Rise, Reclaim, Rebuild
In 2008 South Baltimore’s 21226 zip code registered the highest quantity of toxic air emissions from stationary sources in the nation. In 2009, the proposal to build the largest trash burning incinerator in US history less than a mile from two schools in Curtis Bay was green-lit by state and local officials.
SBCLT was established through over a decade of research, reflection and action initiated by high school students and residents in South Baltimore. Together, we reacted to the newly proposed incinerator questioning how a development of this magnitude could gain political and institutional acceptance given the presence of two large incinerators and the City’s landfill already surrounding our communities.
As we educated ourselves we started teaching our friends, neighbors, and parents what we learned. Eventually, we understood the incinerator development as a new chapter in a centuries long history of South Baltimore’s role as a regional destination for hazardous waste disposal at the direct cost of our lives, jobs and homes. We started making connections between the history of toxic development in our community and the hundreds of vacant and blighted homes that marked our daily walks to schools, stores and parks. Later we learned about the displacement of entire communities to make way for the infrastructure to burn and bury more and more waste.
Over a period of 5 years we struggled and eventually won in the face of this latest threat to the health of our community. At the same time we built belief in our ability to lead towards a new vision for the development of our communities that put our land and lives first. We knew we needed to build new tools and structures that we governed if we wanted to meaningfully break from a past that routinely imposed unacceptable harms on us. SBCLT was born out of this realization to become an organization with a clear mission to facilitate the implementation of a new vision for community owned Development without Displacement and Zero Waste in Baltimore.