Primary Source Report-LC

Richmond Laotian Community: poisoned through culture (title in progress)

By Luis Alfredo Chiang

On the Laotian Community

Found in a journal article called Richmond’s Laotians: Putting a Community on the Map. The journal is: Pandorf, Aiko. “Richmond’s Laotians: Putting a Community on the Map.” Race, Poverty & the Environment 6, no. 2/3 (1996): 31-33. Accessed October 21, 2020.

Note that I am not using the article as my primary source, but rather a testimony contained in it.

Contains a Laotian testimony that tells us what types of activities Laotians do that involve the environment, and it also states some reasons why some Laotian families immigrated to the area.

In this testimony, a Laotian that immigrated into Richmond gives their testimony about moving from the hills of Laos to Richmond. They give reasons to why their family decided to move into the U.S., and explains the current situation that Laotian Americans in general are living in. It also mentions some activities that Laotians liked doing in their native place, and states that they still do that in their current location. Overall, what this source suggests is that Laotian immigrants in the U.S. are still carrying out their cultural practices, and are suffering in their environment.

In the testimony it is mentioned that Laotian women still like to grow their own vegetables in their yards, and men still like to fish in the toxic bay to put food on the table. They mention they still like to do these things, which suggests that they used to do it back in their native territory. It also points out that the bay is toxic. If they did not want to bring attention to the fact that the bay was toxic, they would not have added that adjective. At the same time, it says that the men go fishing to put food on the table, which means they are ingesting the fish they get from the toxic bay. With this we can conclude that Laotian Americans are indeed suffering from their environment. Further, we see the source mentions that one day their folk were farmers and hunters. We can relate this to the previous quote, where it says women still grow their vegetables (farming), and men still go fishing (hunting). This also supports the claim that Laotian Americans are still practicing what they used to do in their native territory. Lastly, the source says that Southeast Asians have been settling in the poorest and environmentally sick areas, suffering. This evidence suggests that Laotian Americans are suffering in their environment.

WORKING TOWARDS A HEALTHY COMMUNITY: The Laotian Organizing Project in Richmond

(A journal article) Chiang, Audrey, and Pamela Chiang. “WORKING TOWARDS A HEALTHY COMMUNITY: The Laotian Organizing Project in Richmond.” Race, Poverty & the Environment 7, no. 2 (2000): 45-46. Accessed October 21, 2020.

Article by staff members of APEN, an organization that works closely together with the Laotian community in Richmond.

Helps confirm Laotians fish and do other activities that depend on their environment. Also says that there are no warnings they can understand that talk about the dangers of the areas where they fish, which can be used to make an argument about environmental inequality. 

This source talks about APEN (Asian Pacific Environmental Network) and what they have been able to do with the Richmond Laotian community, to help improve and raise awareness of their environmental situation. It also talks about some of the environmental justice issues in the community, with some detailed examples. This source shows that some political entities are not proactively working to help better the environmental issues involving the Richmond Laotian community. 

In the article it is mentioned that a family was growing their vegetables in their home, which was previously occupied by a company that ultimately contaminated the soil. The company moved out in 1976, and the family moved in a couple of years later. It wasn’t until 1988 that it was placed in the Superfund cleanup list, and even then the “cleanup” they did was just covering the contaminated soil. To the date this source was written, the site was still fenced-up, unused and unclean. This just goes to show that the authorities were not doing much to help the community’s environmental issues. This source also mentions that there was another instance where pesticides were dumped into Richmond’s Inner Harbor Channel between 1947 and 1966. It wasn’t until 1990 that the site was scheduled to be cleaned up. To the date of the publication, the warning signs of the site were mostly unreadable and were not translated into Laotian language. This statement also confirms that authorities were not prioritizing environmental issues involving the Richmond Laotian community, and were not even properly communicating the dangers surrounding the sites. Lastly, the article mentions that these two situations are clear examples of environmental injustice that is common in communities of color, and poor communities. This makes reference to the fact that this community is potentially suffering from environmental injustice, like some other similar communities are suffering from the same.

Festival Promotes a Better Environment: Richmond event targets Laotian Americans

(A newspaper article) Dang, Janet. 1998. “Festival Promotes A Better Environment: Richmond Event Targets Laotian Americans”. Asianweek, , 1998.

Gives an example of an event that was carried out by the LOP to raise awareness of the environmental problems in the area and what they can do to avoid them.

This newspaper article recounts the highlights of an event carried out by the Laotian Organizing Project to raise awareness about the environmental issues involving the Richmond Laotian community, as well as some suggestions of where the residents could seek out help. This source suggests that there is a project/organization that is trying to help the Richmond Laotian community with their issues, and trying to raise awareness so the community can protect themselves against the hazards. 

We can see this by looking at some of the statements made in the source. For instance, at the beginning of the article it is mentioned that the Laotian Organizing Project’s intentions for the event were to reach out to the attendees with information about health services, toxic exposure, and a campaign to improve education. It is also mentioned that “The festival was designed to help them understand the broader definition of environmental justice and the critical role they have in achieving it”. Finally, we can see that the event intended to encourage attendees to speak out when the source mentions that during the event someone said that too many people hear about problems, but don’t know how to solve them, and the only solution is to get involved. If you don’t get involved you are just complaining.

Keywords: Asian American, Toxics, Water, Soil, Pollution, Food, Factories, Community