On August 15, Massachusetts lost a powerful voice for justice. Michaelann Bewsee was a fearless ally and treasured friend whose passion and selflessness profoundly impacted the lives of her neighbors in Springfield and beyond for generations. In her honor, we want to share this piece, originally published in March of 2015, about her work to stop a biomass plant from being built in Springfield, a fight that we are carrying on with the organization she founded, Arise for Social Justice.
One of the most rewarding parts of my job as a CLF advocate is getting out into communities to meet with the people directly impacted by our work. Sometimes, we meet at the office of a local grassroots organization. Other times, I find myself huddled around a kitchen table with a concerned group of neighbors. No matter the setting, every meeting shares one thing in common: passionate people coming together to defend their communities, their families, and their environment from harm.
On a recent visit to Springfield, Massachusetts, I met with Michaelann Bewsee, who directs a local community group there called Arise for Social Justice. Michaelann and her neighbors are fighting to stop a noxious biomass plant from being built in their neighborhood – a neighborhood already suffering from devastatingly high rates of childhood asthma and other respiratory diseases. When the plant was first proposed for this overburdened area, Michaelann and her neighbors asked themselves, Why would anyone want to burn up wood and lumber in a neighborhood that is already struggling to breathe?
So Michaelann started to make cold calls try to find an ally who could help them stop this plant in its tracks. That’s how she learned about CLF.
Often, when CLF gets involved in a community, it’s not because the people who live there are powerless to act themselves. Communities do have voices – often loud ones – but sometimes, they don’t know the right path to take or have the right tools at their disposal. In Springfield, by bringing CLF into the case, we’ve helped to amplify the voices of Michaelann and her neighbors while also assisting them with expertise on how to fight this plant in court. It’s a partnership – one that combines our legal background and expertise with their on-the-ground knowledge of the people and places at play and the issues at stake.
We’re working in Springfield to benefit the community and the residents who live there and have to breathe dirty air every day. But this fight is just one piece of a much larger goal – to protect our region’s air, land, and water so that we can create a healthy, thriving New England for all.
I invite you to meet Michaelann in our video above, as she shares her story.
People in communities across New England put a lot of faith in CLF. We are successful because we have the partnership of people like Michaelann.