Susana Almanza spoke at Drury University on March 3, 2005
In 1931, the government of Austin, Texas, zoned the city for segregation. Minorities and the poor were forced to share East Austin with much of the city’s industry. Homes, shopping centers and schools are built on soil contaminated with toxic waste, or sit downwind of noxious vapors. In a heroic reworking of zoning laws (and governmental culture), Susana Almanza has started East Austin on the way to a healthier future. She co-founded a community action group named PODER, which means “power” in Spanish and is also an acronym for People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources. The group convinced Austin officials to re-zone large tracts of industrial land now used for homes. PODER continues to work in the community to relocate factories and power plants.
“PODER was taking on megacorporations like Exxon, Texaco and Chevron. … These are companies that usually get their way, but we organized, involved the community and closed them down.”
-Raul Alvarez, Austin, Texas, City Council member