One of TCI’s partners for The Fifth Quarter is The Descendants Project (TDP), an organization committed to the intergenerational healing and flourishing of the Black descendant community in Louisiana’s river parishes. TDP is co-founded and co-directed by Jo Banner and Dr. Joy Banner who are leaders, descendants, and residents of Louisiana’s Cancer Alley.
Jo has a deep connection with her Afro-Creole Heritage and respect for tradition and nature, and she has channeled this passion to protect Louisiana’s people and its environment by challenging the legal systems that have exploited descendants of those enslaved to plantations.
Joy is a proud member of the local descendant community and she is inspired by the folklore, narratives, and resourcefulness of community elders and ancestors to serve the community’s health, wellness, and happiness. She is dedicated to fighting against environmental racism and against the petrochemical plants along Louisiana’s River Road.
Both Jo and Joy were selected as The Center for Constitutional Rights Activists of the Year and were also awarded the 2022 Community Sentinel Award.
TDP is currently working to fight a proposed grain elevator in Wallace. The grain elevator would cause health and environmental risks for the community due to emissions of particulate matter, dust, mold, and cancer-causing silica. TDP is suing St. John the Baptist Parish over the unjust zoning designation that has been threatening the community for decades and they hope that this litigation will prevent the grain elevator from being built. In August, Joy and Jo spoke at the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva, detailing the destruction of Black burial grounds caused by the expansion of industrial facilities in Wallace. They will also meet with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the construction of the grain elevator.
Among TDP’s initiatives is Hands of the People Empowered (HOPE). Through HOPE, they work with the community to support small, locally owned businesses; encourage art, music, and literature that expresses community culture; promote tourism that engages and benefits the descendant community; teach their community to keep politicians and decisionmakers accountable; and connect community members with well-paying jobs in sectors other than heavy industry.