“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This quote has been swirling through my mind since I attended the film—Come Hell or High Water: the Battle for Turkey Creek—that NCLCV co-sponsored with Bennett College last week. This documentary demonstrates the profound love that Derrick Evans, a social studies teacher working in Boston, has for his ancestral, African American community of Turkey Creek, Mississippi.
Evans returns to preserve his hometown’s cultural history and soon becomes a community organizer and environmental justice champion by necessity. Turkey Creek had been established by a group of freed slaves, including Evans’ great grandfather, and has always depended on the use of the creek for water, fishing, and recreation. In recent years, Gulfport’s hunger for “undeveloped” land has put tremendous pressure on the people and ecosystem of Turkey Creek. As wetlands are filled in for housing developments, roads, strip malls and the airport, flooding and encroachment result.
So, Evans partners with many organizations to develop a plan to protect the cultural and ecological diversity of the area: a creek-based greenway system coupled with historic district designation. But just as his hopes for Turkey Creek are beginning to be fulfilled, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the BP Deep Horizon disasters devastate the area.
Evans’ struggle exemplifies the kind of love that “implements the demands of justice” for his neighbors and family members who have suffered displacement and discrimination. His love is the kind that builds the power of everyday citizens to find their voice and create the future they envision for themselves. It creates space for people who come from different classes, races, and histories to explore the varied reasons why they too love, and will fight for, one creek. This is why support comes in the moment of deepest crisis; Evans’ willingness to defend the place he cherishes enables people all over the country to join with his community in solidarity.
So, what is your Turkey Creek? What place, or community, or way of life calls you to act on its behalf? And how can we at NCLCV stand with you? We’re among many allies ready to put love into action.
Jodi Lasseter joined the NCLCV team in January as the field organizer for the Raleigh office. Share your thoughts on what place or communities calls you to action by emailing Jodi at firstname.lastname@example.org.