Telling the Stories of Buzzard Point

Rhonda Hamilton, the Buzzard Point Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, presented with filmmaker Alisha Camacho at the 2017 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forum in Shepherdstown, W.Va. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

Rhonda Hamilton, the Buzzard Point Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, presented with filmmaker Alisha Camacho at the 2017 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forum in Shepherdstown, W.Va. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

At the last HerChesapeake meeting, three powerful women talked about their work in protecting a community threatened by pollution and rapid development in the heart of Washington, D.C. Alisha Camacho, an independent filmmaker working in the Anacostia River watershed, discussed how she got involved in telling the story of Buzzard Point. With the help of community leader Rhonda Hamilton and activist Kari Fulton, Alisha is creating a documentary to show how the community of Buzzard Point is fighting for accountability from developers and local government while facing a barrage of environmental injustice.

Buzzard Point is located on a peninsula in southwest D.C., at the crossroads of the Anacostia River, the Potomac River, and the Washington Channel.

Buzzard Point.JPG

The area is the location of intense development including a new soccer stadium, a renovated bridge, and the current Nationals Park, along with new mixed-use residential and retail buildings. With the District’s plans to revitalize the area, many residents will lose their homes and not qualify for these new developments.

Currently, the dust and pollution from the construction zones and industrial sites are contributing to serious health problems, with higher rates of asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) in residents in Buzzard Point than the surrounding areas. The soil and water in the community contain large concentrations of PCBs, arsenic, beryllium, and lead. Residents are disadvantaged further with poor public transit and the recent closing of the community’s only medical facility preventing proper access to healthcare. The communities within Buzzard Point are also in a classified food desert, with lack of easy access to fresh food.

With so many challenges facing one community, finding solutions can very difficult. When asked what was needed to help the community of Buzzard Point, the women suggested coordination and communication with residents, as well as making connections with nearby communities going through similar problems. Legal support and political pressure are needed to make sure this community’s voice is heard. And to capture it all on film, better video equipment is needed.

At the end of the meeting, HerChesapeake asked these women what advice they would give to others. Rhonda added to not be afraid to tell people that you love them, respect them, and appreciate the work that they do. Alisha told the group to be brave and accept the fact that you’re going to carve your own path. Kari suggested that all should learn the Principles of Environmental Justice. She went on to say that a woman’s leadership doesn’t have to look like a man’s leadership with a skirt on. The way women lead and establish workplace dynamics plays a critical role in how we build community. At the end of the meeting, Kari pointed to her young son who came along, and asked us to remember that everything we do is for people like him who are going to continue to grow with the decisions we are making today.

Alisha told the group that it’s important to spread the word about the plight of the people in Buzzard Point. Once the documentary, The Untold Stories at Buzzard Point is completed, HerChesapeake hopes to organize a showing to help educate others on this vulnerable community.