We Refuse to Die was part of the exhibition, Unsettling Matter: Gaining Ground, at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, August 2023 - January 2024.
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Forging Family from Appalachia to the Gulf Coast

February 1, 2024

In November, 25 frontline community leaders from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Washington, and Sarnia, Ontario joined together in Pittsburgh for a week-long convening of story and strategy-sharing, bread-breaking, and “toxic tours” led by residents of so-called “sacrifice zones” across the Ohio River Valley.

The group traveled to the new Shell Cracker Plant in Beaver County, PA and the site of last year's chemical train disaster in East Palestine, OH, to communities living in the shadows of US Steel's polluting operations in Braddock and Clairton in the Mon Valley, and to the fracklands of Washington County, PA. At each site, they shared their stories with with local impacted residents, scientists, and community activists, drawing lines of solidarity between their dispersed but connected struggles.

Check out this NPR story about We Refuse To Die and the “toxic tours.”

The convening culminated in the first permanent installation of an Externality monument, overlooking the US Steel CokeWorks Plant in Clairton, PA, where a predominantly low-income Black community breathes the most toxic air in the county.

The ceremony featured libation and prayer, song, West African drumming and dancing, and the procession and planting of the carving by Clairton and Gulf South community members. Grandmother Melanie Meade of Black Appalachian Coalition is host to the monument, which she says, honors her ancestors who struggled before her and gives her strength each day.

Watch the video from this very moving and powerful ceremony.

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