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Ivan Rodriguez is fighting the toxic effects of environmental racism in Southeast LA

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IMG_20150511_192751Southeast Los Angeles is my home, it is also one of the most heavily industrialized areas in Los Angeles, a community about six and a half miles southeast of Downtown Los Angeles.  My Making Contact story is about my experience of institutional environmental racism and the hidden effects it has on my community.

The greatest challenge to the area is the large number of toxic polluters, superfund sites, brownfields and freeways. This so called “toxic hot spot” houses a wide range of polluting industries including chrome platers, hazardous waste treatment storage and disposal facilities, and other major toxic emitters.

Major projects like the Vernon Power Plant, the proposed expansion of the Long Beach/Pasadena and the highly toxic lead battery smelter, Exide Technologies only add to the dangerous cocktail.

Living so close to major polluters creates serious hazards and neighborhood residents have significantly higher rates of pollution related death and health problems including asthma, cancer and low birth rates. This is the reality that my family, some of my closet friends and my community face regularly, in addition to low wages and lack of healthcare and affordable housing.

What happens in this heavily industrialized area effect the entire Los Angeles County. But not everyone has a clear understanding of these obstacles and when people are unaware of an issue it’s like it doesn’t exist.

Environmental Racism can is a construct of the capitalist, white supremacist world we live in but it surfaces in ways that might not always be the easiest to see, including exclusion of minority groups from public and private boards, commissions, and regulatory bodies.

The decisions made and laws passed without our consultation directly effect the people in my community physiologically, socially, economically and obviously environmentally.

I believe that with the help of this fellowship I can draw more attention to my community’s fighting against toxic polluters, superfund sites, brownfields and freeways.

I hope to learn journalism skills and create change in my community and for the people most affected.

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