness the power of your voice, effectively articulate your ideas, and inspire change in others. Whether you aspire to deliver compelling speeches, engage in impactful discussions, or lead transformative workshops, this program will provide you with the skills and support you need to succeed. 

Hosted by The Chisholm Legacy Project. Held monthly on the second Wednesday.

September 14 , 9:00 pm 10:00 pm EDT

For years Sharon Lavigne of RISE St. James has been fighting Formosa Plastics, to save her Louisiana community and protect what she loves. She’s not the only one: Diane Wilson, a lifelong shrimper in Texas and Nancy Bui, a longtime advocate from Vietnam, have also fought for years to win justice in the face of Formosa’s environmental devastation.

Formosa Plastics plans to build a $12 billion petrochemicals complex in St. James Parish, Louisiana, a predominantly Black district that is already overburdened with pollution. The new plant would increase toxic air pollution by 800 tons each year and generate 13.6 million tons of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases annually – a greater carbon footprint than the disastrous Willow Project.

Many of you have been engaged around this fight for the last several years! We are back to update you on what’s going on with the project, and raise awareness around Formosa’s serial polluter behavior and the detrimental effects this company has caused around the globe.

Join us Thursday, September 14th at 8:00PM Central Time (9:00PM Eastern) as we take action against this large corporation and call on banks to divest, defund and denounce Formosa Plastics. Our webinar will also feature in-person activities that you can participate in no matter what part of the world you are in! Let’s get ready to uplift climate action and continue to Support Rise St. James and partners as they take on Formosa Plastics.

September 14 , 1:00 pm 2:30 pm EDT

The Green 2.0 Environmental Experts of Color Database addresses a pressing issue–the lack of diversity in experts providing testimony in the policymaking process nationally and locally. The database provides policymakers, organizations, and individuals with an expansive set of environmental and environmental justice leaders, and offers a more representative perspective on these issues. Join us for the launch of the database to hear from key experts and policymakers about how we can implement practices and policies that build a more inclusive set of experts in the environmental sector.

Header image: Exxon Mobil Refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, seen from the top of the Louisiana State Capitol. By WClarke (Wikimedia Commons)

An investigation of Louisiana State departments’ roles in perpetuating environmental injustices in a highly industrialized area along the lower Mississippi River, dubbed “Cancer Alley,” has been abruptly closed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

For those living on the frontlines of dangerous and deadly plastics, fossil fuel, and other industrial facilities and infrastructure, the move has been seen as a setback to their efforts to address systemic racism in the region and elsewhere in the state. The end of the investigation, which was sparked by official complaints filed on behalf of impacted communities, could also undermine the Biden administration’s commitment to addressing environmental injustices across the country.

We are very disheartened that EPA has decided to halt its investigation without making findings or addressing our concerns. EPA agreed that what’s happening to us is unfair. We thought the Administration would protect us, but no one wants to stand up to these companies. We are suffering, we are dying, and this makes us feel like our lives don’t matter. That’s a hard thing to deal with.

— Mary Hampton, President of Concerned Citizens of St. John, as told to Earthjustice

I feel like we were put on the back burner.

– Sharon Lavigne, environmental justice leader and Founder of RISE St. James, as told to The Washington Post

Louisiana Continues to Prioritize Profits Over People

Shell Norco Manufacturing Complex in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. By Erica Cirino

In October 2022, the EPA launched its investigation and sent a letter to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and Louisiana Department of Public Health calling for research on the health impacts faced by local residents from Denka Performance Elastomer’s neoprene factory in St. John the Baptist Parish and Formosa Plastics’ proposed facility in St. James Parish after finding evidence of racial discrimination.

The EPA’s short-lived investigation had marked a rare show of attention to the need to enforce against “disparate impact” of the disproportionate placement of hazardous industries and pollution in underserved communities. This progress was undermined when it closed its investigation after being sued by the state of Louisiana in a federal lawsuit filed in May by the state’s Attorney General Jeff Landry (R). The lawsuit alleges the EPA has violated aspects of the Constitution, Clean Air Act, and Civil rights Act of 1964, and effectively challenges the agency’s structure and authority, particularly in relation to its ability to regulate businesses and industries that drive major environmental injustices.

