MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis woman’s efforts to shine the spotlight on lead exposure problems for communities of color has caught the attention of the White House.
In Memphis, an environmental movement is taking aim at the problem of lead exposure in water and older city service lines.
“We see a large portion of those lead service lines exist in our historically Black neighborhoods,” said Latricea Adams, a White House Environmental Counsel Member.
After witnessing the problem in Memphis and seeing the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, 36-year-old, LaTricea Adams knew she had to do something.
“It just hit me differently. It made me both sad, but also angry,” Adams said.
Adams, a Memphis educator, created Black Millennials for Flint, an environmental justice group.
“It kind of expanded my interest in learning a lot more not just about Flint, but what was going on in majority Black and brown cities,” Adams said.
Lead exposure concerns in some Shelby County Schools caught the attention of then State Senator Lee Harris. When he became county mayor, his administration created Tennessee’s first ever Lead Prevention and Sustainability Commission to look into the problem and picked Adams to be its chair.
“We’re hoping with this innovative, community centered work we’ll be able to shine as a county, as a city where other people will look at the work we did in Memphis and replicate that to create healthier communities,” Adams said.
The White House also took notice of Adam’s efforts.
“It still feels somewhat surreal that even having that type of connection to the White House, I’m a black girl from Whitehaven,” Adams said.
Adams was appointed to serve on the first Biden administration’s White House Environmental Justice Counsel.
“I think it’s very bold of this administration to come forward and say we don’t have all the answers. Our environment has gone through a lot, and we are looking to experts and we’re looking at people on the ground,” Adams said.
The White House is looking at Memphian Latricea Adams to help improve water quality and reduce lead exposure.
“I think we’re going to be better resourced and better funded to the necessary work to get these lead service lines replaced,” Adams said.
Adams says the Biden roundtable will continue to meet until they come up with environmental recommendations that will move the country forward.