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Environmental Justice Advocates Say Climate Change isn’t a ‘White Thing’

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Far too often it is our communities – Black and Brown communities – that are not prepared enough, resilient enough, or adaptive enough when climate disasters hit,” Mabson said. “We look at the devastating impacts from Hurricane Katrina, and more recently Hurricane’s Maria, Harvey, and Dorian, and we see communities that look like ours, nearly destroyed,” said Michelle Mabson, a staff scientist for the Healthy Communities Program at Earthjustice.

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It is critical that African American, if they aren't already, become aware of all of the ways climate change shows up in their lives.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The climate crisis is real.

From the devastating of extreme weather events made worse by climate change to the public health implications of increased pollution like heightened asthma attacks, communities are feeling the impacts of this crisis first and worst.

Experts said real solutions to the climate crisis is needed now to protect the long-term well-being of communities, and for future generations.

“With the Trump administration rolling back environmental and public health safeguards, I am deeply concerned that we are running out of time to do something about this crisis,” said Dana Swinney, a New York-based public relations expert who works with several green organizations across the country.

Information provided by Swinney’s firm noted additional climate crisis health impacts on African Americans, including:

  • Number of African Americans that report having asthma: 2.6 million
  • Black children are 4.5 times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than white children
  • Black children are ten times more likely to die from asthma than white children.
  • The increased health burden of particulate air pollution on African Americans compared to the American population overall: 54 percent
  • Sixty-eight percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant.
  • 7 million African Americans live within a county that is home to a refinery.

“There is a familiar phrase that goes something like this: if you’re not at the table then you’re on the menu,” said Michelle Mabson, a staff scientist for the Healthy Communities Program at Earthjustice.

Mabson is also a volunteer chief advocacy officer for Black Millennials for Flint.

“Far too often it is our communities – Black and Brown communities – that are not prepared enough, resilient enough, or adaptive enough when climate disasters hit,” Mabson said.

“We look at the devastating impacts from Hurricane Katrina, and more recently Hurricane’s Maria, Harvey, and Dorian, and we see communities that look like ours, nearly destroyed,” she said.

“It is imperative for us to be at the table when decisions, like rebuilding and increasing adaptive community capacity, are discussed so we can get the resources we need to be prepared for the impacts from the next storm. Make no mistake, the next one is on its way, and we can no longer afford to react once it’s here – we’ve got to be prepared,” Mabson said.

African Americans must heavily engage in climate justice and environmental conversation taking place globally, said Heather McTeer Toney, the national field director at Mom Clean Airforce.

More than half of the African American population live in the south, where they’re four times more likely to be hit with catastrophic flood, hurricane or other extreme weather-related event, Toney said.

“As the impacts of climate change increase, more and more of our communities are devastated. Moreover, An NAACP study found that African American communities are subjected to air that is 40 percent more polluted than other communities,” Toney said.

“When combined with the health impacts such as asthma, cancer, and heart disease; addressing the climate crisis is vital to our continued existence and protection of our children’s future,” she said.

Toney added that it’s not too late to act.

“Climate action is the social justice movement of our time. African-Americans should demand action from state, local and federal leaders on climate action now,” Toney said.

“We must support 100 percent clean energy and require equity in policy that promotes a clean energy economy. We prepare for extreme weather emergencies by working with our churches and community organization to develop action plans for severe weather events,” she said.

Further, “we must talk about ways to become more resilient and sustainable in our home, churches, and schools. We must vote often and always for candidates that talk about climate action now. Our voices are necessary for this movement, and together we can ensure climate safety for generations to come,” Toney said.

Kim Noble, the director of operations for Green The Church, said environmental justice touches on many issues, including climate, the economy, health, social, and racial injustices.

African Americans learned about racism and injustices at an early age, and some know what being marginalized feels like, Noble said.

“We have folks in environmental justice communities that feel that way every day,” she said.

“When we’re having conversations about the environment, climate change, pollution, and climate policy, we have to include the people who are most impacted – our black and brown families,” Noble said.

