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BINJ will be publishing a six-part series on public health issues affecting East Somerville.

Journalist Shira Laucharoen was recently awarded a Kozik Environmental Justice Reporting Grant, through the National Press Foundation and the National Press Club Journalism Institute. She was offered $10,000 to cover the topic of how systemic racism and nativism creates daily dangers to the health of East Somerville residents. From now until the end of December, she will be working on a series, publishing a total of six articles.

The stories will focus on the dangers of East Somerville’s highways and their impact on public health. For residents of East Somerville, it is difficult to get to other parts of the city without encountering a barrier. Interstate 93 forms a vast divide between East Somerville, the Winter Hill neighborhood, and the Mystic River Development public housing project to the northwest and the Assembly Square neighborhood, the Ten Hills neighborhood, and the Mystic River to the northeast. The hazardous McGrath Highway (Route 28) forms what MA State Representative Mike Connolly has called a scar on the community, blocking off East Somerville from the rest of the city, while Route 38 has been termed “Somerville’s most deadly intersection.”

East Somerville, with a population of 10,000, is a neighborhood that has a sizable number of residents who are immigrants, people of color, and working-class individuals. That this area has been effectively walled off and experiences the threats of air and noise pollution is not an accident, said Connolly. The health impact that the highways have had on East Somerville residents is an example of how systemic racism and nativism was ingrained in mid-20th century urban planning of the type that led the highways in question to be routed through poor communities.

Stay tuned to see the development of this environmental justice reporting project!

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