I do this work for you, though we may have never met.

Beloved Community,

It is my honor to introduce myself to all of you. My name is Emily Terrana and I am the Leadership Development Director and Environmental Justice Organizer here at Clean Air.
If you had told me 10 years ago when I began organizing that I would find myself doing environmental justice work, I would have told you that you were totally off base. I began organizing in college, mostly around the issues of LGBTQ rights, reproductive justice and immigration reform. While I certainly cared about public health and the environment, I didn’t think that it really affected me. Boy, was I wrong.

I am a Buffalo girl through and through; I even have a tattoo of a butter lamb on my forearm and one of my grandmother’s house on Roesch Avenue on my other. My tight knit family and I grew up in Buffalo’s Riverside neighborhood– three blocks and four high speed lanes of the 190 away from the Niagara River, two blocks away from Riverside park and one block away from the start of Tonawanda’s 53-site industrial zone. It was totally normal for us as kids to walk across the pedestrian bridge to the riverwalk and stroll up to the shadow of the Huntley coal-fired power plant or to take a drive down River Road to Old Man River, holding our noses as we passed the very active Tonawanda Coke factory. Sure it stunk in the summer time and none of our little vegetable gardens grew in the backyard, but it was home.

Only recently did I realize how my family was affected by where I lived and the decisions made by our industrial neighbors. Just like it was normal to walk within yards of a coal plant, it was also totally normal to me that so many of my family members, friends, and neighbors had cancer or other devastating illnesses and disabilities. In 2018, when my mother Julie was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer at age 54, it hit our family like a ton of bricks. This wasn’t normal, it wasn’t okay, and we had to do something about it. The work I do each and every day with our incredible environmental justice campaign team members to ensure that no one ever has to deal with the pain and heartbreak of pollution and hazardous waste is what I’m doing about it, and I have no plans to stop.

I do this work with the memory of my mom in my heart everyday. I do it to honor my grandmother, my former neighbors and friends, and the countless people I do not know around Buffalo and WNY who are living and dying from the effects of corporate greed, government inaction and environmental racism and classism. I do this work for my three young children, Oliver, Yael and Muna and for my future children and grandchildren. I do this work for you, though we may have never met.

This holiday season, I want to invite you to join us as we continue to fight for one another. Join us as we step into 2021, unabashed and unafraid to put our audacious dreams into action. We have work to do, and we need you to come along with us. Your donations fuel and feed our smart, dynamic and visionary organizing that wins, for all of us.

This week you will hear a lot more from the teams I have the privilege to shepherd: our environmental justice campaign teams at American Axle, Tonawanda Coke and Huntley/NRG. As you read their stories of the work we have accomplished this year and our dreams for years to come, know that they are fighting for you.

With bread and roses,
Emily Terrana

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