Melanie Meade

Home / Melanie Meade
Melanie Meade

Why should we have to wait any longer for clean air when we deserve clean air now? We deserved it yesterday. Our children deserve it. My name is Melanie Meade; I live in Clairton, Pennsylvania, Southwestern PA, Mon Valley region. We have USX Clairton Coke Works as our neighbor. I am working to inform and educate the community about our need to stop the air pollution that is causing so much harm to the community, the animals, and nature. The air pollution has caused significant issues and harm to the community, where they make billions of dollars, and the people in the community are barely getting by. And they’re being told that they should leave if they don’t like it. The young men here in this community have always been presented with the NFL as their way out. So they’re told that they need to get out. It’s not a good place. This isn’t a great community. So get out as quickly as you can. And the NFL is usually where they think that they can get out. And right now, what we see happening with COVID-19 is that the NFL is inessential. So please stop sending our children who suffer from environmental injustices to inessential jobs, allowing them to use their brains and minds to find a resolution for issues within their environment. 

We are lying to ourselves when we pretend the workers aren’t afflicted and affected. They are just as afflicted, if not more so. And they are told that they should be loyal to an industry that isn’t loyal to them and will not be loyal to their families. Many of these people in this community would rather this steel mill stay open. And then continue to have these statistics and poor health disparities because they believe they’re contributing to the greater fabric of America, who doesn’t even seem to care about the suffering of our children, or youth, or middle-age, or elders. This is absurd. It is unconscionable that this is taking place in the United States. And it’s disheartening to know that people don’t care enough about our youth and our elderly, that they won’t take action and stick to a plan that will benefit the community in the long term. 

We shouldn’t be written off. We’re powerful, strong people with a lot of love in us. And given the right resources, everyone could succeed. For decades, we have not been able to breathe. And we should be able to say we need decades of clean air. The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is my opportunity to re-establish my honor for my mother, assess whether I’m doing enough, and hold myself accountable to change whatever I need to change to be better for Mother Earth. Not that I might see benefits immediately. But those generations after me will know that I’ve done everything I can to change the course and make this earth livable for them.

Today, as I hold back tears, I cannot breathe. Our little children still walk to school and play football practice right at the base of the mill on poor air quality days. The teachers don’t have a curriculum to discuss climate change and how to connect with individuals like Zabriawn and Aliquippa, who share the same story. We are mirroring cities. 

Listening to Zabriawn, I can remember and recall my father’s talks at this table that I sit at. And you wonder how long it takes before true action is put into motion? We cannot breathe. Our children cannot breathe. Our elders who have worked and dedicated their lives to this community cannot breathe well. And they should have every right to breathe well. We should have a mayor that supports every effort. We should have the city council participating in this event to listen to the stories. Little black boys in this community are performing football where a young black man knelt on a field of the professional status NFL. Because George Floyd couldn’t breathe, and these same little black boys running up and down this field, they can’t breathe like George. But it’s just in a different vise. It’s under a different illusion. And like Zabriawn mentioned, the educational system, because we have such low tax brackets here, the educational system, there’s not care.  That you know enough to leave.  

And I’m so thankful for the Black Appalachian Coalition; I’m so thankful for this opportunity to know that I have a story worth telling. Because it wasn’t until I sat and watched your launch that I realized my story was worth telling. I am the last living relative of Maxine and Thomas Meade. I am a descendant of Thelma Louise Randolph and James Meade. Thelma Lee Louise Randolph had a large family plot, and they had land called Randolph Hollow. They owned it; long before the steel mills came. But my grandpa came into what Zabriawn mentioned, that hollow, that shanty side of the hill. That’s where my grandfather’s family came in, and they bought up a lot of land. 

The city of Clairton is currently selling it under redevelopment. When we stand here, we are not just standing here and asking for a seat at the table. We are asking for the return of what is ours. As well as the opportunity for our youth to understand what took place, reposition themselves, reframe, and reimagine their futures. And I’m so very thankful for all of the effort and work that you’ve put forth to bring this opportunity to us. And hopefully, Zabriawn and I will continue to commit to work and bring these stories together throughout those efforts downwind. Upwind. Backwind. It’s time that we come together as a vital force with stories to share. 

Children are dying sooner than they need to. Parents are dying before they’re even able to raise their children. I can think of five women under the age of 55 who have passed to autoimmune or cancer within the last ten years. Our communities are severely affected. And giving them jobs in the industry where they’re working higher than minimum wage, but putting their health and their children’s health at risk, cannot in any way serve them. So let’s stop pretending, and let’s change, change what we can while we can.