Meet a Changemaker: Baltimore Community Activist Destiny Watford

As a member of Free Your Voice, Destiny Watford has been a leader in fighting to prevent the nation’s largest waste-to-energy incinerator from being built in her Curtis Bay community in Baltimore.

After four years of organizing and countless actions, the company’s plans are indefinitely stalled. Earlier this year, the students of Free Your Voice successfully pressured both Baltimore City and Baltimore City Public Schools to vote to terminate their energy contract with the company, Energy Answers.

Free Your Voice, along with United Workers, is now pushing the Maryland Department of the Environment to give control over the proposed incinerator site back to the community, so they can pursue sustainable Fair Development alternatives.

Click here to watch the powerful video and sign the petition to the Maryland Department of the Environment!

Your name: Destiny Watford

Your age: 20

Where you live: Baltimore, Maryland, in a small community named Curtis Bay.

Where you go to school / what are you studying? I’m a junior at Towson University. I major in English, with a concentration in writing and Mass Communications, with a focus in P.R. and Advertising.

Why did you decide to get involved in taking action on stopping the incinerator?

I’m a member of Free Your Voice, a student led human rights group based out of my old high schooI, which is located in Curtis Bay. I was born and raised in Curtis Bay and, although we have a long history with air pollution and harmful developments that put our lives at risk, Free Your Voice decided as a group that enough is enough.

Just because Curtis Bay has always been treated as a dumping ground — a story similar to many other communities across the nation — doesn’t mean that the community has to stay voiceless. We can change the fate of our community.

What has inspired you most working in your community of Curtis Bay?

Curtis Bay is a community just like any other. My family, my friends, my teachers and neighbors all live and/or go to work in the community. My life is very much rooted in Curtis Bay. To have an incinerator that would be burning 4,000 tons of trash per day, emitting 240 pounds of mercury and 1,000 pounds of lead into the air every year — less than a mile from where I play with my baby nephew on the playground, where my little brother goes to school, and where so many of my family members work — is a perfect example of failed development. I wanted to have a hand in changing that.

What has impacted you the most in this fight?

The power of art, community, and youth. Art has played a very crucial role in our campaign. Throughout our fight to stop the incinerator we have expressed our concerns through a kaleidoscope of mediums – we wrote speeches, poetry, two of our group members wrote a fantastic rap about our struggle and our fight for clean air. And, without our neighbors and community members working together to change the fate of our community, we wouldn’t have made the progress that we did.

How do you plan to continue fighting the incinerator and fighting for Fair Development in Curtis Bay?

Well, our fight against the incinerator is still going strong. We have experienced major victories in our struggle. Due to pressure from the group, it was revealed that Energy Answers, the company building incinerator, had violated the Clean Air Act.

We’re making a transition in our campaign. Although we will still continue to fight the incinerator, we’re now exploring positive alternatives to the proposal. The incinerator site is 80 acres. We’re calling for community control of the land to develop truly green alternatives. Thus, breaking the cycle of failed development.

So, now we’re calling upon the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to enforce the law and hold Energy Answers accountable so that we can move forward towards Fair Development.

To do this, the group created a video made up of friends, allies, and community members that have been involved in stopping and/or concerned with the incinerator project. (Sign our petition to MDE here.)

What do you like to do when you’re not advocating in your community?

When I’m not racing to finish a 10-page essay, scrambling to identify the square root of ‘x’, or trying to memorize need-to-know terms for finals, I could be found playing board games with my family and/or friends, binge-watching the latest netflix-craze, or reading.