Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Recalling Warren County: Discussing the Birth of a Movement

Date and Time
Wednesday, September 14, 2022 - 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Duke University Penn Pavilion Garden Room, 107 Union Dr, Durham, NC & Livestream
Recalling Warren County: Discussing the Birth of a Movement


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The 1982 Warren County protests saw people, independent of race, come together to combat systemic injustices and environmental racism. Those who joined the weeks of protest did not know a larger movement would launch from their fight for basic human rights. And yet, these now famous efforts are hailed as the launching of the Environmental Justice Movement.

Join us for a discussion of the protests, the birth of the EJ movement, and the future of the movement from the perspectives of those who participated.

​Event partners include the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, The North Carolina Black Alliance, The Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, The Warren County Environmental Action Team, and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke.

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  • La'Meshia Whittington (Moderator)
  • Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr.
  • Dollie Burwell
  • Wayne Moseley
  • Rev. William Kearney
  • Jenny Labalme
  • Former Rep. Eva Clayton

Panelist Bios:

La'Meshia Whittington (Moderator)
Professor La’Meshia Whittington is the Principal and CEO of Whittington & Staley Consulting Group, LLC. Professor Whittington serves as the Deputy Director for Advance Carolina and the North Carolina Black Alliance Deputy Director of Programs. Professor Whittington is the co-convener of the NC Black & Brown Policy Network, former National Democracy Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, former Chairwoman of the FRENC Fund Administration, Founding member of Democracy Green, member of the Board of Directors for Cape Fear River Watch, the former N.C. spokesperson on fair courts for The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and a community liaison for the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Professor Whittington leads work on intersectional democracy and environmental justice. Appointed by Governor Roy Cooper and Sec Elizabeth Biser, Professor Whittington now serves on the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Environmental Justice & Equity Advisory Board.

Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr. 
Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jris an African American Civil Rights Movement 64-year veteran leader and icon. He is an author, chemist, United Church of Christ ordained minister, and PBS TV Executive Producer of The Chavis Chronicles. He is currently President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. He also chairs the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, Thurgood Marshall Center Trust, We Are Digital and the Energy Action Alliance.  As a member of the Wilmington Ten he spent the majority of the 1970s incarcerated as a modern-day political prisoner for a crime for which was ultimately pardoned.  At the request of his longtime friend Nelson Mandela, Dr. Chavis co-founded Diamonds Do Good.  In 1982, he was the first person to coin the term “environmental racism” during civil rights protests of racial and environmental injustice in Warren County, North Carolina.  In 1993, Dr. Chavis was the youngest person to be elected as Executive Director and CEO of the NAACP.  He was featured in the movie Belly alongside Nas and DMX. He worked side by side with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as Youth Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Dr. Chavis has earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of North Carolina, Duke University and Howard University.

Dollie Burwell
Dollie B. Burwell was born, raised, and attended public schools in Vance County North Carolina. In l982 Dollie led her community in a protest against the state of North Carolina in what the Washington Post called the greatest civil rights movement since the l960's. Arrested and jailed five times and spent nights in jail when she blocked trucks carrying PCB laced soil that was to be put in a dump in her community by lying down in front of the trucks. This was the beginning of the “Environmental Justice Movement.” Stories of her life and work have been published in several books including, “Crazy for Democracy, Women in Grassroots Movements,” Temma Kaplin, “The Politics of Motherhood, Activist Voices from the Left to Right,” Alexis Jetter, Annelise Orleck and Diana Taylor, and “Women Reshaping Human Rights, How Extraordinary Activists Are Changing the World,” Marguerite Guzman Bouvard and many other documentaries, tv shows and newspapers including the Soledad O’Brien Show and the Washington Post. She served as Chair of the Joint Warren County/State PCB Landfill Working Group, a task force that worked to secure more than 25 million dollars from the state of North Carolina to detoxify the Warren County PCB Landfill which was successfully completed in 2004.

Wayne Moseley

  • Raised from birth in Warren County from parents who were lifelong residents.
  • Attended Warren County Public Schools, graduating in 1967.
  • 1973 Graduate Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College).
  • September 15, 1982, among the first of many Warren County Citizens to be arrested protesting the construction of a toxic dump site in the county.
  • Co-directed “Warren County - Birth of a Movement” a historical documentary produced by Michael Pierce to recognize and honor the sacrifices and contributions made by the citizens of Warren County.
  • Retired in 2019 after 47 years working in post-secondary education.
  • Currently living in Raleigh and continues to advocate for social justice. 

Rev. William Kearney
Owner of Bill Kearney & Company Consulting, LLC - sponsor, coordinator & facilitator of the Warren County Environmental Action Team and the Warren County African American History Collective. Reverend Kearney is a partner in several University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill community-engaged research partnerships and advises and consults with universities, organizations and partnerships across North Carolina and the United States. Reverend Kearney serves as Associate Minister and health ministry coordinator at Coley Springs Missionary Baptist Church and Vice President of the United Shiloh Missionary Baptist Association Church Union. He is employed as a Research Associate and Community Outreach Manager at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Reverend Kearney has co-authored numerous research manuscripts and articles and has co-produced various video and audio documentaries.

Jenny Labalme
Jenny Labalme photographed the 1982 Warren County protests as part of a documentary photography class she took when she was a student at Duke University. Shortly after graduating from Duke, she received a grant to publish the photos in a small book called, A Road to Walk. Labalme spent almost two decades working as a photojournalist and journalist for The North Carolina Independent (now INDY Week), the Mexico Journal (in Mexico City, Mexico), The Anniston Star (in Anniston, AL) and The Indianapolis Star. She currently is the executive director of the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises and manages funds to provide journalism awards, scholarships, and paid summer fellowships for deserving students at Indiana colleges and universities. Labalme has two adult children and lives with her husband in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Former Rep. Eva Clayton
The first African-American woman to represent North Carolina in Congress, Eva Clayton also became the state’s first Black Representative since 1901. From her post on the House Agriculture Committee, Clayton advanced the interests of her rural district in the northeastern part of North Carolina and called attention to the economic inequalities that affected African Americans nationally. She served in the House of Representatives from 1991-2003.