REI’s “Our Land” is a short documentary film that introduces the Black environmentalists and residents who are fighting to protect Eagle Harbor, Maryland. It features Eagle Harbor residents, Patuxent Riverkeeper Fred Tutman, and local environmentalist Malaika Elias.
The waterfront community of Eagle Harbor formed in the late 1920s as a haven for Black Americans to escape a bustling Washington, D.C., and summer heat. At a time of segregated beaches, Eagle Harbor on the Patuxent River became a popular Black oasis for swimming, boating, fishing and other forms of recreation.
In 1964, the largest coal-fired power plant in Maryland, Chalk Point Power Generating Station, was built next to Eagle Harbor. Ever since, the community has endured a host of air and water pollution, and now shoreline erosion due to heavy stormwater runoff from the plant’s site. Chalk Point discharged toxic pollution for years. It closed in 2021 with no clear plan for remediation of the environmental damage it has caused or control of continuing pollution. All of this has threatened the town’s livelihood as well as the residents’ quality of outdoor life. The nearby predominately Black community of Brandywine has also been overburdened with pollution from several power plants and the Brandywine Coal Ash Waste site, which is where the toxic coal ash from Chalk Point was stored. The Brandywine site was closed in 2018 due to Patuxent Riverkeeper’s litigation and advocacy.
In Our Land, a short documentary produced by REI Co-op Studios, filmmaker Emmanuel Afolabi introduces the people who are fighting to keep the story and community of Eagle Harbor alive. Black environmentalists and Eagle Harbor residents have been monitoring pollution and seeking regulatory reforms to clean up the water and land so people can drink from their taps, swim and fish in the river and much more.