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Come Hell or High Water

View on The Global Environmental Justice site

Curator and writers
This documentary was selected by Amity Doolittle, senior lecturer and research scientist at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and written by Caroline Scanlan, Liz Felker and Elham Shabahat, graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Why we selected this film
The importance of Come High or Hell Water lives in its ability to draw connections between civil rights and responsible urban development, environmental conservation, and environmental disaster relief and recovery. The film highlights the personal experiences of local grassroots activists, including their respective strategies for working toward justice in the Turkey Creek community.
Teacher's guide    
Please see the teacher's guide for maps, background information and suggested subjects, questions and activities.

Come Hell or High Water traces the painful, inspiring journey of Derrick Evans, a Boston teacher who moves home to the Mississippi Gulf Coast community of Turkey Creek, first settled by former slaves, when the graves of his ancestors are bulldozed to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport. Over the course of a decade, Evans and his neighbors stand up to powerful corporate interests and politicians and face ordeals that include Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster in their struggle for self-determination and environmental justice. They build powerful alliances to fight urban sprawl and industrial contamination —to protect the culture and natural environment that sustained eight generations.

The environmental justice focus of the film
Set in an African-American community on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Come Hell or High Water (CHHW) explores the connections between civil rights and environmental justice. The film provides a platform for investigating issues corresponding to three types of justice: distributive justice, recognition justice, and procedural justice.

  • The matter of distributive justice is raised in the resident's attempts to reverse the unequal distribution of environmental burdens on the African-American residents of Turkey Creek. These burdens include the loss of land and culturally significant sites, environmental degradation, and increased flooding.

  • Recognition justice is present in the residents' efforts to have Turkey Creek acknowledged as: a historically significant community deserving of federal recognition; an environmental resource deserving of conservation; and a community deserving of adequate FEMA Katrina relief and recovery resources.

  • The film also highlights procedural justice through efforts to improve and increase participation in a wide range of public decision-making processes affecting the Turkey Creek community.

“This intimate film tells a gigantic story … It’s about everything that matters in our society.” – Bill Bigelow, Rethinking Schools

“A powerful film for all those interested in social and environmental justice.” – Stephen L. Hupp, Library Journal

“We highly recommend this documentary film about a middle school teacher who leads an environmental justice battle in a historic African American community in Mississippi.” – Deborah Menkart, Teaching for Change

“Viewers will be touched by Evans’ courage and self-sacrifice and gain insight into the region’s historical, environmental, and racial issues.” – Candance Smith, Booklist

“Exposes raw in-your-face Mississippi politics … a perfect lesson that we are not living in a post-racial era.” – Dr. Robert Bullard, Dean, School of Public Affairs, Texas Southern University

“A powerful story of one man’s good fight.” – C. Cassady, Video Librarian


Main credits

Evans, Derrick (participant)
Mahan, Leah (film director)
Mahan, Leah (film producer)
Mahan, Leah (cinematographer)
Greenberg, Jane (film producer)
Greenberg, Jane (film editor)

Other credits

Co-editors, William A. Anderson and Dawn Logsdon; composer, Derrick Hodge.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

African American Studies
Cultural Anthropology
Environmental Justice
North American Studies
Oceans and Coasts
Race and Racism
United States


slave graves bulldozed in Mississippi, Derrick Evans, Gulfport, protecting the community, Turkey Creek, Mississippi, Hurricane Katrina,Gulf Coast, BP rig explosion, Deepwater Horizon, Earth Day; "Come Hell or High Water"; Bullfrog Films; "Come Hell or High Water "; Global Environmental Justice; African American;

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