THE WALK EXHIBITION
The Walk for the Earth; A Journey for Future Generations, began at Big Cypress National Preserve in the Everglades on Friday, February, 23rd, 1996. Some 53 days and 725 miles later, on April 15th, it ended in Tallahassee, Florida. Over a thousand people helped organize the walk and took part in rallies and town meetings along the way. Hundreds of people walked for several weeks, weekends, or days. About 30 people walked most of the way. Bobbie C. Billie, the Walk’s spiritual leader and a member of the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation, walked every step.
The Walk was conceived and organized by the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice. At the Coalition’s Common Ground II conference in 1995, a woman from Bartow, Florida, Sarah Luster, spoke of the conditions of life in the predominantly black community of Bradley Junction in the heart of Florida’s phosphate mining country. An open pit mine was being operated directly across the street from her mother’s house there. A huge mining machine with a scoop as big as a house ran continuously 24 hours daily until, after prolonged protests from town residents, the company suspended operations between 11:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. Only 30 feet of roadbed and a 10-foot chain link fence separated the mine, an enormous hole in the ground full of toxic substances including radon and fluorine, from the nearest homes. The incidence of life-threatening diseases in this region was said to be far above average.
After the conference, the Coalition decided to send a delegation to talk to Ms. Luster and to go to Bradley Junction and view conditions there. They were appalled to find things as reported and they realized that Bradley Junction might not be the only place where poor people of color and little political clout might be exploited. Subsequently, the Coalition decided to tour the state to see what was happening to the environment, talk to agricultural and industrial workers about the prevalence of chemicals, view urban sprawl, look for traces of a lowering water table and decline in wildlife.
The method of travel for such a tour should not be
the automobile, that “space bubble” which speeds us along
at 88 feet per second and shuts us off from one another and from the smell
and feel of our surroundings. To bear witness, it would be best to have
the time and opportunity to talk to the “little people” on
the back roads, to feel the Mother under the feet. Thus was born the idea
for the Walk for the Earth.