'Mother Of Environmental Justice' Hazel Johnson Is The Subject Of A New Podcast

‘Mother Of Environmental Justice’ Hazel Johnson Is The Subject Of A New Podcast

Environmental, Hazel Johnson
Environmental justice worker Hazel Johnson. (Screenshot, YouTube/CBS Chicago)

A brand-new audio docuseries is shining a light on the efforts of Chicago’s Hazel Johnson, who is considered by many to be the “mother of environmental justice.”

According to Capital B News, the podcast, called “Help This Garden Grow,” chronicles the work that was done by the People for Community Recovery (PCR), which Johnson founded in 1979. Johnson spearheaded the fight to prove that the Altgeld Gardens Public Housing project put its residents at a higher risk of cancer due to its air pollution, lead pipes, and asbestos. Johnson and the organization discovered a link between the living conditions and the deaths of children and adults, including her husband, who lived there.

Johnson’s findings resulted in new water and sewage lines in the community, plus the training of Altgeld Gardens residents to become environmental remediation workers.

“We hope to provide momentum toward building the physical legacy and lineage that Hazel wanted and deserves,” said Daniel Kisslinger, who co-hosts the podcast. “The lineage of her work will enable us to survive and thrive as a city and as a community as we fight for environmental justice.”

According to Capital B News, the PCR and Johnson successfully petitioned the federal government to enforce clean-up efforts on decommissioned projects by large companies.

“Everyone now uses the language of environmental justice, but we thought it was important to acknowledge just how Black that history is,” said Damon Williams, who also co-hosts “Help This Garden Grow.”

The six-episode series includes commentary from Cheryl Johnson, who took over PCR following her mother’s death in 2011.

The fight continues in Chicago. In 2022, activists went on a hunger strike to protest a polluting scrapyard being moved from a wealthy, white Lincoln Park neighborhood to a Southeast Side community of mostly Black and Latino residents.