Katherine Egland, founder of Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate, and Health Organization (EEECHO), a Gulf Coast environmental and social justice coalition. Photography: William Widmer

Black in the Time of Climate Change

15 Years After Katrina, a Fight Against ‘the Jim Crow of Climate Change’ Rages on in the Gulf Coast

After inequitable responses to Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, climate activists are preparing their communities for the next storm

OneZero
Published in
12 min readJan 15, 2020

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This is the second story in a new series from OneZero. “Black in the Time of Climate Change” will examine how Black communities across the United States experience and adapt to environmental degradation and other impacts of global warming.

WWhen Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi in August 2005, it blew the front door off of Katherine Egland’s Gulfport home. Egland, a longtime civil rights activist, says three-quarters of her house was destroyed, including a six-foot-tall privacy fence, the entire front porch, and her husband’s newly renovated “retirement man cave.”

Egland, an NAACP board member who lives in a middle-class, predominantly-white neighborhood, received relatively swift relief after the storm. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like the Red Cross and Salvation Army, she says, delivered meals to her neighborhood every day in the immediate aftermath.

Meanwhile, Gulfport’s devastated Black neighborhoods, like Soria City, North Gulfport, and Turkey Creek, waited for aid. It took over two weeks for it to get there.

“I am seeing the Jim Crow of climate change.”

Egland says relief organizations were slow to set up any distribution centers in Gulfport’s Black communities. Because she and her neighbors had generators and could cook their own food, they shuttled meals, gas, and clothes from relief agencies in wealthier neighborhoods to areas of the city that needed it the most. Egland, her husband David, and their neighbors became a roving distribution center, supplying Gulfport’s poor communities of color when relief agencies would not.

34th Street Holistic Gardens and Education Center, a community gardening project that Egland helped create in downtown Gulfport.

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Drew Costley
OneZero

Drew Costley is a Staff Writer at FutureHuman covering the environment, health, science and tech. Previously @ SFGate, East Bay Express, USA Today, etc.