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In the Media: Young Baltimorean wins prestigious environmental award; Toya Graham reflects on unrest

Destiny Watford recieved a prestigious international award for her activism around the proposed Curtis Bay incinerator.
Destiny Watford recieved a prestigious international award for her activism around the proposed Curtis Bay incinerator.

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Washington Post: This Baltimore 20-year-old just won a huge international award for taking out a giant trash incinerator

"Baltimore stands apart as the American big city with the most deaths caused by air pollution, and Curtis Bay is its dirtiest community. Several years ago, the air there stood to get even worse when the state approved a permit for a giant incinerator that would burn 4,000 tons of trash every day and emit up to 1,240 pounds of lead and mercury every year.

"But destiny intervened. More specifically, a 17-year-old high school senior named Destiny Watford.

"Outraged that her community was once again 'being dumped on' and that the health of her family and neighbors was being 'sacrificed for a profit,' the self-described shy girl led fellow students at Benjamin Franklin High School in a four-year campaign that mobilized Curtis Bay and halted the incinerator’s construction indefinitely.

"As state environmental officials seek to revoke the permit for good, Watford is being honored with one of the world’s most prestigious environmental awards.  On Monday, she was announced as a 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize winner for her community leadership.

"Not only is Watford, at 20, the youngest of this year’s six recipients — who hail from Slovakia, Cambodia, Tanzania, Puerto Rico and Peru — she’s the third-youngest honoree in the history of the prize. She says she never imagined becoming an activist, let alone that her efforts would allow her to stand shoulder to shoulder with internationally recognized advocates of environmental justice. But her mother, Kimberly Kelly, isn’t surprised."

Full Article

From the Baltimore Sun: For Toya Graham, so much happened — and little has changed

"It was just a moment: fear for her son's safety, then instinct kicking in. Almost as soon as video aired of Toya Graham slapping and berating her son amid a mob of rock-throwing teens at Mondawmin Mall, she was propelled into the limelight: viral fame, TV interviews, travel, cash gifts, promises.

"And then, the disappointments.

"And always, the struggle.

"'I'm still a mom. I still have my six children, and we still have to do what we have to do on a daily basis to keep our heads afloat,' said the 43-year-old West Baltimore resident. 'To this day, a lot of people still think that Oprah gave me a mansion and that I have all this money and Michael has all of these things, and that's just not so.'

"A WMAR cameraman had captured that moment: her son, Michael Singleton, ready to hurl a brick at police at the start of the riots last April, and Graham, demanding he drop the brick and chasing him away in a cursing fit.

"This mother didn't take kindly to her son participating in the Baltimore riots. (WMAR Baltimore)

"Graham was labeled Baltimore's 'hero mom' in one breath, and a 'desperate, lonely and uneducated' woman in the next. Then unemployed, she received around $12,000 from a GoFundMe campaign started by an anonymous woman in North Carolina and a few months rent from a stranger. Oprah Winfrey sent $15,000, which helped Graham pay bills and buy a Toyota Avalon.

"Requests for TV appearances sent her and her family out of state to California, Texas and New York for the first time.

"There was talk of a reality TV show and a book deal.

"BET, St. Joseph Medical Center and UnderArmour offered her jobs, she said.

"R&B singer Alicia Keys visited her and urged Graham to contact political activist Van Jones to obtain a scholarship for Michael.

"Then came the letdowns.

"Graham said Under Armour was the only organization that kept its promise with a job offer, sending her children gear for school and offering her a job on the assembly line. Graham, who had just received her certified medication technician license, said she refused because she was looking for something in her field."

Full Article

From the Washington Post: Rep. Elijah Cummings endorses Will Jawando in Md. Congressional primary
"Maryland District 8 Democratic Congressional candidate Will Jawando has landed the endorsement of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), whose robo-call will be going to over 40,000 households later this week.

"Cummings says that Jawando, a former Hill staffer, is 'the best candidate to get things done in Congress.' He credits Jawando for helping to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Act for equal pay while he was an Obama White House aide.

"Cummings is starting to crank out the endorsements as the April 26 primary draws near. In recent days he’s come out for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Baltimore mayoral hopeful, state Sen. Catherine Pugh."

Full Article