In closing its investigation into Louisiana’s role in perpetuating environmental social injustices, the EPA has taken a serious step backward, particularly in light of the Biden administration’s promises to address such discrimination. Frontline communities have for too long been fighting for their lives as industrial developments have colonized and polluted their neighborhoods, and this investigation could have made a positive impact on the lives of those harmed by environmental injustices. We have just witnessed the EPA cave to the pressures of profit-hungry, industry-friendly politics and unjust status quo systems.

– Erica Cirino, PPC Communications Manager and author of Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis

Meanwhile, Louisiana’s legal challenges to the EPA come after two Supreme Court rulings in the last year that curb the federal agency’s abilities to regulate protected wetlands and greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. And Louisiana’s oil-and-gas friendly regulatory environment has led to fast-tracking permitting and operation of dangerous facilities—further imperiling federal efforts to address environmental injustices.

Threat of Environmental Injustice Grows

A glimpse of the petrochemical landscape along the Mississippi River in Southeastern Louisiana. By Erica Cirino

In Cancer Alley, an 85-mile stretch of land along both banks of the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Black communities are among the most likely to face the worst health impacts and other dangers, such as fires and explosions, that come along with the unjust placement of industrial facilities. The EPA had pointed out this disparity, and evidence of racial discrimination, in its letter to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and Louisiana Department of Public Health.

Those affected by environmental injustice point out its roots in the region’s longstanding systemic racism, which stems from the days of plantation slavery and continues as industries exploit Black communities today. In the grimly named Cancer Alley, where industrial pollution of air, water, soils, and human bodies is extremely high, cancers are indeed extremely common. Residents also face asthma, autoimmune diseases, headaches, rapid heartbeat, respiratory diseases, and many other serious ailments that diminish both lifespan and quality of life. 

In 2021, the United Nations human rights experts declared that “federal environmental regulations have failed to protect people residing in ‘Cancer Alley’” and called for action to end the systemic racism which drives continued harm in the region. In addition to Black communities, low-income, rural, Indigenous, and People of Color communities across the U.S. are also most likely to face environmental injustices that threaten their health, lives, and overall well-being.

Take Action

Despite this major setback on what could have been a significant step forward, frontline communities in Louisiana—and across the U.S.—will continue to advocate and act for their protection.

Together let’s move forward to a world free of pollution and injustice. You can help frontline communities by taking action to tell President Biden and officials to stop approvals for new and expanded petrochemical facilities. Additionally, you can demand that JPMorgan Chase—a major funder for plastic and petrochemical projects—denounces, divests, and defunds Formosa Plastics’ proposed plastics and petrochemical mega-factory in St. James Parish, Louisiana.


July 1 , 5:00 pm 7:30 pm America/New_Orleans

People over Plastic is thrilled to bring a LIVE storytelling event in partnership with Earthjustice, Black Girl Environmentalist,, and the Patois Artist Collective for an inspiring evening honoring Black Women in Environmental Justice.

#CancerAlleyRisesUp is an Essence Festival pop-up event with food, musical performances, and poetry. Our esteemed storytellers are five Black women leading the way to oppose new fossil fuel projects that threaten their community’s health and livelihoods:

Roishetta Sibley Ozane, M.S., an accomplished Environmental Justice Champion and the Founder of The Vessel Project of Louisiana, a small yet impactful mutual aid and environmental justice organization based in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She champions the rights of Black, indigenous, and people of color communities, advocating for justice in the face of many injustices.

-Shamyra Lavigne with Rise St. James, a faith-based, community-led organization advocating for climate justice in St. James Parish, Louisiana. RISE St. James and its members have successfully fought off a mega plastics plant planned in their backyards. In 2022, a Louisiana court vacated air permits for Formosa Plastic’s massive petrochemical complex in Cancer Alley. The decision is currently on appeal.

