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Friday, June 15, 2012

Edgar J. Mouton, MEAN Co-Founder, Passes at 76

Mr. Edgar Mouton speaking to Sarah Lawrence College Health Advocacy Students
I have been reluctant to write this post.  Death, of course, is a part of that wheel of stress we trudge, and old men die all the time.  So that's not the issue. Black men die of unnatural causes with disturbing frequency, as this blog has sometimes documented.  To live to be 76 can be a blessing.  But Mr. Mouton was not an ordinary man and his death probably not natural.


Edgar Mouton, co-founder of Mossville Environmental Action Now, passed away last Thursday.  He was 76 years old. I only knew Mr. Mouton for four years. I met him post-Katrina (how I still count time in Louisiana) in my role as a trainer with the Environmental Support Center (also of happy memory).  He had worked in the refinery zone in a number of different plants.  I remember him telling me he had handled benzine and sulphuric acid.  His age was a mystery to me as exposure to all those chemicals brings illnesses and conditions that wear a body away.  Mr. Mouton had dedicated 30 years of his life to revealing the injustice of favoring the interests of industry over humanity.  The people of Mossville were being sacrificed to our consumption and the profits of the oil and chemical industries.  He worked tirelessly to hold them accountable, for federal Superfund designation for the land, owned by black folk since the end of the Civil War (another way to count time), now lost to pollution and to reclaim the health of his people.  


Like most of the people I have had the privilege to work with in Mossville, Mr. Mouton had a mordant sense of humor and infinite patience.  One of my last memories is of him, Dorothy Felix (MEAN's other co-founder), Wilma Subra and Sanjay Gupta of CNN being stood up by the head of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.  It was spring, it was hot, they wouldn't let these two elderly people into the state office building in Baton Rouge.  (I suppose the CNN cameraman was a problem for them). They were standing around cracking jokes.  They knew that in some fundamental way, LADEQ had already lost the war.


Goodbye Mr. Mouton.  I'm happy to know you have joined the ancestors in a high, and much less toxic, place.

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