Hero of the Week: Catherine Flowers

Catherine Flowers is an environmental justice advocate in Lowndes County, Ala., where she began her advocacy work after watching raw sewage leak into the yards of poor residents who lacked access to a municipal sewer system. Lowdnes County is one of the ten poorest counties in Alabama’s Black Belt–a part of the United States where 1 million people lack basic sanitation.

Flowers is the founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, which seeks to address the root causes of poverty by seeking sustainable solutions as well as being the Rural Development Manager for the Equal Justice Initiative.

But most notably, as NPR reported, this month, Flowers won a MacArthur Foundation fellowship – also known as a Genius Grant — for her work by “bringing attention to failing water and waste sanitation infrastructure in rural areas and its role in perpetuating health and socioeconomic disparities.” Flowers counts her MacArthur award, a $625,000 grant, as a win for the recognition it brings — and the conversations it’s driving — around work that she says is “not in the least bit” glamorous.

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