New Bridgeport event places greater emphasis on environmental justice concerns

Ja bandshell at Seaside Park in Bridgeport saw the first Seaside Sounds for Environmental Justice event on July 15, with environmentally focused businesses and organizations joining forces with local musicians and vendors to fight for a better future.

Among the event attendees who set up booths to discuss environmental issues were Groundworks Bridgeport, Save the Sound, the Bridgeport Farmers Market Collaborative and the Connecticut Sierra Club. They were joined by local vendors invested in these same topics, including Park City Harvest, an urban farm growing produce on the North Side of Bridgeport, and Luna’s Cauldron Wellness Center, which offers a wide range of holistic services and CBD products. locally.

Food trucks offering Jamaican fare and vegetarian options were also on hand, drawing long lines of people between musical acts.

The entire event was organized by Katharine Morris, a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut’s accelerated Masters in Public Policy program and founder of UConn Collaborative Organizing, a group that helps coordinate collaboration among organizations across the campus.

Katharine Morris, organizer of the first Seaside Sounds for Environmental Justice.
Photo by Justin McGown.

“The genesis of the event,” Morris said, “is that I lived in Bridgeport for about five years until I graduated from Basik High School. witnessed and experienced the issues of environmental racism by understanding and acknowledging how different the facilities available to the community and the general issues they faced were compared to where I had previously lived.

The contrast between Trumbull, where Morris previously resided, and Bridgeport was particularly stark.

“I was like, wait a minute, what is all these gasworks? What about all the flooding issues and bad storm management?” she continued. .

Morris said it was an immediate red flag for her that between the two communities, so close geographically but far apart economically, the poorer one with more people of color faced worse pollution and was less able to respond to the climate change. She felt motivated to use some of the organizational skills she learned while volunteering and working for non-profit organizations to take action and was inspired to organize the event at Seaside Park, both because she loves the exposed natural beauty and its stark contrast to the adjacent industrial area. .

With the idea formed, Morris found the process of making an event simple.

“All of the musical acts are local artists and are predominantly black,” she said. “Some of them I knew, or I found them online or saw them perform live somewhere. And I was just like, ‘Wow, you can sing, you can perform, you’ve got talent. Do you want to do this?’ I guess it may come as a surprise to some that you can just direct message people on Instagram or approach them and ask if they’re ready to get involved.

Morris added that it was a similar process to also involve the groups and businesses that attended the event, but with fewer Instagram direct messages and more emails.

Mariana Pelaez, a volunteer Morris recruited for the event, works for an environmental justice group called Renew New England and was thrilled to be part of the event.

“I helped with social media and created graphics,” Pelaez said. “And today I’m on music duty, making sure artists are ready to hit the stage at the right time.”

Pelaez considered the event a success and predicted that she “definitely, definitely” expects future events.

Richard Myers, who goes by “Farmer Rich” and is one of the co-owners of Park City Harvest, also praised the event. Although their product sales at the event were modest, he said the opportunity offered by Seaside Sounds was great.

“We are farmers here, so we try to meet other ‘green’ people and see if there’s a way to help out,” he said. “I didn’t expect to make a lot of money, but I did a lot of networking.”

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