CLEVELAND (WJW) – Pairing the fight for equity with the push for cleaner and safer communities is the mission behind the Ohio Climate Justice Fund now partnering with the NAACP Cleveland Branch to help rectify systemic environmental issues. The two organizations are working together to lead a series of public discussions called Un-Design Environmental Injustice with the goal of sparking change in Cleveland neighborhoods.
Un-Design Environmental Injustice is designed to learn of environmental problems and solutions to a wide range of topics from the people most impacted by the problems, including lead paint, dumping in neighborhoods, and clean air.
Many of the issues in the series stem from systemic issues including redlining, the practice of denying loans and or insurance to a person often of color because they lived in an area deemed to be a financial risk.
“We have to talk about systemic and institutional and structural racism,” said Devonta Dickey, facilitating the
NAACP series. “Redlining was simply the practice of denying loans and services to black and brown communities as early as the 1930s.” Although redlining is illegal today, Dickey said it left neighborhoods devastated. “We really have to understand how the deterioration of a home, the deterioration of the community then permeates into the individuals living in that community,” he said.
“When you look at a city you can literally see the spaces the communities that are thriving the communities that are not thriving, and there is a legitimate reason as to why. There are policies practices and procedures that have literally been placed, set in place to make sure that the white homogenous communities thrive but your minority communities your black and brown communities do not thrive.”
He said lead paint in older homes is one of many examples. It’s an issue Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb recently addressed, calling the lead paint crisis “public enemy number one” during an event with the Cleveland Clinic in January.
At the event the hospital announced it would provide $50 million dollars over five years to the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition, the City of Cleveland would provide an additional $17 million over two years
“When you destroy the housing stock, when you also destroy the communities, it has so many negative effects,” said Dickey. The issue is one of many the NAACP Cleveland Branch is able to discuss due to a $30,000 dollar grant Dickey said from the Ohio Climate Justice Fund.
“The time is now to make the changes,” said Ohio Climate Justice Fund board member SeMia Brey. “The legacy impact of those decisions and the laws and policies that are on the book reinforced those decisions are very much still in play, that’s how you can have somebody today be lead poisoned in a home.”
The Ohio Climate Justice Fund has awarded nearly half a million dollars to minority-led Ohio organizations to better address the environmental focus of systemic issues. “How do we support the people who are disproportionately impacted because they’re the ones that know the answer as to how to turn that around,” said Brey. “Once they provide the answer how do we actually amplify that so that those injustices get remediated?”
The NAACP Cleveland Branch will host its next discussion on environmental injustice March 8 at the Mt. Pleasant NOW Community Development Corporation at 5:30 p.m.