“The more we fight back, the more we learn.”

Legal Empowerment Advocate Rhonda Hamilton

Environmental justice organizer Rhonda Hamilton was born and raised in the majority-Black, primarily low-income Buzzard Point neighborhood of Southwest Washington DC. “Some days, it’s like living in a desert storm,” she told The Washington Post. “Our elderly residents complain about burning in their eyes and lungs; children with asthma are having more flare-ups. People start coughing and can’t catch their breath.”

Rhonda recently obtained her first remedy. The Department of Energy and Environment mandated a dust-control fence around what had been an open pile of debris at the construction site for the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. Rhonda and several neighbors had filed a complaint, noting that children were playing on the pile. DOEE mandated the fence, and agreed to conduct a broader pollution inspection, after a walk-through of the site with Rhonda and several other community members.

Rhonda said making sense of environmental laws and the agencies that are supposed to enforce them is like solving a thousand-piece puzzle. “But the more we fight back,” she said, “the more we learn.”

September 17, 2020 | Namati