A year ago, I had the great privilege of working alongside Rebecca Parrish, doing location sound recording for Jen Gilomen, one of the filmmakers behind Working Films documentary Deep Down when they brought their film’s protagonist Beverly May to Chicago. They were here for an ITVS Community Cinema Screening, but first stopped by Little Village to meet the members of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) to learn about their fight against several toxic industries, including two huge coal power plants that were poisoning the air and the people in those neighborhoods.
LVEJO member Ian took us on a walking tour of his neighborhood, where we got to stand right outside the towering gates of the Fisk plant in Pilsen. The change in the quality of air I was breathing was immediately noticeable. There was no running away from the foul smell of chemicals in the air. As I crinkled my nose and started to fear the effect breathing the air would have on my brain that day, I wondered how the City of Chicago could allow such a toxic-emitting plant to carry on running right where people’s homes are. A 2010 study showed that pollution from the Fisk and Crawford plants alone leads to 42 premature deaths, 66 heart attacks and 720 asthma attacks each year!
Fast forward to today, I found myself back in Pilsen, where the smoke stack of the Fisk plant towered over me once again. A large crowd had gathered in the park across the street carrying signs and chanting continuously. This time, the looks on the faces of Pilsen residents were ones of sheer joy and celebration. Just yesterday, news broke that both coal plants in Chicago will soon shut down.
That’s when Greenpeace, one of the organizations that’s been fighting for this for years, called me to help document this historic victory.
Visit their blog to read their recap of the day and watch a clip of Lelia Mendez, a member of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), giving an emotionally-charged speech.
(Thank you Mitch, for passing this opportunity along. It was so great to come full circle.)