Hackensack Riverkeeper Paddles Out in Solidarity - The Fisherman

Hackensack Riverkeeper Paddles Out in Solidarity

Amidst all the strife and turmoil in cities nationwide this spring, one group of environmental watchdog in New Jersey turned to the healing waters for solace and protest.

On Friday, June 5, Hackensack Riverkeeper joined hundreds of environmental justice groups around the world for Solidarity In Surf. Solidarity surfing, paddling and other on-water and in-water events took place from Senegal, West Africa to California, including on the Hackensack River and Riverkeeper’s Paddling Center at Laurel Hill Park.

“It almost didn’t happen because I only learned about the event just a couple of days ahead of time,” explained Samantha Kreisler, Riverkeeper’s Outreach Coordinator. “But Captain Bill (Sheehan) told me to go for it – plus I knew I could depend on my coworkers, friends and community to make it happen”.

The fight for environmental justice is nothing new to Hackensack Riverkeeper, as the organization’s patrol area includes municipalities such as Union City, North Bergen, Jersey City, Englewood and Hackensack – all of which are considered environmental justice communities. And long before today, the organization’s founder, Captain Bill Sheehan – currently being considered for a seat on the NJDEP Environmental Justice Advisory Council – understood the interconnectedness between the state of the natural world and the human experience.

“I realized that we can’t just fight for clean water or to protect habitats,” Sheehan explained. “We also must fight for the rights of people to access that which is theirs by right; something the First People who paddled this river knew in the very fiber of their being.”

It turned out that one member who took to the river came with that exact perspective on the morning’s action.

“As a woman of both Lunaape (Lenape) and African American heritage, I felt a special understanding of this solidarity movement in this specific space and water body of nature that my ancestors honored,” said Monique Perry. “Today’s paddle had a deep purpose in time and location. Thank you to all the fine people I met today for walking in a good way.”

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