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Black History Month and Environmental Justice

Alycia Jenkins

February 2023

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Happy Black History Month!


There is a tremendous history of work that Black Americans have been doing in the environmental space that has been largely unrecognized, but is now coming to light. I am happy to share some of it with you. 


To start, Robert Bullard is the Godfather of Environmental Justice in the United States. Mr. Bullard has been fighting the good fight for many decades to eradicate environmental racism throughout America. His great work has caused a ripple effect in the nation, with Black American and other minority communities getting involved. I hope you will  familiarize yourself with Mr. Bullard’s work. To learn more about the work of Mr. Bullard read: The origins of environmental justice—and why it’s finally getting the attention it deserves


There has also been a lot of work done by local Black Environmental Justice activists in the state of Connecticut. For example, Sharon Lewis has been advocating to eradicate the MIRA trash incinerator in Hartford, one of the biggest sources of air pollution in the entire state. Due to her leadership, the MIRA plant closed in 2022. Read Opinion: MIRA’s newest proposals are no answer to Connecticut's waste management needs to get more information about her great work!


The Capitol Area System is a three decade old fossil fuel plant and heating/cooling loop with a history of polluting Hartford’s air and endangering public health. In 2022, the state of Connecticut purchased the system. Recently, there was a rally in Hartford, CT outside of the Capitol Area System building. Activists came together to advocate that this power plant commit to transitioning to 100% renewable energy. I, Alycia D. Jenkins, and many other local Black American activists are helping lead this campaign to end the harm that this plant has done in our community. Read more about that rally: Community and Climate Justice Activists Rally Outside State-Owned Hartford Power Plant.


In New Haven, there is work being done around environmental justice. Yale University has participated in uplifting some of the voices of local activists. Read more about that awesome work here: Energy Justice and Health in a Changing Climate - July 2022


In Bridgeport, Environmental Justice advocates are raising the alarm about the siting of the new Bassick High School on a FEMA designated Special Flood Hazard Area in walking distance of several fossil fuel energy plants.


There are many more examples of important Environmental Justice issues being worked on by local advocates right here in Connecticut. For the name of love of the environment and Black Americans this Black History Month, I hope you will get involved! 


Here’s one such opportunity … join us in Hartford, CT for a Valentine’s Day Rally on Monday the 13th of February 2023 at 4pm. For more information about this event please register here: Valentine's Day Rally for 100% Renewable Transition for the Capitol Area System. We look forward to seeing you there!


Great reads about Environmental Justice and Environmental Racism in America: 


Harriet A. Washington

A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind


Diane Glave 

Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage 


Ayana Johnson and Katharine K. Elizabeth 

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis


Other Articles to read: 

Connecticut Passed an Environmental Justice Law 12 Years Ago, but Not That Much Has Changed 

Environmental Justice | Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) 

Alycia Jenkins is an organizer for Sierra Club Connecticut focusing on our Ready for 100 Campaign in Hartford.

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