NY - Elmira Mothers Cohost with the Poor People's Campaign



On Sunday, June 10th we hosted a community event in conjunction with the Poor People's Campaign, on the toxic contamination at Elmira HS and the surrounding neighborhood. We provided information and dialog on this community issue in the broader context of poverty, race, and environmental justice. 35 people attended including 5 members of the Chemung County team and 7 allies from the Poor People’s Campaign including two local union organizers.

We kicked off with a public narrative and short video by community member Becca Forsyth. I coached Becca on her public narrative and worked with her through 3 versions of her video.


 Mothers Out Front team member Jen Carman Clark who is a teacher and parent at the high school a gave a presentation of the information the teachers and the school have gotten from the NY DEC.

The forum was anchored by (my sister) Jessica Marlies, an experienced environmental lawyer trained and experienced in mediation. Jessica engaged the attendees by having them write down their top 3 concerns and then grouped those concerns into categories and explained the roles and responsibilities of the different parties in this Brownfield project. She helped the community define priorities, and identify the agency or agencies with authority over the issues identified.

A delicious free meal from Taste of Jamaica, a local black-owned restaurant was served which allowed for casual community conversation afterward.




     Jen Carman Clark                                                                   Jessica Marlies


Feedback from the event:

“The meeting on Sunday and your follow-up email is another example of why we need women in charge of things.  Thanks Lisa. It makes me feel better. The meeting was focused and informative. The follow-up email gave the highlights of the meeting and questions to ask.  It's all presented in a very nurturing and mentoring way. I really appreciate it. It really does have a calming effect and helps focus advocacy.” - Peter Keenan Elmira resident

“Mothers out Front partnered with the Poor People’s Campaign to host a presentation and discussion regarding ecological devastation to day at Trinity Church in Elmira.

It is not a surprise that the poor are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards and contamination.

There were many fantastic speakers, Becca Forsyth explained the struggle of living in poverty, about living in a community that has been contaminated by industry and worrying about the safety of her family.

Excellent presentation on the issues surrounding Elmira High School by Jennifer Carman who is a teacher at Elmira High school, the mother of an Elmira high school student and a member of Mothers Out Front.

Jessica Marlies, Attorney facilitated in depth discussion regarding concerns regarding the contamination surrounding Elmira’s Southside. Her expertise was incredibly valuable.

Thank you Lisa Marshall for your endless advocacy. It will take the entire community to demand action. It will take the entire community to affect change.

Please attend the Chemung County Legislative Meeting tomorrow night as they weigh in expediting the investigation.”

- Posted on Facebook by Dora Leland middle school teacher and NYSUT union organizer.





Next steps and follow-up:

We encouraged folks at the meeting to show up and speak the following night at the Chemung County Legislature meeting in support of a resolution about this issue on the agenda and to ask the Legislature to do more.

Debra VanDelinder, a teacher from the school who had attended our meeting came to the County Legislature meeting and spoke. It was her first time ever attending or speaking at a public meeting.


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