Finally some good news for Monsanto's PR department: Comcast edged out the agricultural giant in Consumerist magazine's 2014 "Worst Company in America" poll. It was a squeaker, with Comcast winning the honor 51.5% to 48.5%. (Considering Monsanto was voted the "most evil corporation" in a different 2013 poll, one could consider this progress.)
These distinctions suggest that Americans understand Monsanto's history in covering up the dangers of its industrial coolant, known as PCB, as well as its hideous record of dumping chemicals into creeks, landfills, and into the air. Nonetheless, the Rona Jaffe Foundation believes more education and awareness is in order.
The foundation recently announced the six recipients of its 2014 Writer's Award and one of the winners, Danielle Jones-Pruett, plans to use the $30,000 prize money to conduct research for a book of poetry she's writing that will tell the story of Monsanto's decades-long pollution and cover-up in the Anniston, Alabama area.
But before we examine Jones-Pruett's plans, let's first take a look at the Rona Jaffe Foundation. Author Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) established The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Awards program in 1995. According to its site, "It is the only national literary awards program of its kind dedicated to supporting women writers exclusively." Since the program began, the Foundation has awarded nearly $2 million to emergent women writers.
Perhaps the Huffington Post said it best: "For upcoming female writers, the Rona Jaffe Foundation is a bit like the Nobel Prize Committee."
It isn't difficult to see why Jones-Pruett's work resonated with the foundation's selection committee. First, her approach underscores an interesting twist on "art as activism." There have been no shortage of anti-Monstanto protests across the previous 20 years. Jones-Pruett's approach, however, examines Monstanto's crimes through a different, and more subtle, lens. Jones-Pruett notes the poems, "won’t hit you over the head." Rather, she plans to tell the story through the life of a young girl and her family.
Additionally, Jones-Pruett comes at Monsanto from the perspective of a native Alabaman who has seen first-hand the havoc that Monsanto has inflicted, particularly among poorer communities. "The Annistonians most heavily affected by the pollution were the poorest in the county," Pruett noted, "and because of their socio-economic class they had the least amount of voice."
In addition to Ms. Jones-Pruett, the other 2014 winners include Olivia Clare, Karen Hays, T. L. Khleif, Mara Naselli, and Solmaz Sharif.