Turing Earth Day Black!

Environmental Injustices Affecting The Black Community and Earth Day

You think of Earth Day and you think of white folks planting trees and other such fluff. What you need to know is that African Americans, especially those of us in the highly populated areas of Mother Earth are the ones who need to be vigilant about Earth Day, every day!

What Is Earth Day?

Short version…April 22, 1970, Gaylord Nelson-Governor of Wisconsin declared Earth Day, a way to call the nation’s attention to the issues of Earth and our need to be better caretakers of it.

This year’s theme is “A Billion Acts of Green.”


“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.”

 Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

There are many reports that link the food we eat to the ever changing hormonal imbalance our young girls especially, are facing. PMS (Premenstrual Symptoms) or worse PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), cause ongoing depression, anger and rage, difficulty concentrating, overeating, and fatigue to name a few. You may also notice that our young girls are bigger and “curvier” than ever before. How many times have you walked passed a young woman and noticed that she is built like a full grown woman? This has also been linked to the hormones found in our food and water supplies that can cause lifelong imbalances in all of us.

Think of all the toxins farm animals are injected with and that our fresh produce is really jacked up with hormones to make it bigger, grow faster, and be more appealing to the eye. We are poisoning ourselves while we think we are eating healthy. In fact some of our produce and bottled water is as cancer causing as a lit cigarette! We read about lead poisoning and our water supply and the connections to cancer every day!

We can’t even swim in Lake Michigan but yet we are exposed to its effects every day. As soon as it gets warm where do we all head? You really want to know what MMSD has swimming around in those “overflows” and sewage dumping that we keep side stepping?

What are we as a community doing to ward off some of the toxins we are exposed to especially in big metropolises like Milwaukee? Earth Day is OUR chance to remind the entire community about the need to be good stewards of our planet. It is not a white issue at all. It is definitely a black issue as well. It’s an “everybody” issue! We all need to work together to begin making our urban areas safer.

Another case-in-point for you:

“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 maybe environmentally related to exposures from lead poisoning and other toxic substances laced in many of our neighborhoods?”

 Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

This is indeed scary! Is it any wonder why our kids are falling so far behind? If they live and breathe toxins every day and can’t focus, how can we expect anyone to teach them anything?

So How Do We Make Earth Day Black?

Taking Earth Day and making it Black must remain a priority issue for us. It does not have to be trivial, stupid, or a labor of wasted time. In fact families can use the time to do something useful and unifying like planting that tree or starting a garden, or cleaning up. When is the last time you saw a young person walking around your neighborhood with trash bags and gloves and repairing the damage some of their friends cause? How many people do we see littering all over the place but we keep on walking and think what a horrible person?

Do you talk to your kids or young people, or even talk to some of us “adults” about how we livin’? Does the inner city have to look like one big garbage can filled with trash and blight everywhere? Can we unite to call our mayor and aldermen to find grant money to spruce up that abandoned building we all know is sitting there, over a decade, with no promise of anything to come? Can we petition for a park or a place for us to begin gardening or co-ops? We have grants for everything else under the sun! We can use this day to teach our youth that they are not just responsible for themselves, but teach them that they are global citizens. What happens in Japan happens in our backyards too! This is a good time to build community and remind ourselves of our pledge to Kwanzaa the seven guiding principles that should be worked on every day of our lives.

If you are looking for event s in your area, please visit “earthday.org”

And let us not forget to send a shout out to Growing Power a nonprofit entity with an emphasis on this African American community which helps people grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner. They did just receive a major grant to help move them and us forward. We need to see more of this kind of “out of the box” thinking in this city!!

Please support them in this major undertaking!


More about African American Environmental Efforts Can Be Found Here:

The Grio


I leave you with some statistics to help us all understand the damage of Asthma because we all know someone with it. It is one of the largest infiltrators of the Milwaukee African American yet we have some power to change its destructive course if we start to focus on Earth Day and its immediate impacts on our community in particular. Over 3 million African Americans have Asthma and we are 3 times more likely to die from it. Asthma thrives in large part because of our quality of life, or lack thereof.

Peace Family,


Asthma and African Americans

• In 2009, about 2,380,000 African Americans reported that they currently have asthma.

• African American women were 30% more likely to have asthma than non-Hispanic White women, from 2001-2003.

• In 2006, African Americans were three times more likely to die from asthma related causes than the White population.

• From 2003-2005, African American children had a death rate 7 times that of non-Hispanic White children.

• African Americans had asthma-related emergency room visits 4.5 times more often than Whites in 2004.

• Black children have a 260% higher emergency department visit rate, a 250% higher hospitalization rate, and a 500% higher death rate from asthma, as compared with White children.

• Children in poor families are more likely to ever have been diagnosed with asthma.



African Americans & Asthma

African Americans have the highest asthma prevalence of any racial/ethnic group. The current asthma prevalence rate among Blacks was 38 percent higher than that for Whites. African Americans account for 26 percent of the 4,200 deaths attributed to asthma in 2001. African Americans were three times more likely to die from asthma than Whites.



A Black American Earth Day

By Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., NNPA Columnist



Top 10 Environmental Issues Affecting Urban America

By Talia Whyte



Earth Day turns 40 this year, but many African-Americans have never seen environmentalism as a priority until recently. With Van Jones and Majora Carter becoming household names, green is now the new black. Here is a list of 10 environmental justice issues affecting the black community that should be given full attention by all Americans.

1. Air pollution

Air pollution is a serious problem in communities of color, as poor air quality can contribute to a host of health problems.

2. Industrial Sites and Illegal Waste Dumping

Most communities of color live near power plants, oil refineries or waste management facilities. Industrial waste that is not disposed of appropriately (or legally) can get into the water system and land used for housing and agriculture.. Improper waste dumping creates a host of health problems, ranging from asthma to lung cancer.

3. Mercury Exposure

Fish is an important source of animal proteins and other nutrients, but it can also contain a high percentage of mercury emissions generally from incinerators, coal-burning power plants and other industrial sites, which can have a devastating effect on people of color.

4. Water Safety

Water is considered a fundamental human right, but many communities of color lack safe drinking water, swim near waste-contaminated beaches and live near polluted flood waters.

5. Transit Justice

Public transit is used at a higher rate by more people of color and low income communities than whites.

6. Food deserts

Communities of color are more likely to live in “food deserts” — areas where communities lack access to supermarkets and other sources of affordable, nutritious foods necessary for maintaining a healthy diet. Food deserts play a major role in poor health and environmental degradation.

7. Urban Green Space

As more skyscrapers and industries find homes in urban areas, less green space becomes available, especially for communities of color.

8. Lead poisoning

Lead poisoning is possible the most damaging environmental injustice.

9. Climate Change and Basic Living

The growing climate change problem means that people of color and low income communities will soon have to pay more for basic necessities.

10. Heat in the City

Since most people of color live in inner cities, they are twice as likely to die in a heat wave, and suffer from more heat-related stress and illnesses.