FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 4, 2020
HARLEM, NY — As Black people continue to be intimidated, threatened, and brutalized by police systems in this country, WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s Co-Founder and Executive Director Peggy Shepard and WE ACT staff have issued the following statement:
“The hurt and anger that we feel as individuals and as a community is real and palpable. It is a pain that has been festering over the past 400 years, and certainly here in Northern Manhattan. The killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and others in the past weeks are examples of the horrific dangers for Black people in America, and only a few of the many lives we have lost to police violence over the years. So is the all-too-common experience Christian Cooper faced while enjoying his local patch of green space, where he also suffered from racism and potential racial violence at the hands of white supremacy and anti-Blackness.
“As a Black-led organization dedicated to addressing environmental racism at the city, state, and federal levels, we are inherently invested in the fight for racial justice. It’s personal. Every day we work to ensure that Black and Brown bodies are safe from toxins, emissions, and the effects of not only climate change but also the systematic and insidious racist policies that make our neighborhoods and communities less healthy than others. It is crucial that our communities can exist in safe, sustainable, and healthy environments. We firmly believe that all Black and Brown bodies deserve the utmost respect in this and all issues.
“While WE ACT’s focus is on environmental justice, we are in solidarity with our community of activists intent on ending police brutality, mass incarceration, and systematic racial oppression across every facet of American life. The need to end police violence goes hand-in-hand with the need for clean air, clean water, health equity, safe and affordable housing, toxic-free products, and an equitable solution to the climate crisis. These are all issues we must address to achieve a healthy and just community.
“With COVID-19 killing Black people at twice the rate as white people, our Black communities are feeling the heavy burden of many hardships hitting us at once. That is why we will continue to support our neighbors who are disproportionately impacted by racism and police violence, by holding space for hurt and continuing our work. We will keep fighting to advance legislation and implement programs that reduce emissions and exposure to toxins, improve access to healthcare and healthy homes, and mitigate the health impacts of extreme heat and other effects of climate change, because these are systematic changes we need to achieve racial justice.”
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WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in New York City and Washington, D.C. Visit us at weact.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.