Social and Environmental Justice Organizations Launch the Illinois Floodplain Community Justice Network

April 11, 2023

Network invites community organizers in Illinois dealing with flood-related issues to join 

Teresa Haley, Illinois NAACP, 217-836-4339 
Olivia Dorothy, American Rivers, 217-390-3758 
Kentaro Kumanomido, United Congregations of the Metro East, 314-537-3212 
Larry Westbrook, Watertown Community Empowerment Coalition, 309-230-8204 

Springfield, IL – With the Spring flood season upon us, American Rivers, Illinois Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Watertown Community Empowerment Organization, and United Congregations of the Metro East is launching a new network for community organizers. 

The Illinois Floodplain Community Justice Network works to center the needs of communities of color in flood management and planning by organizing people, delivering information, and influencing planning and policy.  

“Communities of color are at the forefront of climate change,” said Teresa Haley, President of the Illinois Conference of the NAACP. “And in Illinois, this means they are more likely to suffer from flood-related health and safety issues.” 

According to the State Climatologist, Illinoisans will suffer from more frequent and prolonged flood events, including flash flooding, like the St. Louis and Metro East event on July 26, 2022, when almost a foot of rain fell over the region in 8-hours.  

“We need more information and resources to help local governments center the needs of people of color,” said Olivia Dorothy, Restoration Director at American Rivers. “Too many well-meaning flood risk reduction projects are displacing people of color, disconnecting communities and support networks, and draining intergenerational wealth.” 

There are many factors that drive people of color to have greater flood vulnerability. Formal policies, like redlining, forced many African Americans to live in flood-prone areas and these risks persist today as most communities continue to be segregated along those lines established in the 1920s and 1930s.  

“People of color, and especially African Americans, continue to have higher rates of poverty,” said Larry Westbrook of Watertown Community Empowerment Organization. “This lack of resources means that many people of color struggle to adequately prepare for, stay safe during, and recover from flood events.” 

“We feel that the current disaster management framework, whereby FEMA works directly with municipalities to deliver resources, sometimes fails to support the people who need it most,” said Kentaro Kumanomido of United Congregations of the Metro East. “That’s why engaging with community organizers is so important. Community organizers are nimble and can help municipal engineers center community needs.” 

Community Organizers interested in joining the Network to learn more about how to solve flooding issues in their communities at   

About American Rivers 

American Rivers is championing a national effort to protect and restore all rivers, from remote mountain streams to urban waterways. Healthy rivers provide people and nature with clean, abundant water and natural habitat. For 50 years, American Rivers staff, supporters, and partners have shared a common belief: Life Depends on Rivers. For more information, please visit 

About Illinois Conference of the NAACP 

The NAACP works to ensure the political, educational, social & economic equality of rights of all persons & to eliminate racial hatred & racial discrimination. The NAACP envisions a society in which all individuals have equal rights and there is no racial hatred or racial discrimination. For more information, please visit  

About United Congregations of the Metro East 

United Congregations of Metro East is committed to promoting justice and equity for all communities facing systemic challenges, including those related to flooding. We are proud to be a part of the Illinois Floodplain Community Justice Network, which works to center the needs of communities of color in flood management and planning. Through organizing people, delivering information, and influencing planning and policy, our organization is actively working to ensure that all members of our community have a say in decisions that impact their access to vital resources such as clean water and safe housing. We believe that this work is essential to eliminating the root causes of systemic injustice in our region and promoting a more just and equitable society for all. For more information, please visit  

About Watertown Community Empowerment Coalition  

The Watertown Community Empowerment Coalition creates, provides, and promotes an environment that draws upon the resources of the community of the East Moline community to empower and enhance opportunity through assistance in education, life services, and healthy activities for the welfare of its members.