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


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

According to Capital B News, the podcast, entitled Help This Garden Grow, will chronicle the efforts of the People for Community Recovery (PCR), founded by Johnson in 1979, as she spearheaded the fight to prove that Altgeld Gardens Public Housing project put its residents at a higher risk of cancer due to its air pollution, lead pipes, and asbestos. In addition, Johnson and the organization drew a link between the living conditions and the deaths of children and adults, including her husband.

“We hope to provide momentum toward building the physical legacy and lineage that Hazel wanted and deserves,” said Daniel Kisslinger, who co-hosts the series. “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.” Johnson’s work resulted in new water and sewage lines in the community and training for residents to become environmental remediation workers.

According to Capital B News, the PCR (it is the right shortened name according to their website–added the clarification above.) 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, another host for Help This Garden Grow. The six-episode series includes commentary from Johnson’s daughter, Cheryl Johnson, who took over PCR following her mother’s death in 2011.

The fight has not stopped in Chicago. Last year, 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.

Interested listeners can learn more about the work of Johnson and the PCR by tuning into Help This Garden Grow on Spotify and Apple Music.

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