Photo by Markus Distelrath from Pexels
When the Cuyahoga River famously burned, Mayor Carl Stokes effectively launched our modern environmental movement.
In the wake of racial violence, Black Lives Matter sparked social protests, bringing awareness to injustice.
When faced with fierce voter suppression tactics, Stacey Abrams led the charge to engage and enfranchise communities of color in Georgia.
Time and time again, Black leaders and activists have stepped up to the challenge to ensure that our political institutions live up to the ideals of democratic process for all people.
We face a similar challenge here in Ohio, as our state legislature frequently fails to represent the will of the people. Compounded by a vicious cycle of income inequality and negative health impacts, historic injustices make it difficult for members of our community to engage fully in the everyday operations of a government compromised by extreme partisanship and corporate interest.
The result? Legislation like the scandal-ridden House Bill 6 that threatens our health and hurts our pocketbooks.
Last summer, shocking allegations tied the biggest public corruption scandal in Ohio history to the passage of this bad legislation. The lack of transparency and accountability, however, is nothing new.
Over the past year, the pandemic and social protests have only highlighted the disparities. Policies such as House Bill 6 disproportionately affect communities of color, already negatively impacted by pollution, climate change, and lack of access to quality greenspace. These policies rob communities of opportunities to forge their own paths forward in terms of clean energy, generating jobs, stimulating local economies, and creating healthy and safe places to live.
We need to demand action and do so with one voice. House Bill 6 must be replaced with “just” policies that care for and support communities while transitioning from the old way of doing business. We need policies that are built around an energy economy that empowers rather than exploits and harms, communities.
It’s time for our state lawmakers to listen to the will of the people. It’s time to restore trust in the legislative process.
Organizations such as the Black Environmental Leaders—which represents about 20 organizations—create a safe space for multigenerational environmental leaders in the Black, Indigenous and people of color communities to grow and inform communities on what matters impact them the most. Together, we can organize, advocate, and demand action. We hope you will join us in demanding action on the repeal of House Bill 6 and the creation of a healthier and more just future.
SeMia Bray, Jacqueline Gillon, David Wilson
Black Environmental Leaders