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People We Love :: Beverly Wright

Cleaning up New Orleans
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Beverly Wright

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Hurricane Katrina destroyed Beverly Wright’s home. But she was more concerned with the storm’s long-term impact on the community.

As head of the Dillard University Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ), she partnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to test local soil in the wake of the hurricane. The tests turned up dangerous levels of lead and arsenic.

Wright lobbied the EPA for money to help clean up the contaminated soil, but rather than wait, the DSCEJ, along with the NRDC and the United Steelworkers of America, has built a network of local volunteers to pursue the cleanup.  

The work is just the latest effort for Wright, who helped found the DSCEJ in 1992. The center not only mapped toxic emissions in the United States by race and social class; it also has trained disadvantaged young people in hazardous material removal.

Berit AndersonBerit Anderson wrote this article for America: The Remix, the Spring 2010 issue of YES! Magazine. Berit is an editorial intern for YES! Magazine.


  • Sharon Hanshaw: Left homeless after Hurricane Katrina, she fights for communities that will suffer most from climate impacts.
  • Bioremediation in New Orleans: In New Orleans, activists pioneer the cleansing of contaminated soil using low-budget, natural methods.
  • Resurrect New Orleans: Van Jones says that a better city is possible.


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