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COMMENTARY: Start Earlier-Child Care

THE AFRO — Imagine the fear and anger you would experience upon hearing from your child care provider that your child has been exposed to toxic chemicals. Over ten years ago, this was the reality for hundreds of parents in the New Jersey metropolitan area as they received news that their children were exposed to toxic mercury vapors 30-50 times beyond acceptable limits.

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By Chelsea Neil

Imagine the fear and anger you would experience upon hearing from your child care provider that your child has been exposed to toxic chemicals. Over ten years ago, this was the reality for hundreds of parents in the New Jersey metropolitan area as they received news that their children were exposed to toxic mercury vapors 30-50 times beyond acceptable limits.

The New Jersey mercury exposure accident was a nightmare that exposed how America’s children are vulnerable to harmful environmental exposures in early learning facilities.. Although, the buzz around the accident has disintegrated, the environmental health of children remains an alarming issue. Poor drinking water and air quality are among the most prevalent environmental hazards found in child care facilities throughout the United States.

Even though, safe and healthy K-12 environments are critical to student’s health and academic performance, early childhood education facilities deserve equal if not more attention. Child care facilities serve approximately 11 million of the youngest and most vulnerable children for more than 40 hours a week. The developing minds and bodies of young children make them uniquely susceptible to harmful chemical exposure. No amount of exposure is optimal for healthy brain and physical development.

New Jersey parents affected by the accident still live in fear that their children will develop learning disabilities, cancer, autism, and obesity; all consequences of toxic chemical exposure. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the effects of toxic chemical exposure are not necessarily immediate nevertheless they are life long and egregious.

Maryland and New Jersey schools and daycare facilities are among five other states that received an “average” grade in the Get the Lead Out public policy initiative. Only the District of Columbia and Illinois ranked “above average” leaving approximately 43 states in the failing category. This is more than disheartening.

The lack of state and federal oversight compromises the environmental health of children in child care settings.   Many local and federal enforcement agencies do not require child care facilities to conduct in-depth environmental hazards testing, like sampling the drinking water for lead  or indoor air for radon . Child care licensing regulations primarily focus on hand washing or concealment of cleaning supplies. Generally, child care facilities are inspected based on zoning laws rather than its location in proximity to potential environmental hazards. There are no comprehensive, mandated  environmental health  best practices for child care facilities at the state or federal level, which  creates disparities in early childhood education.

Fortunately, there is hope– families can have quality, cost-effective and eco-friendly child care by seeking out child care providers who are endorsed by the Eco-Healthy Child Care(r) (EHCC) program. EHCC is an organization that works with child care facilities to reduce environmental hazards found in early learning environments–hazards like lead in drinking water, pesticides and unsafe plastics.  EHCC endorses child care providers who meet 24 out of 30 best practices found on the EHCC checklist (https://cehn.org/our-work/eco-healthy-child-care/ehcc-checklists/). The EHCC program supports, educates and equips child care providers and parents with the necessary tools, to build and maintain an eco-friendly environment that is conducive to positive child health outcomes.

On National Healthy Schools Day, we would like to thank the  Eco-Healthy Child Care(r) endorsed child care facilities and providers for their outstanding commitment to eco-friendly child care environments. We urge child care professionals and policymakers across America to prioritize the environmental health of all children and to make early learning environments as safe and healthy as possible.

Chelsea Neil is a graduate student at Wilmington University College of Social and Behavioral Sciences pursuing a master’s in Applied Family Science. She is an Intern at The Children’s Environmental Health Network.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Activism

Sheriff’s Deputies Skate with Marin City Youth

Sgt. Scotto and Deputy Gasparini, two officers from the Marin County Probation Department, came to interact with the youths and help them learn to skate and play basketball. Sharika Gregory, who hosted the event, really appreciates how Scotto and Gasparini interacted with the kids and said that it made a great difference.

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Top: Scotto lifting Aria, 7, so she can make her basketball shot. Middle: Sgt. Scotto and Dep. Gasparini of the Marin County Probation Department. Bottom: Scotto playing limbo. (Photos by Godfrey Lee)
Top: Scotto lifting Aria, 7, so she can make her basketball shot. Middle: Sgt. Scotto and Dep. Gasparini of the Marin County Probation Department. Bottom: Scotto playing limbo. (Photos by Godfrey Lee)

By Godfrey Lee

The Father’s Day Skating event on Sunday, June 12, at the Golden Gate Village’s Basketball Court in Marin City was a successful event that contributed positively to the relationship between the Marin County Sheriff’s Department and the Marin City community and helped some of the children get to know the officers.

Sgt. Scotto and Deputy Gasparini, two officers from the Marin County Probation Department, came to interact with the youths and help them learn to skate and play basketball. Sharika Gregory, who hosted the event, really appreciates how Scotto and Gasparini interacted with the kids and said that it made a great difference.

During the event, Scotto helped lift Aria, a 7-year-old girl, so she could make a basketball shot into the basket. Later Scotto played limbo with the children and tried his best to go under the rope.

The community generously contributed to the skating event. The Corte Madera Safeway and Costco donated the food. The Costco in Novato gave the skates. The Target in Marin City and the Marin County Probation Department also gave skates and gift cards.

Rev. Stephanie Ryder and the Redwood Presbyterian Church in Larkspur, also donated money to help to buy more skates for the events.

Gregory said that this was a very wholesome event for the community and will continue to host similar events in the future.