“For far too long, our communities have been on the receiving end of the devastating impacts of climate change and pollution. For example, our communities tend to live near power plants and other types of polluting plants which emit toxic air into the environment. These are making our families sick,” she said.

Noble continued:

“It’s not that our communities are looking for homes located near power plants, but rather it’s a regular practice to place dirty emitters into communities of color and often in neighborhoods where low-income families live.

“That’s not fair. As a nation, we can do better. We know those clean energy solutions work. We need climate policy that supports 100 percent clean energy and cleans up the air so we can breathe. We also need policy that leads to good green jobs in our communities.”

The current election cycle is crucial for several reasons, said Kerene N. Tayloe, an environmental justice and clean energy solutions advocate for WE ACT.

The election presents a great chance to mobilize votes for candidates who are not climate deniers and understand the need to address environmental justice, she said.

“We must become active at the local level where so many decisions about land development and water infrastructure, for instance, are decided,” Tayloe said.

“We should also be keenly aware of how the demand for energy efficiency, renewable and clean energy can create jobs right in our communities. We must lead in the creation of solutions to ensure that the benefits flow creating opportunities for economic development.”

Tayloe said caring about the climate is not a “white thing.”

It is critical that African American, if they aren’t already, become aware of all of the ways climate change shows up in their lives, she said.

“Those record hurricanes, storms, flooding, extreme heat, and bitterly cold days that we are experiencing are because of climate change. In addition to climate change, for far too long black and brown communities have been the sacrifice zones for wealthier and frankly whiter communities,” Tayloe said.

“It is not a coincidence that our communities are disproportionately the location of dangerous toxic facilities and are adjacent to the busiest highways. All of these systemic problems impact our health, our property value, and the ability to gain economic independence,” she said.

#NNPA BlackPress

PRESS ROOM: First Book, an Innovative Leader in Education Equity, Releases Groundbreaking Research Illustrating the Impact of COVID-19 on Emotional Wellness of Students in Underserved Communities

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Collaborating with First Book to provide educators with evidence-informed activities and curriculum is one more step forward in making sure they feel more prepared to support their students,” said Ariana Hoet, Ph.D., clinical director of On Our Sleeves and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Educators have been on the frontline supporting children’s mental health before and throughout the pandemic with limited resources. We know the pandemic has exacerbated worries around children’s mental health, so this need is even more crucial than ever.”

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Nearly One Thousand Educators Participated; Report that over half (53%) of the students they serve struggle with their mental health

WASHINGTON, First Book, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring education equity for children living in poverty, today announced the results of a national survey designed to identify emotional wellness challenges faced by school-age children. In addition to reinforcing earlier findings regarding the devastating mental health effects of COVID-19, this survey shed new light on the severity of this impact — especially in communities of need. It also established that emotional wellness issues have become a significant barrier to education for many students who attend schools in these communities – a majority of whom are children of color. Pediatric psychologists from Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s On Our Sleeves movement for children’s mental health partnered with First Book to offer a clinical perspective on survey questions and process.

In the new survey findings, educators report that 53 percent of the students they serve struggle with their mental health and only 20 percent of educators feel prepared to support the mental well-being of their students. Of significant concern, 98 percent of educators say mental health challenges act as a barrier to children’s education. And notably, educators are facing their own mental health challenges. Student mental wellness issues have a ripple effect on educators who feel helpless and unsupported.

“Educators across the country are speaking out about the urgency of the mental wellness issues that their students are facing, how they don’t feel prepared to address the issues, and how those issues act as a barrier to learning. Based on what we’re hearing from our Network of educators, this is truly a crisis,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO, First Book. “First Book is committed to supporting low-income communities that have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic and the data revealed in this survey is guiding us in providing educators with high-quality, research-driven tools to nurture emotional wellness and develop healthy habits that prepare students to not only learn but thrive.”

On an ongoing basis First Book solicits input from its Network of more than 525,000 educators – all of whom serve children in need – to enable the organization to directly address the needs of practitioners and the children they serve. Mental wellness was spotlighted as a critical problem exacerbated by COVID-19, leading the organization to design focus groups and a survey to better understand the magnitude and scope of the issue, as well as what is needed to address this barrier to education. Nearly 1,000 educators responded to the survey providing startling data. The results provided a framework for the resource, which is now available, entitled: Taking Care: An Educator Guide to Healthy Habits for Student Emotional Wellness, a free resource created in collaboration with On Our Sleeves. The resource and study are now available through First Book.

“Collaborating with First Book to provide educators with evidence-informed activities and curriculum is one more step forward in making sure they feel more prepared to support their students,” said Ariana Hoet, Ph.D., clinical director of On Our Sleeves and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Educators have been on the frontline supporting children’s mental health before and throughout the pandemic with limited resources. We know the pandemic has exacerbated worries around children’s mental health, so this need is even more crucial than ever.”

According to the First Book study, the top three life circumstances or experiences that contribute to children’s mental health challenges are 1) unstable or difficult home life; 2) hunger/food insecurity and 3) isolation due to Covid-19. Because these three factors often intersect as children grapple with returning to normalcy post-pandemic, the resources First Book provides to educators are essential tools for helping them become better equipped to aid students who are still dealing with the effects of Covid-related depression, trauma, loneliness, and loss.

First Book’s findings are particularly relevant given recent warnings issued by professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association. These groups have declared a national emergency in children’s mental health and have noted that psychological strains, made worse over the past few years by pandemic-associated isolation, anxiety, fear, and grief, have caused a crisis in several societal sectors including education. They also emphasize that children in communities of color have been disproportionately impacted due to previously unresolved inequities linked to structural racism.

Additional key findings in First Book’s survey include:

  • 72% of educators say the pandemic has introduced new mental health challenges among students/children;
  • 65% of educators report the pandemic has exacerbated the existing mental health challenges students already faced;
  • 80% of educators believe gaining access to mental health support is a high or emergency priority in relation to students’ overall needs at this time;
  • 98% of educators say mental health challenges act as a barrier to children’s education;
  • 93% of educators became aware that a student was struggling with mental health issues due to a noticeable change in behavior;
  • 92% of educators indicated they are very or extremely interested in accessing support resources focused on promoting the general mental health and well-being of all students;
  • 51% of educators report that a student’s race/racial identity is relevant to their mental health;
  • 68% of respondents indicate that they take a child’s race and/or culture into consideration when supporting their mental well-being (e.g. observe family/cultural norms, design a culturally inclusive curriculum, and foster open and trusting relationships with their students);
  • 74% of educators are very or extremely interested in accessing support resources to help them approach mental health challenges related to race, identity, and intersectionality;
  • Older children reportedly struggle more than younger children. Educators serving middle and high school students estimate that 59% and 60% (respectively) of the students they serve struggle with mental health, while early childhood and elementary educators estimate 50% and 52% (respectively) of their students struggle.  This compares to the general population at 53%;
  • Educators in urban and suburban communities consider addressing mental health as a stronger priority (83% high/emergency priority) vs. their rural counterparts (75% high/emergency priority).

About First Book

Founded in Washington, D.C., in 1992 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise, First Book is a leader in the educational equity field. Over its 29-year history, First Book has distributed more than 200 million books and educational resources, with a retail value of more than $2 billion. First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by providing its Network of more than 525,000 registered teachers, librarians, after school program leaders, and others serving children in need with millions of free and affordable new, high-quality books, educational resources, and basic needs items through the award-winning First Book Marketplace nonprofit eCommerce site. The First Book Network comprises the largest and fastest-growing community of formal and informal educators serving children in need.

First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator, which brings best-in-class research-based strategies to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources. First Book Impact Funds target support to areas of need, such as rural communities or increasing diversity in children’s books. For more information about First Book, please visit http://www.firstbook.org.

About On Our Sleeves®

Children don’t wear their thoughts on their sleeves. With 1 in 5 children living with a significant mental health concern and half of all lifetime mental health concerns starting by age 14, we need to give them a voice. On Our Sleeves®, powered by behavioral health experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, aims to provide every community in America with free resources necessary for breaking child mental health stigmas and educating families and advocates, because no child or family should struggle alone.