-Jo Banner, M.A. is the founder of The Descendants Project, where she channels her affection and knowledge into challenging systems, primarily legal systems, that have exploited the descendants, such as herself, of those enslaved to plantations. She is now working to gain recognition of the burial grounds of the enslaved as sacred sites and aims to protect such sites and their communities from degradation, especially degradation caused by heavy industry.

Joy Banner, Ph.D. is the Co-Founder of The Descendants Project. The folklore, narratives, and resourcefulness of her community elders and ancestors are the inspiration for the collective and collaborative philosophy of The Descendants Project, in service of the community’s health, wellness, and most importantly, happiness. As part of this work, Dr. Banner is on the front lines of the struggle against environmental racism in the form of petrochemical plants along Louisiana’s River Road, otherwise known as “Cancer Alley.”

-Dr. Beverly Wright, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice and member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, will give opening remarks.

Wawa Gatheru, esteemed environmental justice advocate, is acting as Hostess for the evening

900 Camp Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130 United States
+ Google Map

On June 13, 2023, a bus filled with television and film writers embarked on a “Toxic Tour” of fossil fuel and plastic pollution sites across Los Angeles, California, organized by Plastic Pollution Coalition and Hollywood, Health & Society. The day was eye-opening, making the connection for attendees that 99% of plastics are made from petrochemicals derived from fossil fuels. Following is a firsthand account of the day by Amelia Hanson, Project Coordinator for the Flip the Script on Plastics initiative and Olivia Sparks, Intern, both at Plastic Pollution Coalition.

Los Angeles is a City Built on “Black Gold”

On June 23, 1921, in the community of Signal Hill, California, just east of Long Beach, the Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company struck “black gold,” otherwise known as crude oil. It was this discovery that helped drive forward the expansion of Los Angeles into the city we know today, built by oil barons now synonymous with popular Los Angeles tourist attractions, such as The Hammer Museum and The Getty Center. At one point, California produced a quarter of the world’s crude oil, with Los Angeles playing a central role in the state’s oil mecca. While we now consider Los Angeles to be the epicenter of entertainment, Los Angeles County remains the largest urban oil producing area in the United States, with many oil wells hidden in plain sight, in locations such as the Beverly Center and Cardiff Tower.

Our Toxic Tour took place just over 100 years after industrialists began pumping oil in Signal Hill. Our goal in taking television and film writers on this journey was to inform them of the harmful effects of plastics throughout their existence—from their origins as fossil fuels, to their production, use, disposal, and pollution—in hopes that content creators will turn this knowledge into compelling, factual entertainment—and ultimately help to Flip the Script on Plastics.

Witnessing Environmental Racism

As we made our way down the freeway, our first speaker, Tianna Shaw-Wakeman from Black Women for Wellness, encouraged us to watch the landscape around us as we passed by neighborhoods.

You notice where highways are placed and where they are not. You notice where trees are and where they are not. You notice where there’s green space or grocery stores and where there are not. You notice where there are health care facilities of a certain caliber and where there are not. You notice where water tastes better and where it might not.

–Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, Black Women for Wellness
Tianna Shaw-Wakeman. Photo by Dianna Cohen

We could clearly see that it was the lower income and communities of color that we drove through that lacked green spaces, grocery stories, and clean water. This included Signal Hill, a community that had the resources industry wanted, and whose residents are underserved, being exposed to pollutants, and facing various systemic injustices.

There’s another level of harm, and you know that so much of this is because of racism. It’s because of fossil fuel extraction and all of the myriad of effects that it can have. … So when we talk about environmental justice, and when we talk about environmental injustice, we’re talking about environmental racism.

–Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, Black Women for Wellness

Then Michele Prichard, who joined us from Liberty Hill Foundation, shared the story of Nalleli Cobo. Nalleli Cobo is a young Angeleno, who grew up across the street from an oil well, not far from the University of Southern California (USC), where our journey had begun. 

