HOUSTON, Texas — For more than forty years, Judy Jones has lived directly behind the deadly CES Environmental Services, a chemical plant that has killed its workers, polluted the air and caused evacuations and lock-ins of her neighborhood.
According to Jones and her neighbors, the fumes that spew from the CES waste management and disposal plant give off the foulest of odors, leaving residents with sore eyes, irritated noses and mouths, as well as nausea, and diarrhea.
“Whatever is back there needs to be gone. It’s dangerous,” Jones said.
On August 4, 2009, the plant, located in the 4900 block of Griggs Road in Houston, was raided by at least four different national and local police agencies.
According to the August 5, 2009 edition of the Houston Chronicle, “The raids resulted from a criminal investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Texas Parks and Wildlife environmental crimes unit, and the Houston Police Department.
When all the different police agencies went in to serve the search warrant, they all wore protective breathing and fire retardant gear and other assorted protective equipment, none of which is available to the African community who live and work in the area.
The protective gear was certainly needed. Before the search could get started a 10,000 gallon tank containing hazardous material “spontaneously ignited,” causing cops to run for their lives and making the Houston Fire Department work for more than three hours in an effort to put out the fire.
Neighbors tell of past explosions from the chemical plant that have thrown out “hunks of metal that could have decapitated people.”
“It was sharp. We had to put it on a dolly to take it back, it was that heavy,” said Kimberly Sadberry, who lives across the street from the killer disposal plant.
Following that explosion, CES promised that nothing like that would ever happen again. But two weeks later there was another explosion.
Although the plant was allowed to settle a suit against them in February 2009 for $102,000 and agreed to move certain operations out of the area, it was nonetheless hit with another $16,000 fine for worker safety violations in June 2009. Then, directly following this fine, workers were cleaning a tank when a fire erupted that killed 45-year-old Bruce Howard.
Even prior to that, in December 2008, plant worker Joe Sutter died from asphyxiation and poisoning due to hydrogen sulfide inhalation. Four months later, Jefferson County, Texas Justice of the peace Tom Gillam ruled from the coroner’s report that the death of CES plant worker Charles Sittig was a result of exposure to hydrogen sulfide.
Clearly, this is a life and death question to the more than 100,000 working class Africans who live in the Third Ward/Sunnyside area of Houston where the plant is located. The death toll will surely rise when the deadly policies of CES are finally uncovered by the people’s movement.
Without their own organization, Africans in the area have done the best they could. Their African elected officials, including City Councilwoman Wanda Adams, State Representative Garnett Coleman, State Senator Rodney Ellis, Harris County Commissioner Franco Lee and US Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee, all of them African, have failed to come to the defense of a community that is literally being poisoned to death.
Not even aspiring mayoral candidate, Eugene Locke, who is also African, has said anything about our people’s horrible relationship to the CES plant.
This is neocolonialism — white power in black face — on the ground, as fallen African patriots Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Walter Rodney of Guyana and present-day African leader Omali Yeshitela would define these corrupt, sell-out politicians who front for the interests of white power.
These politicians do not care because they do not have to live and work in the poison, or die from the heat or deadly fires which are common occurrence at CES Environmental Services in Houston.
It is the colonial existence of African people in the United States, which dictates that we live under such deplorable conditions. But the same is true for African people all over the world.
During the July 2, 2009 edition of the white ruling class TV program “60 Minutes,” black workers, forced to survive in Occupied Azania (South Africa), were shown digging in a hazardous waste dump created by the jeans manufacturer Levi Strauss Corporation and the Gap clothing corporation.
Just as in South Africa, African people right here in Houston, Texas and throughout the U.S. need our own organization that will fight for what is right and just. As black workers, we must lead ourselves and address our own needs.
The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement is such an organization. Its stated program is to fight first and foremost in the interest of the African working class.
InPDUM demands reparations now from CES for the deaths and poisoning of the African community of Houston, Texas!
We fight for power to the black working class as organized resistance against colonial domination whether in black skin or white.
Contact the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement at www.inpdum.org