BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — “If there’s anything this documentary can do, I hope it will be to save our children, our next generation. Those are the final words in “Toxic City: Birmingham’s Dirty Secret,” a heartbreaking 26-minute documentary about families fighting for their lives in Birmingham’s most polluted neighborhoods. The short film was produced by GASP, a health advocacy organization for clean air, and directed by award-winning Alabama filmmaker Hunter Nichols.
Toxic City will premiere Thursday, June 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the historic Carver Theatre. Regular admission tickets are $15; student tickets are $5. GASP is hosting a VIP Reception for $50 at 5:30 p.m., which includes complimentary hors d’oeuvres, wine, beer and the chance to meet special guests, such as the stars of the film. A panel discussion featuring civic and business leaders will follow the film premiere at the Carver Theatre from 7 to 8 p.m.
“We produced Toxic City to raise awareness about the tragic and unresolved deadly contamination in neighborhoods north of downtown Birmingham,” said GASP Executive Director Dr. Stacie M. Propst. “All of our communities deserve to be heard, and all of our destinies are tied together.”
Collegeville, Fairmont, Harriman Park and North Birmingham — four of the poorest areas in Birmingham — are a part of an EPA-designated Superfund Site, boxed in by heavy industry, where soot and chemicals rain down on residents and their property.
“I was shocked to see that air pollution in those areas could reach such levels that it covered people’s homes in black soot,” said Nichols. I’m still shocked various agencies designed to protect human health seem to shrug this off and tell people to go see a doctor.”
One resident describes the problem as “a continuation of the struggle for justice.” Racial zoning maps from the early-20th century reveal that African-Americans in particular were quarantined to these toxic areas during segregation. Many have been trying to get out for decades, but cannot afford to move.
“Anyone who sees Toxic City will be compelled to act in concert with GASP and community leaders to alter the fate of these families and, ultimately, the fate of everyone who lives and works in the greater-Birmingham area,” Dr. Propst explained.
For tickets and further information, visit toxicbirmingham.com.