A few weeks ago, I proudly joined the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) because I fundamentally believe economic, racial, and social justice are inextricably tied to climate justice. Tackling climate justice while centering marginalized voices, especially Black people, to the forefront of the movement serves as a huge opportunity to bring proven solutions to addressing the root problems of our society.
This month, CLCV proudly commemorates Black History Month.
From the important contributions of African-Americans in the environmental movement to being a frontline community deeply impacted by the climate chaos of our time, Black History Month should matter to all environmental leaders and activists, particularly those who wish to advance environmental equity for all. Here’s why:
Black History Month presents an opportunity for praxis: reflection in action.
As I reflect this month, I ponder on my own experience as a Black San Francisco native growing up in the Bayview - Hunter’s Point neighborhood, a frontline community with its own history of environmental racism and displacement of Black communities. Needless to say, I grew up with a community dealing with the grave impact of air pollution, housing instability, and incarceration. Unfortunately, Black people have dealt with these issues for centuries, but the time for change is now.
I joined CLCV knowing well the uphill fight we have in order to win. Understanding where I’ve come from and those who have come before me fighting for justice inspires me today to take action.
Today, people of all ages, races, and genders are fighting for a better and cleaner future. Black History Month reminds us no matter what background you come from, now is the time to reflect on where we’ve come, to envision what’s possible, and to take action now.
Every community deserves clean water and air, especially the Black community.
As California leads the nation on climate action, we must not neglect Black communities at the center of the grave climate crisis. It’s 2019, and there are nearly 1 million Californians without access to safe, clean drinking water. It may come as no surprise that many of these vulnerable communities happen to be African American, right next to our Latino brothers and sisters.
Moreover, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, African-Americans are subjected to higher levels of pollution resulting in health-threatening conditions, including lung disease, heart disease and even premature death. If that’s not convincing enough, a recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists cited African Americans and Latinos in California breathe 40 percent more air pollution than our white counterparts.
We must call this what it is: environmental racism. This month is our chance to take a stand against this injustice. Our families and children deserve better. Renewable energy and technology is essential to improving air quality.
Momentum for the Green New Deal is building. There’s no better time than now to center issues of African-Americans in the vision of a Green New Deal.
The Green New Deal is the latest approach to stimulating our nation’s economy and addressing our climate crisis by providing green jobs and setting a pathway to meet a 100% renewable energy standard.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently released the resolution to spark action in Congress and the media has been friendly to the legislation. Solar access, employment and water justice are just some of the issues the Green New Deal aims to address - all issues around which African-Americans experience a disparate impact.
The environmental movement depends on a broad base of Black people, people of color, and marginalized communities whose voices should be heard, and the Green New Deal empowers those impacted most in the legislation. Using our power during such a historic month in support of a Green New Deal can be the driving force to its passage and paying homage those who have worked so hard to get us to this point.
Our time to demonstrate what’s possible is now - during Black History Month.
This month is a time for us all to celebrate the benevolent past, present, and future contributions of African-Americans. Black History Month reminds all of us - Black, Latino, Asian, and our allies - that we have a renewed chance to build our collective strength and combat the dangerous, climate-denial policies that permeate throughout the nation.
If we truly want to grow our movement and address our urgent climate crisis, it’s imperative that we celebrate the history and contributions of African-Americans. We would be remiss if we did not bridge the connection between our emerging movement and this historic month. We encourage CLCV members to join together with the Black community in commemorating this month and sharing your story of why this month is important to our people-powered movement.
Be sure to tag us on social media, and we’ll be sure to share your stories.
Happy Black History Month to everyone!
Devin Murphy is CLCV's Digital Communications and Technology Manager. You can follow him on Twitter here.