A STATEMENT FROM SEA
After much reflection, the St. Croix Environmental Association wanted to release a statement on the Black Lives Matter movement. We recognize the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement across America, the world, and especially in the United States Virgin Islands. SEA heeds the local, nationwide, and global calls for the need to reflect on our roles, recognize the injustice, learn how we can be a part of the conversation to battle systemic racism, and what we can do going forward as an organization.
The St. Croix Environmental Association stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Movement and mourns for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the tens of thousands of lives lost over generations due to racism. We support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. We are all part of America.
One of our youth SEA members, Savanna Capedeville, stated so eloquently: “St. Croix is no stranger to the struggle and the fight against racial inequality. A quick look into our history of self liberation will confirm this. Fight does not only live in our history books but throughout our community. We must continue to use this legacy of passion to stand with our Black brothers and sisters for racial justice. Although we, in the Virgin Islands, don’t experience the same racial inequality as mainland Black Americans, we cannot be silent. As a majority Black community, it is our fight too. As Americans, it is our fight too. Regardless of skin color, nationality, or political background, injustice is an everyone issue.” The fight against racial injustice includes environmentalists taking action too. Read Savanna’s full statement below.
Environmentalists must care about fighting systemic racism. Racism threatens environmental progress and our planet. Systemic racism, injustice, economic and social inequities, a changing climate, and environmental degradation are interconnected. Civil Rights Movement activists, such as the recently departed and beloved Congressman John Lewis, paved the way for the Environmental Movement with their calls for action on injustice. Climate change, environmental pollution, and exclusion from the environmental decision-making process disproportionately impacts communities of color – leaching lead pipes and contaminated water in Flint, Michigan; cancer alley in Louisiana; devastating flooding of the Lower Ninth Ward from Hurricane Katrina; and the exclusion of the Standing Rock Tribe during the permitting process for the Dakota Access pipeline.
Our very own beautiful Virgin Islands have examples of environmental injustices – the leftover damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria still unrepaired almost three years later; severe air and groundwater pollution from Hovensa, which the corporation walked away from without second thought of our citizens; the superfund site Tutu Wellfield leaking volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the groundwater that people use to drink; the continuous, underground fire hazards from Anguilla Landfill, to name a few. We are forgotten. Our BIPOC communities are frequently excluded out of key conversations with government officials as to what’s going on in our backyards. As a U.S. Territory, we cannot have a vote in our lawmaking process – a vote that would help make our environmental laws more just, fair, and transparent. Too often we do not have a say until it is too late. That must change. We must have more seats at the table.
S.E.A. incorporates the principles of inclusion, justice, and equity into our work. We will work harder to empower our citizens to protect their environment through advocacy, education, conservation, and experiencing the greater outdoors. We strive to educate and empower the next generation of Crucians in STEM subjects, to be leaders, and expose them to the beautiful nature and Caribbean environment so they can be the next environmental stewards at home and abroad. We want to build a stronger, healthier community that celebrates the lives of all people, no matter their ethnicity, economic status, gender, sexuality, or race. SEA looks forward to collaborating with our community partners to find solutions. We can be the change.
A STATEMENT FROM SAVANNA CAPEDEVILLE, SEA MEMBER
The Black Lives Matter movement is extremely significant to the majority Black Caribbean community. A Black problem is a Caribbean problem. It was my Caribbean community that helped to inspire me to plan the St. Croix Black Lives Matter Stand-In-Solidarity event last Saturday. St. Croix is no stranger to the struggle and the fight against racial inequality. A quick look into our history of self liberation will confirm this. Fight does not only live in our history books but throughout our community. We must continue to use this legacy of passion to stand with our Black brothers and sisters for racial justice. Although we, in the Virgin Islands, don’t experience the same racial inequality as mainland Black Americans, we cannot be silent. As a majority Black community, it is our fight too. As Americans, it is our fight too. Regardless of skin color, nationality, or political background, injustice is an everyone issue.
I have always been passionate and vocal about racial equality. In a few months, I will be attending a stateside university to study sociology so that I can continue to educate myself on justice. After the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, and the racist exercise of privilege against Christian Cooper, I became increasingly alarmed. I asked myself why these racial tragedies keep happening. I thought of their families. I saw my male family members in their place. I thought of those who had lost their lives just for being Black. I thought of what would have happened if there had been no one recording these incidents. I had to do something. I began posting on my social media, creating a conversation about how George Floyd’s death wasn’t just an isolated incident and how this wasn’t just a mistake by one good police officer. I talked with my friends and researched about systematic racism, the history of looting, and finally, how to organize a peaceful protest. I saw protests erupting all across the country and knew that real change could come from this expression of speech. I posted on social media asking for people to help me to organize a peaceful march to show Crucian solidarity. A week later, a group of inspiring community activists and myself, made it happen. Local activists, artists, media, and community members came together and made the event bigger than what us organizers had even imagined. I am so proud to have been a part of it. But it cannot end here.
Black lives do matter and they need to also matter in the eyes of our justice system and in the eyes of our country. Donate, petition, protest, speak out, defund, and vote. We cannot wait for change but must demand it.