Nalleli’s activism began at age 9, when she noticed the foul smell from the oil well across from her house and experienced frequent nose bleeds, headaches, and heart palpitations. In 2020, after years of tireless work to bring attention to the pollution and injustice her community faced, while enduring her pollution inflicted illnesses, Nalleli was successful in getting the oil well from her neighborhood shut down. And, through her dedicated work, in 2021, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban new oil wells in unincorporated parts of the county and examine the status of existing ones.

Inglewood Oil Field

As Michele Prichard finished recounting Nalleli’s story, Tianna invited us to look out our windows, drawing our attention to the fact that we had just entered the Inglewood Oil Field. Covering approximately 1,100 acres, and stretching into the horizon on either side of the bus, the Inglewood Oil Field is the largest urban oil field in the United States. Much to our surprise, the landscape around these wells remained disconcertingly beautiful, with green grass and wildflowers growing tightly around them. Many of us on the bus expressed that we had expected something more apocalyptic, almost scorched earth, when we pictured an oil field. Perhaps this was why so many of us have been able to turn a blind eye to the industry despite our years living in the city that it helped create.

Inglewood Oil Field. Photo by Dianna Cohen.

When we turned the corner, the oil wells were suddenly replaced by the picturesque Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, which, on this day, was full of families playing sports, picnicking, and enjoying nature. Many of the tour’s attendees were familiar with the park and the surrounding area, yet somehow managed to block out the hundreds of oil wells spread out across the street. Many of us believed that the rigs must have been decommissioned—while in reality they remain in use pumping oil.

One attendee pointed out that this oil field sat on the edges of the highly desirable and affluent Black neighborhoods of Baldwin Hills and View Park. She said that when she was looking for real estate in the area, no one ever brought up the presence of the oil field, nor the possible health complications linked to oil extraction that could come along with moving into the area. She further pondered when “white flight” may have begun in this neighborhood, and which came first: the oil field or the Black community. Studies show that people of color are especially likely to live in communities overtaken by fossil fuel development and its pollution, particularly Black people, who make up 5.5 percent of California’s population but account for about 12 percent of Angelenos living in areas with the heaviest—and most dangerous—oil and gas production.

Our first stop at the Inglewood Oil Field was deeply emotional for me. I have always lived minutes away from the drilling site and across the street from Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, which serves as an illusion for the drilling site by secluding it with beautiful lush greenery and florals. I was heartbroken to realize that my beloved home and neighbors are being exposed to a multitude of environmental toxic chemicals and suffer from severe health issues, as a result of our proximity to the Inglewood Oil Field.

–Olivia Sparks, Flip the Script on Plastics Intern at Plastic Pollution Coalition

The Effects of Plastic Consumption

As we moved on, Venezia Ramirez, from the Environmental Justice Lab at USC, shared a story of how she and her community worked together to stop construction of a new Amazon warehouse, explaining that warehouses like this are a direct result of our endless plastic consumption.

All these repercussions of consumption of plastic and other sources outside the U.S. causes an increased demand for ports, operations, expansions of freeways, and the warehouses. Those are all impacting our communities. While other communities have those Whole Foods and have the Amazon stores, we bear the burden of that pollution. We have the Amazon warehouses.

–Venezia Ramirez, Environmental Justice Lab at the University of Southern California (USC)

These warehouses require freeways and trucks to transport goods, further polluting the air breathed by residents living nearby with particulate matter and other hazardous emissions. Research shows Black people are exposed to more than 1.5 times the amount of particulate matter compared to the overall population, which largely comes from diesel vehicle emissions.

Venezia Ramirez. Photo by Dianna Cohen

Venezia stressed the significance of the research that she and the Environmental Justice Lab at USC conducted, informing us that the reason corporations can get away with environmental pollution is often due to a lack of research that could otherwise hold them accountable. If voices and information communicating the facts are silenced or ignored, deadly corporations can’t easily be stopped. This is why Venezia spends all her time, both on and off the clock, researching and advocating for a better life for her neighbors and family. She explained that she does not have the privilege of stopping when her workday ends.

