No. 1: A River Connected: stories about river, race, home, and climate

12 Noon, Thursday, January 20, 2022

All communities, every state

Gathering and Welcome

Introduction: Who are you, where are you, and what is the river to you?

River—Home: Pete Gansen

Zoning Director in Aitkin, Minnesota with a home situated right at the Diversion Channel. A special affinity for this place along the river as home as well as the “nature” surrounding it.

Q&A: How does the river shape your sense of home?

Home—Race: Fred Leonard

Called to West Memphis, Arkansas for a purpose—to work in community, to build Black leaders, Fred is a newcomer but is making fast work of finding his place and building opportunity.

Q&A: What role does race play in your community?

Race—Climate: Angela Chalk

After six generations in the Seventh Ward, Angela Chalk can solidly speak for her community and say she is giving them a voice when it comes to climate change and awareness.

Q&A: Is there a need for climate education in your community?

Climate—River: Albertine Kimble

Climate and the river are hand-in-hand affecting the Coastal community that is Albertine Kimble’s stretch of the East Bank in Plaquemine’s Parish, and she has ideas about all that water.

Q&A: Why do we make our homes in threatened environments?

It was a great start to our twelve-month long series on river, race, climate and home. Thanks again to everyone who joined us, especially Angela Chalk who contributed not only updates about her work with Healthy Community Services and their expanded network there in New Orleans but also her perspectives on the issue of race and home brought up in the discussion of Fred Leonard’s story.

We believe in telling these stories because as witnesses, we encountered striking truths and realities not always talked about. As a white woman, I can admit that I’m not readily exposed to the challenges of Black community. And as a woman living in Stillwater, Minnesota, I can also say I am safe from so many climate threats, at least on the surface. This apparent ignorance, however, doesn’t give me license to stay blind and deaf to these stories, to stay disconnected from populations that are experiencing a different narrative than mine.

I hope our project here, connecting stories of river and home to stories of race and climate, give us all an opportunity to see each other, hear each other, and feel each other. There is overlap in all our stories just as much as there is difference, and despite difference, we can still build relationships by being open and learning about each other in sincere and honest ways.

Thanks for being on this journey with me, with us. We are still learning, still listening, always listening.