The Descendants Project was founded to preserve and protect the health, land, and lives of the Black descendant community located in Louisiana’s River Parishes.
Co-Founder & Co-Director
Jo’s love for Louisiana was partly instilled by her grandparents, who passed down 10 generations of Louisiana folktales and history highlighting her Afro-Creole Heritage. The West African fables of Compere Lapin and Bouki, her grandparents' favorites, helped Jo develop a deep connection to tradition and a recognition of liberation through nature. Sparked by this connection, Jo utilizes both a Bachelors's and Master's degree in Communications to protect Louisiana’s people and its environment fiercely. Jo founded The Descendants Project, where she now channels her affection and knowledge into challenging systems, primarily legal systems that have exploited the descendants, such as herself, of those enslaved to plantations. She is now working to gain recognition of the burial grounds of the enslaved as sacred sites and aims to protect such sites and their communities from degradation, especially degradation caused by heavy industry. As a resident of Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, Jo champions environmental justice causes and is actively developing strategies to transform land slated for use by pollutant-causing industries into green spaces where communities like hers can thrive. She recently hosted the chair of the Committee on Natural Resources, Rep. Raul Grijalva, and his team on a tour of Cancer Alley and assisted his recent work on the Environmental Justice for All Act. Jo works with several industries, including entertainment and tourism, to develop job options outside the petrochemical industry. Jo knows the devastating effects of climate change by experiencing climate disasters, such as Hurricane Ida, which left her without electricity for weeks. She assisted her region in its storm recovery by collecting and distributing supplies, generators, and tarping roofs while managing her recovery. Through the Descendants Project, she is creating a cooling/power station for residents as they recover from the aftermath of hurricanes.
Dr. JOY BANNER Ph.D
Co-Founder & Co-Director
Dr. Joy Banner is Co-Founder and Co-Director of The Descendants Project, a nonprofit foundation committed to the liberation of the Black descendant community through the dismantling of inequitable and discriminatory economic, environmental, and social systems inherent in the violent legacies of slavery. After earning a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, she taught business communications, marketing, and entrepreneurship at the university level where she advanced to Chair of the Management program. Joy is a proud member of the local descendant community with rooted ancestry that can be traced to the 18th century. Thefolklore, narratives, and resourcefulness of her community elders and ancestors are the inspiration for the collective and collaborative philosophy of The Descendants Project, in service of the community’s health, wellness, and most importantly, happiness. As part of this work, Dr. Banner is on the front lines of the struggle against environmental racism in the form of petrochemical plants along Louisiana’s River Road, otherwise known as “Cancer Alley.” Dr. Banner is the former Director of Communications and descendant of people enslaved at Whitney Plantation, the only plantation museum in Louisiana that centers the lives of the enslaved. In her spare time, she enjoys writing screenplays, biking on the levee, and taking care of her fur baby, Louie.