Written by Lucy Gray
Brenda Hines speaks very highly of community organization Down Home North Carolina, which is a group that is working to build multiracial power for working families across North Carolina, and which focuses on mobilizing small towns and rural communities. Ms. Hines has been a member since Down Home began in 2017, and one of her current goals is making people aware about the effects of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate project. The pipeline is proposed to cut through several central NC counties, including Alamance, which is where Down Home began.
“As we know, there’s a historical tendency for these areas [that are affected by environmental justice issues] to have mostly Black and Brown and especially Indigenous communities, even throughout North Carolina – not just in the Haw River area… Down Home is an organization that is intentionally organizing rural communities multiracially, which is very important in these times that we’re living in.”
Down Home is an organization made up of a diverse group of people, not only in race but also in age, education, and employment. Their love of community and desire for change is what brings them together.
“Basically, we as everyday people have to come together no matter how we look at others or the ones we think have all the power – they’re no more human than we are… We have just as much capability as anyone else, no matter what we think our level of life is.”
The Southgate Pipeline has hit several obstacles due to the tireless work of community members, including an outright denial of a necessary permit to pass streams. However, they have appealed the initial denial decision and could have the chance to reapply. The pipeline’s construction would impact countless species and high-quality waters, as well as risk contamination of drinking water supplies.
“Anything disturbed from its natural source of movement – anything that disturbs it is damaging. What I’m learning along the way is that we don’t realize that water is life.”
Additionally, Ms. Hines is skeptical of the economic benefits touted by Mountain Valley LLC.
“There’s no real economic gain for the community at all – no real jobs, only very few people are able to get those jobs and that’s based on the historical context and the way that education has been promoted in these areas… It’s really just not necessary. The upheaval of the ground and these communities – it will never be the same.”
When asked about what aspects she thinks are important when it comes to organizing and advocating for communities, Ms. Hines emphasizes the importance of education.
“We’ve been in a culture of miseducation. If we have a mind to educate people, everyday people, and allow them to discuss things – because [discussion] is a big part of education for me… I don’t think it’s enough to just do a campaign kind of thing and it’s not enough to just bring up these issues if people don’t understand what’s going on, so there always has to be education involved… I think that’s where the patience really needs to come in.”
Ms. Hines also highlights that building strong relationships and acknowledging how communities and people are interconnected is key to having a strong foundation.
“It takes a long time to develop relationships, and that’s what people have to be rooted in – the relationship building, not just the issue of the moment… Everybody is giving up something. Don’t be shortsighted because it’s a Black life or a Brown life in the forefront, but everybody is affected by it no matter what your racial background may be.”
Overall, Ms. Hines believes that Down Home NC is an incredible force for change in her community due to their dedication in forging relationships and providing opportunities for community members to learn and for their voices to be heard.
“I’m just so proud of them for doing what they’re doing. That gives me hope, that makes me smile… The road is never straight, but that’s okay. That’s okay.”
Down Home NC’s website can be found here: https://downhomenc.org/