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Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing

The Bayou Region of coastal Louisiana has experienced more than its fair share of disasters and disastrous events in the last century, but especially in the last six years. Our coastal communities have faced impacts from significant land loss and erosion, subsidence, salt-water intrusion, hypoxia, air and water pollution, hurricanes and storm surges, and oil drilling disasters. And of course, the effects of these events are stronger in this region because of the lack of effective “voice” of the people who are most impacted by them. There is certainly no lack of critical issues facing the people of the bayous today. Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO) is one of the organizations taking a leading role in seeking opportunities to change the systems that have led to the dissolving precipice upon which we stand. 

BISCO is a 501c3 nonprofit working in Terrebonne, Lafourche and southern Jefferson Parishes.  The mission of BISCO is to build a powerful, multi-faith, multi-ethnic, multi-issue voice of the people of this region. We were incorporated in 1995 to serve as a community-organizing group addressing the systemic failures in the region that have allowed long-held patterns of racism, poverty and injustice to retain their stranglehold on our population. BISCO is now a highly respected leader in our communities and has played a critical role in the response to and recovery from the multiple disasters we have endured.  The continuing evolution of our work, in areas of service that were not intended when we were formed, has played an important role in advancing our original mission! 

We are eager to keep our work evolving to meet the ever-developing needs of our communities.  We are continuing our work in environmental education, outreach and policy advocacy for system change. We are happy to claim success in several environmental endeavors, but our most satisfying is the now-common acceptance of coastal Louisiana as a “regional environmental justice community,” a policy shift that is serving to bring resources to this area to address this concern. We continue to build networks of contacts to enable us to bring the needs of the people to those who make policy decisions, and then bring the resources garnered by that process back to the communities and the people who so desperately need them. We want to expand our “Honesty” campaign, where we conduct community forums and outreach within our local communities to provide a platform where local residents can be informed of the “honest” details of the looming dangers they face, in order to assist them in determining for themselves what options are best suited for their survival and sustainability. This includes the presentation of scientific data to the public in a voice that is appropriate for the community and easy to understand. 

(By Sharon Gauthe, Executive Director of BISCO [Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing], 406 West 2nd Street, Thibodaux, LA 70301; 985-227-9042; mybisco@yahoo.com; www.bisco-la.org)