Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Girl With No Voice Became The Spokesperson For The People of Missouri


-by Tracy B Ann

For Missouri state Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who is running for Congress in Missouri’s 1st congressional district, education is a top priority. In this district, the high poverty areas have the worst school systems, the worst outcomes for students, and the largest number of unaccredited schools. This is an issue near and dear to the senator; it’s personal. As eloquent and articulate as she is now, she was born with a speech impediment. It was 8 years of speech therapy and public school that helped her overcome this disability.

Boy, did she overcome it. Maria Chappelle-Nadal is the filibuster rock star we’ve all been hearing  about in the news lately. She led a historic 39 hour filibuster in the Missouri Senate to keep the Republicans from voting on a ballot initiative that would allow businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community.

I listened to some of it live at 3 AM one morning and am so honored to have been present for that piece of history. The Republicans stopped the filibuster by breaking the rules. Senator Chappelle-Nadal was distressed by this move.
"We follow the US Senate rules and by taking the floor away they broke the rules. The only place where I am equal is in that chamber-- because of the rules. Outside that room I am black, I am a woman, I am invisible. These rules mean a lot to me."
The Senate Democrats (all 8 of them) are doing their part to punish the Republicans for breaking the rules, and they’re doing it by following the rules. Recently a Republican Senator rose in the chamber with the standard “Mr. President, asking for unanimous consent, I'd like to introduce a group of 4th graders." Maria Chappelle-Nadal quickly responded "I object."

Now that might sound a little mean, who could object to 4th graders being introduced? The Senator turned to talk to them, saying:
"You know how when someone takes something away from you that they’re not supposed to?  Well, the Senator who wants to introduce you did that, and now his Party’s in trouble. They are being punished by being in time out."
The kids cheered and clapped and Senator Chappelle-Nadal noted that rather than just standing and being introduced, these 4th graders were learning about Democracy. I’m betting they remember that for the rest of their lives.

For many, the Senator was the face of Ferguson, responding to press calls for interviews. She said Michael Brown’s shooting was so shocking, partly because it was the first widely publicized shooting in 10 years. She was out in the streets being tear gassed for hours along with the other members of a stunned community.

Maria said she was changed by that. She was compassionate before but something shifted. She says service to others is different, listening to all became even more important and meaningful to her. You can see her top 4 issues on her webpage here at 90for90, her top issues are my top issues and she is a supporter of the voter advocacy movement 90for90.

The Senator wondered how her outspokenness on Ferguson would affect the white voters in her district. She was surprised when she started getting letters and calls from this constituency, telling her that the same silence that allowed Michael Brown’s death to happen is the same silence that is allowing the radioactive waste problems to happen.

Maria does a lot of work in her community, one thing you can be sure about her is when she goes to Congress to represent the 1st, she’ll be coming home. She has meet-ups and town halls 4 to 5 times a week.

It was the Missouri Attorney General's report on radioactive waste that made her want to run for Congress. She asked herself “Knowing what you know now, how could you live with yourself if you didn't run?"

She is passionate about getting Federal help to clean up the crisis of radioactive waste which is in a way a form of "environmental poverty," she says. Guess where the landfill sites are? Did you guess black neighborhoods? Ding, ding, ding! Correct. Though they are all over the place. Recently there was a proposal to build the new football stadium on top of one of these sites. The team already practices on top of one of these waste sites.

At her town hall meet-ups people bring the Senator pictures of their kids born with no eyes and born with two sets of teeth. At a meet-up last week, a woman drew the Senator a map of her neighborhood; 3 or 4 blocks and put stars on all the houses where someone had cancer. This is called a "cancer cluster." I call it a cancer clusterfuck.

This crisis in Missouri isn’t new, it's been going on for about 70 years, for 40 years it's been known widely how dangerous it is. I'm not sure the Senator Maris Chappelle-Nadal is even 40 years old, but she knows about it now and it seems as if she’s not even going to sleep until something is done about it.

She works actively supporting community groups trying to clean of the area and make it safe. She even resigned her seat on the University City School Board in order to focus on the situation at the Bridgeton landfills.

She throws statistics out rapid fire on people sick from drinking tap water; brain tumours, breast cancer and testicular cancer. The demolition of public housing build on top of the dumps being torn down and the toxic waste moved to the Bridgeton Landfill. She tells me that the landfill is the hotspot but it’s the end of the line. Coldwater Creek is the beginning.

She’s way over my head with her scientific knowledge of the situation so I go to a source who is an expert, having decades of experience in nuclear accident clean up. My expert said this:
"The list of isotopes present in the landfill soil is comprised of all actinides, which are notably nasty alpha-emitters. Most also emit beta and/or high energy gamma when they decay, but if one of these atoms gets into your lungs or throat/stomach before decaying it's that slow and heavy alpha that will blast entire cells to smithereens. The uranium isotope profile confirms that this is enrichment waste that by rights ought to be in carefully packed 55 gallon drums in the deepest underground salt chamber at Carlsbad instead of in a municipal garbage dump."
I bolded the parts that I clearly understood. Luckily for those in Missouri, Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal understands it and is doing her best to find a solution to the problem.

The filibuster last week wasn’t her first; she once filibustered for over 10 hours all by herself. This spirit, commitment to Justice and this tenaciousness is just what we need in the U.S. House. I’m looking forward to listening to her voice there as she rouses some of the sleepy heads in our "do nothing" Congress and leads them into action. Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal is on a crusade. She needs all of us to support her, which we can do at either on of the thermometers below:

Goal Thermometer Goal Thermometer

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