Since the inception of On Our Sleeves® in 2018, more than 3 million people in every state across America have interacted with the movement’s free pediatric mental health educational resources at OnOurSleeves.org and educator curricula have reached more than four of five classrooms across the United States.

To schedule an interview with a spokesperson for First Book, please contact Ian Kenison at ikenison@firstbook.org.

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#NNPA BlackPress

Moore Brown: Maryland Set to Have Two Black Statewide Officials

NNPA NEWSWIRE — If they are elected, Maryland would be the first state to have two Black statewide officials. Wes Moore has caught lightning in a bottle. He has run ads that have been narrated by Oprah Winfrey and has captured the excitement of the moment in Maryland.

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By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

On July 19, Wes Moore and Congressman Anthony Brown won their primary contests to be Governor of Maryland and Attorney General.

Maryland is a deep blue state that currently has a moderate Republican Governor. It is expected that Moore and Brown will have a major advantage over their Republican competitors.

If they are elected, Maryland would be the first state to have two Black statewide officials. Wes Moore has caught lightning in a bottle. He has run ads that have been narrated by Oprah Winfrey and has captured the excitement of the moment in Maryland.

Moore’s main opponent was former DOJ Civil Rights chief and DNC Chair Tom Perez. Perez came in second to Moore. The results were 36 percent for Moore, 27 percent for Perez and 19 percent for Peter Franchot.

Wes Moore’s victory is verification that Black statewide candidates in states with over 20 percent of the Black vote can run and win strong campaigns.

Current Governor Larry Hogan has said publicly that he will not vote for the Republican nominee for Governor. That nominee, Dan Cox, is a supporter of Donald Trump.

“Dan Cox …is a QAnon whack job who was in favor of calling Mike Pence, my friend, a traitor, when they were talking about hanging him,” Hogan said at a news conference on July 19.

Attorney and former prosecutor Glenn Ivey defeated former Congresswoman Donna Edwards in a primary to replace Anthony Brown in Maryland’s 4th district. Ivey is all but certain to be elected to Congress in such a blue district.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent investigative journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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#NNPA BlackPress

DOJ Indicts Four Police Officers Who Allegedly Lied to Secure Search Warrants for Breonna Taylor’s Home

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home, as usual, on the morning of March 13, 2020. Tragically, she did not. She was just 26 years old. As Attorney General Garland just stated, today’s indictments allege that Louisville Police Detective Joshua Jaynes and Sergeant Kyle Meany drafted and approved what they knew was a false affidavit to support a search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home. That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor’s death when other LMPD officers executed that warrant,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke on August 4. 

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By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother, has long been insisting that Louisville police have never been at her daughter Breonna Taylor’s apartment on the night they shot her dead.

On August 4, the Department of Justice, led by the Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke, announced the indictments of four police officers who fatally shot Ms. Taylor during a nighttime raid on her apartment.

They asserted that the officers lied in order to get a search warrant for Taylor’s apartment.

The Justice Department announced that the indictments against the four current and former police officers would include federal charges of using “unconstitutionally excessive force.”

“Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home, as usual, on the morning of March 13, 2020. Tragically, she did not. She was just 26 years old. As Attorney General Garland just stated, today’s indictments allege that Louisville Police Detective Joshua Jaynes and Sergeant Kyle Meany drafted and approved what they knew was a false affidavit to support a search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home. That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor’s death when other LMPD officers executed that warrant,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke on August 4.

“The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution ensures that people are subject to searches only when there is probable cause supporting a search warrant. Falsified warrants create unnecessary hazards for the public and for the police, who rely on facts that fellow officers report in carrying out their public duties,” Clarke added.

“These charges focus on the conduct of the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Place-Based Investigations Unit. In the first indictment filed today, we allege that in early 2020, that unit was investigating suspected drug trafficking in the West End [area] of Louisville. On March 12, 2020, officers from that unit sought 5 search warrants they claimed were related to the suspected drug trafficking.  Four of those warrants targeted properties in the West End where that activity was allegedly occurring,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland before Clarke spoke.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent investigative journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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