Non Profit Organization
The People for Community Recovery (PCR), a non-governmental organization composed of residents of Altgeld Gardens housing project in Chicago, Illinois, came into being in June 1979, but was incorporated only on October 25, 1982. It holds office at 13116 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. It was organized through the initiatives of Hazel Johnson, a resident of Altgeld Gardens whose husband acquired lung cancer while living in the housing project and who subsequently died of the disease.
PCR aims to address environmental issues affecting residents of the Altgeld Gardens following discoveries made by Hazel Johnson that the housing development has been sitting on the Pullman Company dump and was situated in an area populated by polluting companies. The following is a set of questions prepared by this author for use in his interview with Cheryl Johnson, contact person of the PCR. Q1. Ms. Johnson, I understand that you are from the People for Community Recovery (PCR)? Are you a salaried employee of the organization? Or are you a volunteer worker?
In what official capacity do you represent the organization? Since when have you been occupying this position? Q3. How long have your association with the organization been going on? Who recruited you? Q4. Are you by any chance a blood relation of the organization’s founder and CEO, Ms. Hazel Johnson? Did you know her husband as well? Q5. Are you a resident of the Altgeld Gardens? If so, since when have you lived there? As a resident of the place, have you also experienced symptoms of exposure to pollution? Q6. Are you married? Any children? If so, how are your family members faring in the polluted environment of Altgeld Gardens?
Q7. Ms. Johnson, aside from being employed by the PCR, do you also consider yourself an environmentalist? If so, how do you define environmental justice? Is this what made you join this organization? Q8. What prompted Ms. Hazel Johnson to organize PCR? Did her husband’s death due to lung cancer influence her somehow? What were the original objectives of PCR? Q9. Who were the pioneering members of your organization? Did they share the same personal motivations with Ms. Hazel Johnson? If so, what circumstances surrounded their early meetings? Q9.
PCR was founded in June 1979. However, it was only incorporated October 25, 1982. Why did it take more than three years for this to happen? What difficulties did you encounter? Q10. Ms. Johnson, it’s now 27 years since PCR was founded. Do you have the same objectives as you did way back 1979? What additional objectives, if any, were added, and what made you include them in your original agenda?
Upon learning, allegedly through a television news report, that Altgeld Gardens is located in an area of Chicago with the highest incidence of cancer, did it convince Ms. Hazel Johnson that living in Altgeld Gardens was indeed responsible for her husband’s death? If so, what were her initial reactions? Did she take any concrete actions to get redress? Q12. It says in your organization profile that PCR is the “voice for African Americans and other people of color. ” Do you see any convergence between your group and other white environmentalists? Do you foresee any difficulties towards convergence? Q13. Have you heard about the Environmental Justice Movement? Are you, by any chance, a part of this movement? If so, what role do you play within this movement?
In your report about soil contamination in the Altgeld Gardens, you stressed that skin irritation, asthma, and other health problems are prevalent among the residents due to the existence of PAHs in the soil. Could you enlighten the readers what PAHs are, and why they are harmful to people? Q15. Ms. Johnson, could we talk about your accomplishments? Your list includes a project in July 1994 wherein you “completed 200 community health surveys documenting diseases and illnesses that maybe environmentally related. ” What conclusions were you able to formulate out of your findings and what steps did you take as a result of such surveys?
Q16. In September 1998, you worked with Northwestern University and the Chicago Legal Clinic to prepare an analysis of the soil at the Altgeld Gardens showing the high PAH presence in the soil. Afterwards, you sought an audience with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to prove that such a high concentration of PAH causes skin cancer and skin rashes. Did anything good came out of that meeting? Q17. In March 2001, you involved public officials in a community forum wherein you discussed the issues of the rights of tenants, police brutality, the concerns attending urban progress, and the public officials’ accountability to their constituencies. How do you connect these issues with your environmental agenda?
Q18. Ms. Johnson, I have seen a of picture of Ms. Hazel Johnson when she was honored by President Bill Clinton at the White House. What events and accomplishments merited such an honor coming from the President of the country? Were any of the other environmental groups likewise honored? Q19. In an article in the Sept. 11, 1997 issue of The New York Times, Andrew Revkin said that federal and health officials in New Jersey “found a significant drop in birthweight and a ncidence of pre-term births in infants born to women who, in the early 1970s, lived near the Lipari landfill in Gloucester County. ”
Have you discovered any corroborative evidence to this claim in your area in Illinois? Q20. The First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit was held in 1991 in Washington, D. C. This was followed by a second summit in 2002. Were you, as an organization, actively involved in those two meetings? If so, what roles did you play during the meetings, and what did you do afterwards to implement the resolutions approved by those two summit meetings?