Name: Dr. Gloria Horning
Job Title: Visiting Lecturer for the UWF Communications Department
Degree: Information Studies from the College of Information Sciences at Florida State University
Walking into Dr. Gloria Horning’s office my eyes land on a plaque reading, “Well behaved women seldom make history.” This was my first clue into the journey I was about to take. For the short time I’ve known Dr. Horning, she has always been an open and encouraging presence to students and members of the community.
Dr. Horning at a Student Environmental Action Society “Wedgewood Community Awareness Event”
Dr. Horning states that she claims no place as home base because she grew up in a military family, instead she states that she is more or less from all over. Her love for making documentaries has taken her all over the United States. From the San Francisco Bay area to the Gulf Coast of Florida, Dr. Horning has had the opportunity to be a part of movements relating to AIDS education, discrimination and environmental justice.
Horning’s work with AIDS education was fueled by her personal experience relating to her younger brother after he contracted the disease through a blood transfusion. He died at the age of 23 in 1988. Horning traveled the United States covering stories relating to AIDS and created a documentary to instill the tragedy of the disease. Some of Dr. Horning’s work can be found here.
Additionally to her work with AIDS awareness, Dr. Horning took on a documentary series highlighting the stories of American citizens affected by environmental and racial injustice along Cancer Alley on the Mississippi River. Her documentary was a four-part series that gave a voice to many facing health issues, resource loss and economic loss due to pollution by big corporations. Horning’s work spans to cover a large number of issues each having their own impacts and importance.
Following the British Petroleum Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill, Dr. Horning found herself in Pensacola, Florida. She is now a visiting lecturer in the communications department teaching classes varying in subject from broadcast media to journalism.
Alongside teaching, Dr. Horning was called to an environmental issue in the Wedgewood Community three years ago. It’s located about fifteen minutes west of the University of West Florida and is primarily African American in race. Looking around the community, you wouldn’t think anything was wrong. What you can’t see is the pollution and chemicals that poison the air, soil and water that the community depends on. There are 11 landfills and dumping sites located in the Wedgewood Community, eight of which are still active.
A hydrogen sulfide warning sign found in the Wedgewood Community
Within the past eight years, one of those landfills has received seventeen state violations, Horning comments, “It’s a blatant disregard for regulation.”
For these reasons Dr. Horning took to helping in the best way she knew how, “we organized with orange shirts, made signs and put them up, but the big push was making sure that we showed up to every (council) meeting…”
I had the pleasure of going to visit the Wedgewood Community alongside Dr. Horning where I was introduced to a multitude of smiling and grateful faces all greeting Horning with a hug or a shake of the hand.
Here, Dr. Horning explained the extent of the issues in the Wedgewood Community, including COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), renal failure, breast cancer and asthma. The amount of hydrogen sulfide that poisons the air is not only a concern for the community members of Wedgewood but also a concern for the public schools in the area. Many school administrations no longer allow students to go outside for recess or physical education classes because the quality of the air is not safe for breathing.
Dr. Horning and Hilton Kelly (An environmental activist from Texas) on the Wedgewood Community tour.
With the amount of environmental and social justice tragedy that we are accustom to today, it can be hard for people to decide how to make a difference and where to start making a difference. With this in mind I questioned Horning on what to do and she reminded me that,
“…you can be three (years old) and be a part of it. ‘we don’t need those plastic bags,’ it’s just one little thing to start with.”
Witnessing Dr. Horning’s passion for helping others and fighting for justice is inspirational. She reminds us as a youth to speak up against what is wrong and to fight for what we believe in because in the end, we can truly make a difference.