21 Apr 2011
- Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
Official theme: “Earth Day 2011: A Billion Acts of Green” encourages people everywhere to take the time to do an act of environmental service and advocacy that will contribute to improving the quality of life for all living things on earth. That is a good achievable goal worthy of our support and involvement. With all the terrible climatic changes and related severe weather consequences of global warming and environmental damage to the world’s ego system, all people should take at least one day a year to assess how to make the world a better and a more healthier place to live.
A “Black American Earth Day” should be a day of solidarity with all people, but in particular with other people of color, who like black Americans are disproportionately exposed to environmental injustices and life-threatening pollutions and toxic hazards. These dangerous problems are local, statewide, regional, national and international. In Harlem, South Central Los Angeles, Southside Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, New Orleans, and in just about every other place in America where we reside, we find ourselves disproportionately with high rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases, multiple forms of cancer, and other sicknesses that are directly related to harmful exposure to environmental hazards in the air that we breathe, as well as in the water and food that we consume.
Let’s use Earth Day 2011 as an opportunity to raise more awareness in our communities about the importance of environmental concerns and issues. We have to connect the dots. The health of our communities is impacted by the environment of our communities. Did you know that many of the growing lists of so-called “learning disabilities” that affect too many of the children in the black American community may be environmentally related to exposures from lead poisoning and other toxic substances laced in many of our neighborhoods? The overall quality of life in Black America can be and should be improved if we all become more conscious and involved with understanding the importance of demanding and adhering to environmental justice.
Over the years, Earth Day has grown into a worldwide observance and celebration. In the early 1980’s, the Environmental Justice Movement began to be evolved, led by African Americans in North Carolina and in other states who saw the vital necessity to stand up and speak out against the growing evidence of environmental racism and injustice.
There should, in fact, be a sense of urgency in 2011. With all the budget cutbacks at the local, state and federal levels, the last thing that we need is for African Americans to become more exposed to environmental hazards because of the lack of funding or from the cutting of budgets in the areas of public health and environmental protection.
I am optimistic because the hip-hop community appears to be more environmentally conscious as youth activists are raising their voices in support of Earth Day activities. In the South Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop culture, one of the most effective grassroots environmental groups is named “Sustainable South Bronx” led by young community leader, Majora Carter.
On “Greening The Ghetto,” Carter said innovatively, “Say it loud, I’m black, green and proud!” We need more conscious and active leadership like Sister Carter. Let’s celebrate Earth Day! Let’s make it “A Black American Earth Day!”
(NNPA columnist Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is Senior Advisor for the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Education Online Services Corporation.)