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Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret

MacArthur “genius” Catherine Coleman Flowers grew up in Lowndes County, Alabama, a place that’s been called “Bloody Lowndes” because of its violent, racist history. Once the epicenter of the voting rights struggle, today it’s Ground Zero for a new movement that is Flowers’s life’s work. It’s a fight to ensure human dignity through a right most Americans take for granted: basic sanitation. Too many people, especially the rural poor, lack an affordable means of disposing cleanly of the waste from their toilets, and, as a consequence, live amid filth.

Flowers calls this America’s dirty secret. In this powerful book she tells the story of systemic class, racial, and geographic prejudice that foster Third World conditions, not just in Alabama, but across America, in Appalachia, Central California, coastal Florida, Alaska, the urban Midwest, and on Native American reservations in the West.

Flowers’s book is the inspiring story of the evolution of an activist, from country girl to student civil rights organizer to environmental justice champion at Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative. It shows how sanitation is becoming too big a problem to ignore as climate change brings sewage to more backyards, and not only those of poor minorities. Learn more about the book here.

“From the southern states, there have always been strong women who stood and fought for justice. To names like Fannie, Rosa, and Amelia, we must now add Catherine Flowers. Waste is the story of her work to organize communities against environmental racism. The fight is in her soul and because it is the truth, it will be exposed.” —Rev. Dr. William Barber II

Register in advance for this event: https://duke.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYpcOitpj0oG9Gog6t729z7Za84N9rqScbg

A 2020 MacArthur Fellow in Environmental Health, Catherine Coleman Flowers founded CREEJ, the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, which focuses on reducing health and economic disparities among communities, as well as improving access to clean air, water, and soil in marginalized rural communities. In addition, she serves as Rural Development Manager for the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), is a Senior Fellow for the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and sits on the Board of Directors for the Climate Reality Project and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Flowers served on the Biden-Sanders Unity Climate Task Force to inform policy making discussions in preparation for the 2020 presidential election. Whether addressing equal access to water, the effects of climate change on different communities, or the effect of history on today’s inequities, Flowers’ lens of leadership in environmental justice and climate change inspires attendees with tangible solutions and ways to take action. 


February 3, 2021
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm