Cherri Foytlin is a mom on a mission. She was pained by the 11 men killed on the Deepwater Horizon rig, devastated by the thick globs of Louisiana crude that invaded her shores, and saddened by the heartbreaking stories of fishermen whose livelihoods were put on hold. As government efforts failed to provide adequate financial support and medical attention, Cherri joined a movement of residents and fishermen across the coast to get the word out about what’s really happening on the ground.
But now as the anniversary of the BP oil disaster approaches, Cherri and others on the Gulf coast say their message still is not getting to the country’s political leaders. So the Louisiana mother of six decided to take the message to them in person. She decided to walk to Washington to do it. This week, Cherri began the arduous 1,200 mile trek from New Orleans to D.C., talking to anyone who will listen to her story along the way.
“I felt it’s time to build a movement,” Cherri said before her departure from New Orleans. “I hope to get people to understand that that we need to focus on values that matter and stand up for ourselves.”
Cherri Foytlin addresses supporters near New Orleans before her march to DC.
Cherri with her family before the big walk. Photos by Rocky Kistner/NRDC
Cherri knows the disaster in the Gulf is not going away soon. Scientists say oil is still in the water and some are increasingly worried there are signs the BP crude may be contributing to a reduction of fishery populations, such as white shrimp. And some scientists say the dieoff may be linked to the nearly 200 million gallons of oil that poured into the ocean. Some independent tests have found oil contamination in shrimp and crab while federal and state officials insist the seafood is safe. Tar balls and oily sheen still wash up on the shores in places from Florida to Louisiana. For many people on the Gulf coast, this is the beginning, not the end, of the disaster.
But Cherri also says there is a silver lining in all of this. This is the time for people to organize and put a stop to our oil addiction. It's the only way to avoid disasters like these, she says, and now is the time to take action. “Nothing has changed since the Exxon Valdez disaster. We need to think about what kind of future we’re leaving for our kids.”
So Cherri is marching down the the long, winding road, accompanied by fellow activist and songwriter Drew Landry and the documentary team of Project Gulf Impact. She’s walking the walk while politicians talk and talk.
You can follow Cherri’s journey here.