Why I organize with Clean Air


Dear Clean Air community, 

On June 5th, 2021, I gathered with people that I love, respect and admire to watch the three infamous smokestacks at Tonawanda Coke topple down. I brought two of my children with me as we battled sandflies to watch those three brick mountains topple to the ground. We all know that those stacks weren’t just an eyesore, but a symbol of the pain, grief, loss and anger that our communities have felt for decades.


The emotions I felt on that day and the months after are honestly still hard for me to put into words. Waves of grief, of joy, of trepidation, of pride and anger flowed through me as we stood together on the banks of the Niagara River.  I lost my mother and my grandmother to cancer, both of whom lived and grew up less than two miles from those nasty stacks. My sisters and I breathed in chemicals from those stacks and those like it for our entire childhoods. Members of my church filled the pews time and time again to mourn the losses of those we knew. My fellow Clean Air members and I were called radical, crazy and too emotional for wanting the site cleaned up to the highest possible standard. It was all so much. 


Those stacks came down because the people rose up. It’s so much more than a catchy little phrase; it is the god’s honest truth. I choose to do this work, this hard, exhausting work, because we are organizing for a new world, and we’re winning.  A world where babies won’t ever breathe in benzyne. A world where we can plant gardens and make mud pies in our backyards without fear of poisons mixed with clay and dirt. A world where no one has to have a bake sale or basket raffle to fund a funeral, because the people we’re mourning will have never experienced the suffering that comes from someone else’s greed and oppression. I choose to organize with Clean Air because I believe that our members’ visions for a new world are possible, and we’re building the power we need to get there. 

You have heard from two of our incredible environmental justice campaigns this week on how they are building and leading a new world and you will be hearing from more in the coming weeks. I have the honor and privilege to work alongside our membership as we stop the bad of someone else’s wildest dreams and build justice, liberation, health and dignity in our world. 


Will you join us this holiday season by investing in our members’ visions? Our grassroots fundraising work enables us to be bold, visionary and get to the roots of our interlocking systems of oppression that are killing us. 


With bread and roses,


Emily Terrana 


Director of Leadership Development and Organizing

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