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Activism

Advocates Pressure Gov. Newsom to Fund Health Equity, Racial Justice in Final Budget

“Our state boasts a staggering $97 billion budget surplus,” said Ron Coleman, managing director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “If not now, when? Given the devastating impact of racism on the health and well-being of Californians of color it’s a travesty of the highest order that racial justice isn’t even mentioned in the Governor’s budget proposal,”

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Attendees were encouraged to contact the governor’s office and the Legislature to keep the pressure on them to include the fund.
Attendees were encouraged to contact the governor’s office and the Legislature to keep the pressure on them to include the fund.

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media

On June 8, community leaders, public health advocates and racial justice groups convened for a virtual press event to urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to support the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund (HERJ Fund).

The initiative supports community-based organizations addressing the underlying social, environmental and economic factors that limit people’s opportunities to be healthy — such as poverty, violence and trauma, environmental hazards, and access to affordable housing and healthy food. Health advocates would also address longstanding California problems related to health equity and racial justice problems.

The fund cleared a significant hurdle last week when the state Legislature included $75 million in their joint budget proposal. This means both the Assembly and Senate support the HERJ Fund and they will go into negotiations with the governor to seek his support to approve it.

“Our state boasts a staggering $97 billion budget surplus,” said Ron Coleman, managing director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “If not now, when? Given the devastating impact of racism on the health and well-being of Californians of color it’s a travesty of the highest order that racial justice isn’t even mentioned in the Governor’s budget proposal,”

Last Wednesday’s virtual community meeting and press event capped off a series of rallies held by supporters in cities across the state calling on Newsom to make room in his budget for the HERJ Fund.

Coleman facilitated the online event featuring representatives from service organizations speaking about their support for the fund and presenting plans for how the money would be used to support their shared mission of providing services to minority and underserved communities in California.

Jenedra Sykes, a partner at Arboreta Group, spoke about inequalities that exist in funding for smaller grassroots nonprofits and how traditionally larger, white-led nonprofits use state funds to subcontract with grassroots nonprofits to provide services to communities of color at lower costs.

“The faith-based non-profits on the ground have the relationships, the access to those who are most vulnerable and marginalized among us who disproportionately have poorer health outcomes,” said Sykes. “This bill also evens the playing field a bit. Instead of going through the middleman of the established larger non-profits, funding will go directly to the people who are doing the work. The passion, the heart, the skills, the talents are there. It’s about the resources to fund these talents”

Coleman gave attendees an update on the status of the HERJ Fund’s path to inclusion in the state budget.

Now that the state Legislature has included the fund in their spending proposal for Fiscal Year 2022-23 (it was not included in Newsom’s “May Revise”), it must survive negotiations with the governor’s office before the June 15 deadline to finalize the budget.

A final budget needs to be in place by June 30, the last day for the governor to approve.

HERJ Fund supporters remain hopeful that funding for their program will be included in the final budget.

Updated mechanisms about the budget were added to the HERJ Fund’s proposal to alleviate those concerns and supporters of the fund believe that Newsom is out of excuses.

“Our best shot at getting the HERJ Fund in the budget is now. We are hoping that all of you will keep the pressure on the governor to ensure that this becomes a reality,” Coleman said. “If he does care about the intersections of health equity and racial justice then we will see funding.”

Attendees were encouraged to contact the governor’s office and the Legislature to keep the pressure on them to include the fund. You can visit herjfund.org to learn more about the proposal and the effort to include it in the state budget.

Nadia Kean-Ayub, executive director of Rainbow Spaces, shared details about the valuable events and services community-based non-profits provide. She said there is no shortage of families in need who want to participate in their organizations’ programs but, due to limited funding for transportation, many people never access services meant to help them.

“This tells me that when things are created in our communities, they are not making the impact we need in our Black, Brown and API communities,” Kean-Ayub said. “I will continue to fight. To really make this grow, we need the state to understand that the true impact comes from the community and the people who are living these issues and who know how to help them.”

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Bay Area

WCCCSB Member Mister Phillips Announces Run for Richmond Mayor

Attorney and West Contra Costa County School Board member Mister Phillips is a fourth-generation Richmond resident and the son of two law enforcement officers, Tommie and Cynthia Phillips. Tommie was a lieutenant at the Richmond Police Department. Cynthia was a deputy at the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office.

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Mister Phillips, a West Contra Costa School Board member, ran unopposed in the last election. Photo by Buddy Terry.
Mister Phillips, a West Contra Costa School Board member, ran unopposed in the last election. Photo by Buddy Terry.

By Shantina Jackson-Romero

Attorney and West Contra Costa County School Board member Mister Phillips has filed initial papers to run for mayor of Richmond, CA, in November.

Phillips said that he is running, because he believes that “the city is heading in the wrong direction.” According to the Bay Area Council, “A record 64 percent of residents say the Bay Area is headed in the wrong direction, a 14-point jump over the previous year and the highest level of dissatisfaction since the poll began in 2014.”

Phillips envisions “a community with clean and safe streets, great schools, livable wages, affordable housing, and quality parks and recreation for all,” according to his website.

Phillips is a fourth-generation Richmond resident and the son of two law enforcement officers, Tommie and Cynthia Phillips. Tommie was a lieutenant at the Richmond Police Department. Cynthia was a deputy at the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office.

Phillips, age 44, is a two-term member of the West Contra Costa County School Board and a three-term member of the Democratic Party County Central Committee. A former Naval Reserve officer, Phillips has been an attorney for 19 years and been in business for 17 years. He has been married to Angela Phillips, since 2010. They have four children. For more information, visit www.misterphillips.com.

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