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Black communities must lead the charge to repair harm from freeways

“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?” asked Tupac Shakur.
I did—it’s the story of Black survival in spite of living in undesirable environmental conditions.
Living conditions must be improved to ensure Black futures. As a Black woman passionate about environmental justice, this is the charge that guides my work, volunteering, and activism around transportation.
Racism and the political disenfranchisement of Black communities underlie transportation inequities. Following the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, urban planners routed freeways through poor communities of color to achieve the urban renewal goal of “slum” clearance and to reinforce racial segregation. Freeway construction proceeded largely without community input. Despite a few successful freeway revolts, construction continued.
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Photo Credit: howard dyckoff/flickr

Backyard Talk

The Fight for Equal Protection

By Judith Eppele, Community Organizing Intern
Have you ever wished you were a tomato? Probably not, but in the context of health issues, you may change your mind. Think about how fast health authorities respond to E. coli outbreaks in lettuce, Listeria in milks and cheeses, or even Salmonella in–you guessed it–tomatoes. Now think about health issues caused by pollution. How long has Flint, Michigan been without clean drinking water? Objectively, way too long. The disparity between the length of these responses–or lack thereof–is obvious and appalling. Thankfully, CHEJ has recognized this problem and is actively working to fix it, through our Unequal Response Unequal Protection campaign.
This campaign has been the main focus of my internship with CHEJ thus far, and so I’ve had firsthand experience with finding a solution for the Unequal Response issue. Most notably is trying to figure out how to build a model from the ground up that gives communities a fair and equal response to public health issues, in which an entity has to meet with them and have a conversation about the specific issue in their community. One of my favorite parts of this model is that it’s a joint effort between the community members and the health authority entity. Therefore, the entity and community members will be in conversation with each other throughout the process. This will allow for community members to finally be justly heard and respected in their fight against toxic chemicals, and nothing can be swept under the rug without them knowing. Further, the entity is able to make a more informed decision on what the actual problem is and how best to solve it, as they’re able to have constant communication with the community at hand. This ensures for a more transparent and efficient health investigation affair, and thus a win-win situation.
Eventually, we’d like for the Unequal Response Unequal Protection campaign to be implemented into national legislation. Doing so would be monumental for community groups across the country–possibly being the best thing since sliced bread! We are one step closer to living in a world where people are able to live peacefully in a safe and healthy community, with no fear of chemicals in their drinking water, food, or air. After living a year in a world where safety and health are never promised, a type of national legislation that covers the environmental aspect of health issues could not be more welcome.
In case you’d like to read more about the goals of Unequal Response Unequal Protection and our progress thus far, feel free to check out the page on our website HERE. You can also email us at if you have any questions or comments, or if you’d like to join us on our campaign journey. In the fight against toxic chemicals, the more support from awesome people like you, the better. Let’s win this fight together!
Photo Credit: CNN

Homepage News Archive

For the Second Time in Four Years, the Ninth Circuit Has Ordered the EPA to Set New Lead Paint and Dust Standards

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this month ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to go back and reconsider its lead hazard standards for homes—again.
On May 14, in A Community Voice et al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the appeals court ruled that the EPA violated the court’s 2017 mandate to reevaluate hazard standards for lead in dust and paint that persist in millions of American homes, posing health risks, particularly to young children. For separate reasons, the court also ordered the agency to update its definition of lead-contaminated soil.
The EPA was found in violation for not strengthening its health standards for lead safety and instead considering such outside factors as feasibility and testing capabilities. In its ruling, the majority of appeals court judges also rebuked the agency for its glacial pace in setting standards over the last three decades.
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Photo Credit: MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images