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The Jacksonville Black community rallies against environmental racism

By Staff |
July 6, 2018
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Opposing environmental racism in Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville Community Action Committee (JCAC) recently joined the Fairway Oaks community in a struggle against environmental racism.

The Fairway Oaks community was established in 2000 with the joint effort of the city of Jacksonville and Habijax. The city of Jacksonville knowingly and negligently sold hazardous land to Habijax, who then used the land to develop low-income affordable housing and sell it to low-income Black residents. Over 85 homes were built in a 17-day blitz of volunteers who propped up dozens of subpar houses.

After several years, residents noticed that their homes were starting to deteriorate. Houses began to crack in half, rot, and the very soil on which the foundation of the house were built began to implode. High levels of arsenic, methane gas and other toxic waste has put residents’ health at risk. The Fairway Oaks Community began to organize themselves and took action. They rallied, protested and fought for justice.

Nathaniel Borden, Fairway Oaks resident and leader of their movement, said, “Justice for Fairway Oaks would be each homeowner receiving enough money to go buy a house that is not on toxic land and each individual that has lived in Fairway Oaks for the last 18 years to receive a lifetime of health monitoring services.”

Jacksonville Community Action Committee (JCAC) members came out to support the Fairway Oaks community at their third court hearing on June 21.

JCAC organizer Joshua Parks commented, “This is a blatant case of negligence and racism. The city and Habijax should be held accountable for their role in endangering a whole community of people simply to make a buck. People are paying mortgages on homes that are built on a toxic waste site, many of them first time home owners. That's just unacceptable.”

Parks continued, “This isn't the city’s first brush with environmental racism. Another poor community on the same side of town, in the Fairfax area, is also located on a toxic waste site which has been deemed an EPA Superfund site because of its high level of toxins. Workers at the site have serious health issues from exposure and residents have some of the highest rates of cancer.”

The South is no stranger to injustice. In fact, most of its Black residents are accustomed to it. This history of slavery and Jim Crow still lingers within Jacksonville’s social relations. Racism manifests itself in overt ways, with police crimes and vigilante murders of Black residents such as Keegan Roberts; and subtle ways, with the sneaky environmental racism of the city of Jacksonville and Habijax - a non-profit affordable housing development company, which knowingly built houses on a former toxic waste site in one of the poorest regions of the city, now known as Fairway Oaks.

The Fairway Oaks community and the Jacksonville Community Action Committee plan to continue working together and pressuring the city of Jacksonville and Habijax for justice.