Civil Rights and Climate Rights for Everyone
Posted April 4, 2013
On this day, as we enter into the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination I think back to how we acknowledged his life at my school. Every year in January, The Winsor School would have one Monday off to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., but instead of treating it as a regular holiday, my school dedicated considerable time to have a presentation commemorating MLK’s life that morning for whomever wanted to attend. This commemoration usually included a breakfast, and some type of performance such as a play, a choir performing, dancing or some original poetry. Each performance would represent cultural groups from around the world. You see, Winsor felt it was extremely pertinent to remind its students and their families that there was diversity in our school because of the hard work of Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to working for civil rights, not just for African-Americans, but for all Americans, so that we could one day work and live together in peace. Today marks the 45th anniversary of MLK’s assassination, and still there are those that carry on his legacy. Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus will be giving a speech entitled, “Beyond Fossil Fuels: A Time to Break the Silence.” He will be addressing the 1st Annual HBCU (Historically Black College and University) Student Conference on Climate Change, hosted by the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, held at Dillard University. This first conference is themed and titled: Bridging the Gap Between Climate Change Theory and Practice.
Many wonder how Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights activism and the climate change fight are connected. Let me be the first to say that the work of both MLK and Rev. Yearwood has a deep connection. According to the article by Cheryl Katz, People in Poor Neighborhoods Breathe More Hazardous Particles, many low income and minority neighborhoods are the most prevalent victims of environmental injustice. These neighborhoods are frequently subjected to power plants, high ways, and refineries which result in air pollution that cause serious health problems in these neighborhoods: “It’s a common scenario in cities nationwide: Due to high housing costs and historical discrimination, low-income and minority neighborhoods are clustered around industrial sites, truck routes, ports and other air pollution hotspots.” There is a clear connection between what MLK fought for, and what many around the world are fighting for right now.
Another quote from the article highlights that Martin Luther King Jr.’s work is not done and that our work against climate change now has a place within it: “Our question was: Are places that are more unequal disproportionately exposing communities of color more than other groups?” Morello-Frosch said. “The answer to that is ‘yes.’ Cities that are more segregated, you see higher pollution burdens for residents of color.” There is no better time for HBCUs to join together to make their voices heard in the climate change fight, as it is so relevant to our communities.
Just like the fight for civil rights, the fight against climate change is not just for one race or community. Both of these fights affect all of us, and should connect us in a unified front to get better treatment for all people and a healthier environment for all as well. Please tune in today at 6pm CST to watch Rev. Yearwood give an important speech for our climate movement that reaches across all gender, class, race, sexuality and religious boundaries because no matter who or what you are, we all deserve a better and brighter environmental future.
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