Apr. 21, 2008  

Books and Books, Coral Gables

Mark your calendar now for 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 6:

Books and Books, Coral Gables presents: Night Fire: Big Oil, Poison Air and Margie Richard’s Fight to Save Her Own (Amistad, $24.95) Miami Herald journalist Ronnie Greene’s passionate look at how humble grassroots activism can eventually unsettle a corporate Goliath.

In 1958, Margie Richard was a pregnant 16-year-old whose home had been displaced by a Shell oil refinery expansion and had recently resettled in Diamond, a tiny neighborhood in Norco, La. The neighborhood was poor, predominantly African-American and a stone’s throw from another Shell chemical refinery. Two explosions at the refineries (one killed two residents) and the 1983 death of Richard’s beloved sister from sarcoidosis, a lung ailment rooted in industrial pollution, propelled Richard into 15 years of activism, demanding that Shell recompense the neighborhood for decades of steady poisoning. Along with other residents, Richard formed the Norco Relocation Committee, determined to wrest realistic relocation funds from Shell, an international behemoth whose profits would eventually exceed $1.5 million per hour. After two court cases and almost 14 years, Shell capitulated in 2002. Greene’s mix of vivid oral history and hard evidence is a rousing reminder that with stubborn determination, ordinary citizens can prevail against the most powerful of opponents.

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