Louisianians living in communities at the frontline of climate change have ample reason to feel anger, sadness or frustration.

But on Friday (Nov. 3), some of those residents opted for joy, marching with a brass band through the French Quarter.

The second line came with a call, asking national leaders to declare a climate emergency and to push for divestment from the fossil fuel industry.

A second line for the “Power Up in the Gulf” event for climate justice leaves Louis Armstrong Park on Nov. 3, 2023. Credit: Minh Ha / Verite News

The “Power Up in the Gulf” event, which included a news conference and a celebration featuring local musical talents Big Freedia, Mannie Fresh and HaSizzle on a stage at Louis Armstrong Park, was organized by climate groups including the Vessel Project of Louisiana. “Power Up in the Gulf” forms part of a series of events across the world in the lead-up to this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The climate groups are pushing broadly for a transition toward renewable energy and “a clean, peaceful, and equitable future in a world where everyone has access to energy, land, water, and safety,” according to a news release.

Organizers said the basis of their fight was their love for Louisiana, which they were bringing to New Orleans, an epicenter of celebration.

A crowd gathers at Congo Square for the “Power Up in the Gulf” event for climate justice on Nov. 3, 2023. Credit: Minh Ha / Verite News

“At the same time you are going to get to see the folks who live in these communities, who fight for their communities, who love their communities,” said Roishetta Ozane, founder of Vessel Project Louisiana, an organization that gives mutual aid and disaster support.   

Ozane pointed to above-average poverty and cancer rates, along with high levels of air pollutants, in areas like Cancer Alley and historically Black communities in west Louisiana. 

Residents from Lake Charles and Mossville gave speeches in Congo Square about their experiences through decades of environmental activism.

Debra Ramirez, 70, a lifelong resident of the historic Black west Louisiana community of Mossville, which was displaced after a long fight with an expanding chemical complex.

 “I have no home to go back to,” Ramirez said. 

The nearby Lake Charles community is currently fighting against a liquefied natural gas project by Texas-based natural gas company, Energy Transfer. 

Lois Booker Malvo, 77, has lived in Lake Charles all her life. Malvo, who said she traveled to the event to fight for justice for her community, is a two-time cancer survivor who has also lost both parents, a brother and two sisters to cancer — which she believes are connected to levels of petrochemical pollution in her community. 

“They are hurting us and they want to increase that hurt,” said Malvo of the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to expand in Lake Charles.

Her message was echoed by the musical guests, who called on political leaders to help create a Louisiana livable for future generations.

“We’re not begging, but we’re crying out right now,” HaSizzle said. “There are generations that we want to see continue to build.”

Big Chief Beautiful leads the crowd in a song at the “Power Up in the Gulf” event for climate justice in Congo Square on Nov. 3, 2023. Credit: Minh Ha / Verite News

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Climate and multimedia journalist Lue Palmer is a native of Toronto, Canada, with roots in Jamaica. Before entering their career in journalism, Lue was a writer, documentarian and podcaster, covering race,...