Black women environmental justice leaders join ESSENCE Fest line-up

Published 8:16 am Saturday, July 1, 2023

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NEW ORLEANS – Jo and Joy Banner, founders of Wallace-based nonprofit The Descendants Project, will be among local and national environmental justice advocacy organizations hosting an ESSENCE Festival pop-up storytelling event this weekend in New Orleans.

The five Black female environmental justice activists are leading the way to oppose fossil fuel projects that threaten their Louisiana communities’ health and livelihoods. The event, called “Story Salon: Cancer Alley Rises Up – Honoring Black Women Forging the Path Forward in the Fight for Environmental Justice,” is presented in partnership by organizations including People over Plastic, Earthjustice,, Black Girl Environmentalist and the Patois Collective. The pop-up storytelling event will take place from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 1 at The Shop at the Contemporary Arts Center (Third Floor), located at 900 Camp St. in New Orleans.

Speakers and storytellers include:

  • Beverly Wright, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice and Member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council
  • Wawa Gatheru, Founder of Black Girl Environmentalist
  • Roishetta Sibley Ozane, Founder of The Vessel Project of Louisiana
  • Shamyra Lavigne, Executive assistant at Rise St. James,
  • Jo Banner, Co-Founder and Co-Director of The Descendants Project
  • Joy Banner, Co-Founder and Co-Director of The Descendants Project


Attendees can listen to, learn from, and be inspired by storytellers’ stories of bravery, tenacity, justice, family and community that span generations. Speakers will be joined by New Orleans-based artists, musical performers and poets.