Phillips 66 Refinery in Wilmington, California

Next we pulled over in the city of Wilmington, just off the freeway, onto a small, residential cul-de-sac where the Phillips 66 refinery loomed in the background. Instantly, we were hit with a wave of noxious fumes, presumably streaming from its smokestacks and a nearby asphalt facility. As we exited the bus and walked to the end of the street, folks murmured to each other, curious how the fumes might be affecting residents, especially the children and also the dogs that greeted us from the yards as we walked past.

Alicia Rivera speaks to the Toxic Tour group. Photo by Kate Folb

At the end of the street, we met Alicia Rivera from Communities for a Better Environment, an activist who lives in Wilmington. We gathered around as she explained how, because of this refinery and others like it nearby, residents in Wilmington suffered frequent, and increasingly serious, health issues—such as asthma and cancer—due to the constant and highly concentrated chemical emissions and other pollutants in the air. She pointed out that most residents keep their windows closed all the time, even on hot summer days, in their attempts to shield themselves from the fumes. 

As she spoke, the tour attendees tried in vain to use scarves and shirts to cover their noses, as headaches and nausea quickly set in. Alicia pointed to every home on the street and explained that she had knocked on all of their doors over the years to learn how the refinery was affecting them. She let us know there wasn’t a single family that hadn’t experienced cancer, and some of the residents she spoke to had tragically passed away recently. Residents informed her that while they did not want to live in such a toxic environment, they could not afford to escape it by moving away. 

As we drove away from Wilmington and toward Long Beach Harbor, Alicia pointed out more refineries. She said that while they weren’t currently producing oil used to make plastics, as California progresses towards eliminating gas vehicles in favor of electric, many of these facilities could transition into refining fossil fuels for plastic production in the future. 

As soon as we crossed the bridge and entered the city of Long Beach, we saw the industrial sights and salvage yards vanish, replaced by restaurants, retails shops, and even a Ferris wheel. This didn’t mean the oil industry wasn’t present in Long Beach, just that the residents were wealthy enough to complain. So the oil wells were situated away from residents on islands across from the multi-million dollar beachfront mansions, and were disguised as picturesque statues and buildings designed to keep residents blissfully unaware of their presence.

Plastics in the Water: Aboard the Alguita

We pulled over at a residential marina, and stepped onto the Alguita, a research vessel belonging to Captain Charles Moore, Founder of the Algalita Marine Research and Education organization and the first to bring attention to the plastic in the North Pacific Ocean gyre. After giving us an opportunity to look around the ship, Captain Moore showed us the “manta trawl,” which they used to pull plastics off the water’s surface, telling us that plastic is “now the most common surface feature. It’s changed our planet. It’s changed the actual appearance of our planet in the ocean.”

Captain Charles Moore speaks to the group. Photo by Dianna Cohen

Captain Moore was handed a jar of dirty water, swirling with bits of plastic, explaining that the manta trawl could only pull what plastic particles are on the sea surface, and in fact many plastic particles and items are colonized by microorganisms or are otherwise heavy enough to sink to the ocean floor.

That’s why we never find water bottles on the beach without a cap. If the cap is gone, the water bottle sinks and it’s on the bottom, we see big piles of them in the deep ocean.

–Captain Charles Moore, Founder of Algalita

He explained this is why we have to focus on stopping production of more plastics rather than investing in beach and ocean clean-ups. There is no hope of stopping this pollution unless we turn off the tap. Captain Moore made a point of telling us that nature does not make waste. The natural world operates circularly, with every stage of life supporting one another. He said it was humans, industry, and capitalism that created waste, which means it is on us to move away from our current systems and lifestyles and create a circular system once again, one where every product and byproduct serves a purpose.

