1.radiozones of subversiv expressions
3.radio dissident island
5.the final straw
Announcer: We had the opportunity to connect with Vanessa Bolin who is
an indigenous artist, community organizer, and activist who has been
helping with flood rescue and rebuilding efforts after Hurricane
Florence in Lumberton, North Carolina, which is in Robeson County. In
this interview we talk about what still needs to be done in that area,
how to help out, and the importance of foregrounding marginalized voices
in mutual aid efforts.
Vanessa: My name is Vanessa Bolin and I am an indigenous artist,
activist, community organizer, and most recently I have been in
Lumberton, North Carolina assisting with the flood rescue and recoverty
efforts, also working on multiple pipeline issues that are affecting
West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. I got a call today that up
in West Virginia, the MVP (Mountain Valley Pipeline) has actually dug up
a Native American grave site and they put the bones and artifacts in a
box and carted them away. And it’s just another example of how the
pipeline companies have no regard for anyone, including graves and the
They do not care who they destroy, what they destroy, as long asthey’re getting profit. It’s environmental racism because they target
indigenous communities, people of color. You never see a pipeline
running through the middle of some bougie rich neighborhood, or a
predominantly white area, you just don’t see that!
Announcer: We’re here to talk about autonomous relief efforts in
so-called North Carolina after Hurricane Florence as they pertain to
indigenous people. Would you speak about the Lumbee people in a
historical and also present day context?
Vanessa: I will be glad to! I am not speaking on behalf of the Lumbee
Tribe, but what I can tell you is what I know. The Lumbee Tribe is the
largest tribe east of the Mississippi, and I believe they did gain
federal recognition for a moment and then it was taken away from them.
Very mixed group of people, and in Robeson County, where the heart of
the Lumbee Tribe is, is 65% indigenous, people of color, Hispanic, and
others. It’s also the largest county in North Carolina and absolutely
the poorest. They do have a really deep culture there, and history of
being in the area, it’s a very tight knit community in a lot of ways,
but the people live in a massive amount of area.
When I heard about the hurricane, I went down to build and work withsome other tribal members to try to start some relief efforts before the
flooding even begun. We knew this was going to happen, it was like the
never ending flood. Every time you turned around there was a levy
breaking, something breaching, and the flood waters kept coming. They
would recede, something else would break or breach, and it would flood
even more. So the devastation I have seen there, the people I have
talked to, has been unreal.
The flood waters, while they have receded some, we turn around 5, 6days later and say oh, this area has flooded again, or the flood waters
are just not receding the way they need to. People trapped in their
homes, and people who are able to go back into their homes they’re
literally destroyed. So the amount of relief efforts there is just
tremendous on a scale that is kind of mind boggling when you look at the
size and the amount of damage that’s been done.
So a lot of autonomous groups showed up to give support, to do rescue.And it just so happened that I ran into these folks who had a boat –
they had an ambulance, an old ambulance they had purchased that they
were pulling the boat with, and kind of operating out of this. And I
said “I’m a medic, do you need some help?” and they said “Yes, hop in!”
And so from there I started working with these folks to build not only
some rescue but start doing some relief efforts. I connected with groups
from outside of North Carolina and some in North Carolina to start
getting supplies in of food and water and diapers and baby formula. And
then we started reaching out to the community at large of local
neighborhood grandmas and community voices and putting bulk things in
their hands. But the whole relief effort, while we’ve turned no one
away, has really been targeted to help the indigenous people who were in
the area who were affected by the flood.
Unfortunately, the area is so massive that not everyone has beentouched. There are still pockets of people we are hearing about who have
not seen the first bit of supplies. It’s terrifying to think of what are
happening to these people.
And right now is exactly the kind of scenario that the pipeline companywill take advantage of, and try to start pushing their agendas, start
building, try to get people to take money who have held out before. But
this is the kind of scenario where the poverty of this community will be
used against them to push for the agenda of putting in the Atlantic
We’re already getting reports of people who are having landlords say“Move out, and by the way I’m fixing the place up, you’re not gonna be
able to live here because I’m going to up the rent”. Because some of the
neighborhoods that were severely flooded were upper class neighborhoods.
This has just created a horrible domino effect almost like that happened
in (Hurricane) Katrina in New Orleans. I have a friend who lived in New
Orleans proper, and her rent went from 300 dollars a month to 3,000. So
this is gonna happen there where the people with resources are looking
for somewhere else to live while their houses are being repaired, that
are displacing the family benieth them.
They’re almost seems to be a vacuum, social media has kind of done thisshut down of the disaster that’s happened there. You don’t hear about it
on the news, I’ve talked to people who live in North Carolina who have
no idea that the Lumberton area or any of those areas were still
Announcer: How can people directly support the work that you’re doing
Vanessa: The Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice, IACJ, has a
fundraiser up that is specifically targeting the indigenous communities
in all of Robeson County. You can reach out on Facebook. Reach directly
out to the Lumbee Tribe, say “how can we support you, how can we help?”.
And as far as boots on the ground, we need street medics, electricians,
plumbers, carpenters, people just willing to come and muck. There’s a
lot a lot of respiratory issues there, people living in these homes with
mold and mildew. The herbalists: you can do amazing things with your
powerful medicine, you’re needed. And if you’ve got tinctures or teas or
something that you know can help with those things, send them.
If anybody speaks Spanish, there is a need.
The one thing I do ask that people not do: please do not donate to theRed Cross. Please don’t do that. Don’t give them supplies! It never
filters into the hands of the community that needs it.
Who ARE helping right now are the anarchists, are the radical folks,who are seeing the need who are stepping up. The community leaders, who
are working with folks that they would never in the past have worked
with, but they see what they are doing. And I’m older, so I can look at
these older folks and I can say “these are people that you’ve heard
really negative things about in the press, but look here who is
supporting you, look what these young people, these anarchists, these
radicals, are doing to support you and your community. So instead of
judging, look at their actions and who is showing up for you”, and
they’re getting it. And they’re becoming community organizers, so seeing
the community take that kind of power is beautiful.
It’s a beautiful thing to see the community come together. It’s beenvery touching and humbling to see people come in and say “hey I need
this” and when we try to give them a little extra and they’ll go “no no,
somebody else needs that, I’m just gonna take this because that’s what I
Announcer: Is there anything that you wanted to add as part of this
Vanessa: I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview, and for
hearing the story of that community and for giving it time and space on
your show. It means the world and it could mean literally life for this
Announcer: This is Bad News: Angry Voices From Around the World and this
is The Final Straw radio broadcasting from Turtle Island. If you want to
hear the full interview with Vanessa, you could always go to our blog at
thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org, for the audio and for the full
list of how to help out. In the hour our guest goes into a bunch more
detail about ways to get involved, how federal recognition affects the
aid that indigenous tribes get in the U.S., and way more about her
experiences doing aid work. Thanks for listening!