For seven years the Cape Fear community has battled over opinion and policy in terms of Titan Cement—of the Greek-based Titan America—who announced plans to build a plant on the banks of the Cape Fear River in 2008. It was then that a few citizens caught wind of the deal and gathered to object, to say the least, and have been standing strong since.
Citizens Against Titan (CAT), one of seven organizations of the Stop Titan Action Network, was the grassroots movement that started the snowball of action from the citizenry. Yet, still there is work to be done. In an effort to continue to build upon and re-energize community support, CAT will host their Uniting for Smart Growth event on Sunday, Oct. 18 at the Walkerworld Organic Artist Retreat (453 Blossom Ferry Rd.) in Castle Hayne.
There will be music by reggae group Roots United, Jeff Hunnicut and Laura McLain. Food will be available for purchase from Vittles Food Truck, and folks are encouraged also to BYOB. While the event also features raffles and auctions of items donated from several local businesses, the biggest unveil will be newly designed yard signs for the Stop Titan campaign. “We think they state very clearly not only what we are against, but what it is we support,” founding member of CAT, Kayne Darrell says.
The new signs predominantly promote “Smart Growth. Not Titan Cement” and everyone attending the event on Sunday will be the first to own a new sign. encore caught up with Darrell to discuss the purpose behind the event at Walkerworld, the new look and the new energy behind the campaign.
encore: How is CAT working with Allen Walker to put on this event?
Kayne Darrell: Allen Walker lives on the banks of Cape Fear River in this amazing place he has built—or, I should say, is always building—that is pretty magical. I had met Allen and Jamie (his now ex-wife) when I first got involved with the Stop Titan movement and their story was a strong motivation to join forces with those who were opposed to this plant. Allen and Jamie have three beautiful children and the news that some foreign corporation wanted to build a polluting cement plant–one of the largest of its kind in the country—just a few miles from the home that they had devoted their lives to building, was pretty devastating news. I will never forget the anguish in their voices as they expressed the concern that their children might possibly be living so close to Titan’s 40-story smokestack. There are few in our community who have a stronger reason than Allen Walker for keeping Titan from building that plant.
So, when a small group of us gathered recently to talk about ways we could re-engage, reignite and re-energize the grassroots movement to stop Titan Cement, it was suggested we hold an event there. The event would help us raise funds for our new initiatives and give us an opportunity to gather our supporters for a fun evening. Allen graciously and willingly agreed! We knew it would be the perfect place for delivering our message.
e: What are people going to learn about CAT and the fight against Titan?
KD: What we want people to know is that if our community does not want a foreign cement plant coming here emitting toxins and pollutants into our air, threatening our water supply, destroying our wetlands, and potentially putting the health of our citizens at risk, the most powerful force to stop them is our collective community opposition. Titan may be a multi-national, billion-dollar corporation, but we have prevented them from building their plant for over seven years now. And as we continue to educate our citizens, the opposition will only continue to multiply and our voices will only continue to grow louder as we demand smart growth for our region’s future and a healthy environment for the place we all call home.
e: As the founding member of CAT, how has this issue/fight developed or changed for you over the course of time?
KD: In 2008, a group of volunteers created a website, distributed some yard signs and did an incredible job of getting the facts out about what could happen if Titan Cement were allowed to build a cement plant here. In early 2009, I attended the very first Stop Titan rally and asked the organizers how I could help. I never imagined that I would spend so much of my time, effort and energy over the next seven years focused on organizing and galvanizing this movement. We have had many accomplishments over those years, thanks to an amazing community that has come together in solidarity against Titan, but I have also made many sacrifices, including a very difficult and distressing year fighting a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) brought by Titan against myself and Dr. David Hill. (Fortunately, their tactic to bully and intimidate our community did not work and they eventually dropped the suit.) Never dreaming this would last as long as it has, I have had to step back the past few years and focus my attention on my other responsibilities. However, my resolve has never wavered and my belief that we can stop Titan has never faltered.
e: Are there any specific initiatives in the works that the funds raised will go towards? Anything people can get involved with now?
KD: When our group met to think about ways to re-energize the movement, one of our first ideas was to create a new yard sign. We thought it would be a great way to restart the conversation and remind folks that we are as opposed as ever to the building of this cement plant and that we have no intention of dozing off while Titan is still lurking in the shadows. Because CAT is about as grassroots as you can get—made up completely of citizens who all volunteer their time, with no paid staff or grant writers—our funds are from donations and are pretty minimal. We used those funds to order a small batch of yard signs and are hoping to raise enough money at this event to buy a lot more!
Of course, what we want is for folks to do more than put a sign in their yard. What we need is to raise our voices so that our message is loud and clear again. We need to call and meet with our elected officials, (local, state and, yes, even federal), write letters to the editor, and talk to our friends and neighbors about the negative impacts of cement plants. We need to voice our support for a strong Special Use Permit for heavy, intensive industry. And most importantly, we need to make it very clear that we are not anti-growth or anti-job, as Titan would like to paint us. What we want our leaders to know is that we want smart growth. And we want jobs that do not threaten the health of our citizens, deplete our water supply, dirty our air, or destroy our environment.
e: What do you say to folks who don’t realize this is still going on? (Whether they think “we already won” or that it’s a done deal.)
KD: We remind people that, although we have been very successful at preventing the plant from building to this point (they initially stated they would be up and running by 2010), Titan has not packed its bags and left. However, they’ve only received one permit of the many they need, and that is still in litigation. They have a long way to go before they can start production. We intend to continue our opposition as long as it takes to make sure they never do.
It’s been many years since we first gathered a small group of concerned citizens together and starting asking people to sign our petition. We now have close to 20,000 signatures on that petition. Twenty thousand people who believe we have a right to clean air, safe water and a healthy future, and who will continue to fight for that right for as long as it takes.