Plastic-Free Lunch

Finally, it was time for us to take a break. We stepped across the street and into Captain Moore’s garden. There, the group found a delightful reprieve from the harsh realities we faced throughout the morning up until a few moments before. There we were greeted with freshly made lemonade and jamaica (hibiscus tea) that had been sweetened by stevia plucked from nearby bushes. Under verdant avocado trees were platters of deviled eggs, produced by a staff member’s family chickens. Walking deeper into the maze of a garden, we discovered Chef Paul Buchanon from Primal Alchemy Catering, who was lovingly cooking vegan pizzas in a portable stone oven.

Chef Paul Buchanon. Photo by Kate Folb

Just across the way, under a pergola woven with grape vines, tables were set up with plated salads, featuring sweet peas, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and greens, all grown on site and each garnished with  edible flowers. Captain Moore pointed out that he had covered the ground with fresh bay leaves, much like the Romans did for their own feasts. The smell was fantastic!

As we dined, Dianna Cohen, Co-founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition, spoke about the importance of solutions. She reminded our entertainment-focused guests that the power of their words could influence audiences to see the realities of plastic’s endless toxic existence; to understand that divesting from fossil fuels means divesting from plastics; and to reach for reusables, refillables, and other systems that can help us build a just, nontoxic circular economy.

Salads fresh from the garden. Photo by Amelia Hanson

We finished our meal with a dessert of “chocolate pudding fruit,” or black Sapote, served with baby lemon bananas and loquats, adorned with a drizzle of honey, and a few tiny strawberries, which Captain Moore let us know came from a wild strawberry plant that appeared one day in his garden, seemingly from nowhere. With our bellies full, spirits lifted, and our chemical-emissions headaches a faint memory, we piled back onto the bus for our final stop.

Algalita Research Labs & a Refill Shop

Along the shorelines of Long Beach, we disembarked in front of the Algalita research labs and its neighboring refill shop. Still in the process of building, the members of Captain Moore’s team described their plans to fill the space with research and educational equipment. They showed us their reusable and accessible classroom kits, which are made available to educators, free of charge. The kits include a cell phone microscope attachment to look at plastics in fabrics, along with a beach sand sifting kit, with sand pulled from the nearby oceanside, full of pieces of plastic and waste of all sizes that students can examine and document.

Algalita Research Labs education table. Photo by Amelia Hanson

Before concluding his presentation, Captain Moore reminded us that we were on the ancestral lands of the Tongava people, and introduced us to his Tongva friend Anna Christensen, from Friends of Puvungna. She reminded us that we were presently standing on Native wetlands, and that these shorelines were a sacred site of creation, emergence, and gathering. She stressed the importance of reducing our society’s dependence on fossil fuels and transitioning to a green economy by listening to the land and the Indigenous people who originally lived here, and that restoration should not include bulldozing and erasing existing wetlands and wildlife habitats—which humans also need to survive. 

Finally, we made our way into the charming BYO Long Beach refill shop next door, which offers bulk soaps, detergents, teas and lotions, high-quality refillable safety razors built to last a lifetime, beauty products in cardboard, and countless other alternatives to toxic single-use plastics. Inside, Flip the Script on Plastics Project Coordinator Amelia Hanson pointed out how many of these products conveniently lacked branding, making shops like this ideal for TV and film shoots, which frequently struggle with finding creative ways to hide branded products from the camera. 

As we made our way back to USC, where we had started our tour, we took the opportunity to discuss the day and share stories of experiences as writers on set. One guest looked out the window as we again passed the Phillips 66 refinery to see that from one of the stacks, flames were emerging. It was a flare, which Alicia Rivera has told us signaled some sort of emergency in that area of the facility. We drew everyone’s attention to it, and some passengers noted that, where they were from in Ohio and Texas, they had seen those flares countless times, regarding them as a normal sight. The tour had changed their perspectives and reminded them that there was nothing that should be viewed as normal or natural about oil refineries and plastic’s toxic cycle of existence.

Learn More & Get Involved

Learn more about Flip the Script on Plastics, and if you are interested in attending or supporting a future tour, event, or experience like this, please contact

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Julia Bogoney from Friends of Puvungna as speaking to the group. Julia Bogoney passed away in 2021