The image above shows two non-Caucasian women enthusiastically holding up signs that protest for cleaner water and to recall (former) Mayor Wilda Diaz. Based on their facial expressions, these women are also part of the local community activism that wants the government to more receptive to their environmental concerns about their tap water. Despite the fact that Perth Amboy has had reported issues of contaminated tap water dating back to the 1970s, there is a lot of documented community activism in 2019, when another water issue was reported during the Mayor Wilda Diaz administration. In this year, the Mayor had informed her constituents that the tap water had heightened levels of TTHMs; later studies into the water revealed existent traces of 1-4 Dioxane as well. This image holds significance as it depicts an organized community effort that believed in the magnitude of the contaminated tap water and sought to hold its local leaders accountable in the environmental issue of contaminated tap water worth petitioning. Within its significance, this image shows three aspects worth noting. For one, the protest signs appear in both English and Spanish, thereby emphasizing the organizers’ efforts to include the linguistically isolated population to the cause. Second, the table and the clipboards hint at how organized this event was in trying to garner enough signatures to recall Mayor Diaz. Lastly, this tabling event occurred in a public park, therefore making it visible and accessible for any passersby to inquire and potentially get involved.
This image was found in the Facebook group, “Recall Mayor Wilda Diaz.” It was posted on this Facebook group by frontline community activist Sharon Hubberman on August 10, 2019. Due to the fact that the picture was posted in the Facebook group, this picture was probably produced to either inform other Perth Amboy residents of this Recall effort or to galvanize them to participate in the Recall effort.
As mentioned before, the protest signs that appear in both English and Spanish are significant in that it communicates how the community activists wanted to garner as much support and acknowledgment from the Hispanic-dominated city of Perth Amboy. As one can see, there are four signs visibly protesting for clean water and the attempted recalling of Mayor Diaz. On the left hand side, the woman is holding a sign written in Spanish that translates to, “We want clean water; no more Wilda.” Therefore, this tabling event attempted to broaden its outreach efforts to outsiders who were originally not part of the community activists with these colorful signs written in both English and Spanish for all to read. Not only did the community activists evidently try to inform fellow Perth Amboy residents of the causes in which they are petitioning for, they also tried to recruit others into potentially joining this organized effort.
Aside from having protest signs written in both Spanish and English in order to appeal to the Hispanic population of Perth Amboy, the pictured table and the clipboards are also factors worth noting in the overall significance of the image shown above. The fact that the grassroots organizers had equipment set up and prepared to educate and potentially galvanize more residents to join their cause for cleaner water and government accountability emphasizes the magnitude of the water issue (to the community activists). It is one thing for these organizers to have created a tabling event ready to inform other individuals of their petition, but it is another thing to have a table prepared and clipboards presumptively containing the actual Recall petition and space for signatures. Thus, this factor also helps highlight the degree of investment these community organizers had in expressing their environmental concerns of the tap water and how disheartened they were towards the government’s reluctance to take their concerns seriously.
Lastly, the third noteworthy factor is the physical environment that is captured in this image. As it was hinted in previous paragraphs, the community activists sought to publicize their concerns of the contaminated water, their desires to hold the government accountable by recalling Mayor Diaz, and amplifying their petition by garnering petitions and the acknowledgment of passersby. By having this table and colorful protest signs outdoors in an environment that resembles a public park, these activists probably want to broaden their outreach and accessibility to the entire community.
In conclusion, this image is integral to Perth Amboy’s recent tap water issues because it clearly depicts a passionate communal response to the existent environmental issue and to the governmental actions that are deemed dissatisfactory. The presence of dual linguistics (Spanish and English) and the ethnic women sitting at the table serve as physical reminders that the city of Perth Amboy is inhabited by those of minority status and disadvantaged backgrounds. Therefore, Perth Amboy and its recurring issues of contaminated tap water is a sobering example of how environmental injustice frequently imposes detrimental effects upon minorities and can explain the lackluster governmental response to mitigate such issues.
Keywords: Class, Toxics, Water, Community, Perth Amboy