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Black America and COVID-19

Documenting the impact of COVID-19 on Black America.


            Environmental Justice is defined as "the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies". This definition by the EPA, while basic, covers a lot of ground. Environmental Justice supports the idea that policy should be informed by the community - those directly affected by such policy - rather than crafted strictly in government offices. Environmental Justice is involving people of all identities in the decision making process. Too often, we see polluting industries placed in Black, Brown, and low-income communities. Pollution infringes on these communities' right to live in a safe and healthy environment - another crucial part of Environmental Justice. Expanding the definition of EJ to the right to live in a safe and healthy environment, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, or income allows for it encompass a wider range of scenarios. It allows us to view the environment as not just the physical place we stand on, but the space in which we exist. Chronic health issues as a result of air pollution where you live? An issue of environmental injustice. Lack of access to healthy food, safe drinking water? An issue of environmental injustice. A global pandemic disproportionately taking the lives of Black and Brown people in America? An issue of Environmental Justice. Prisons blowing up as COVID-19 hot spots? An issue of environmental justice. Everywhere we look there are issues of environmental injustice. COVID-19 has only begun to make some of these injustices more stark, but this global pandemic is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Co-Curator: Clio Gates, Georgetown University, Class of 2022.
I am a Georgetown University student studying Environmental Justice. I was first introduced to the concept in 2017, when I was an intern for the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental law firm. Sitting in on one of the Environmental Justice team's meetings, I remember being horrified by a case they were discussing: a chicken processing plant was spraying the surrounding area with the plant's waste on a daily basis, covering the adjacent properties in waste and making the community's residents sick. Since then, I've worked to more fully understand the both root causes of and ways to address environmental injustices. 

Social Media Tags: #environmentaljustice, @greengirlleah, @intersectionalenvironmentalist 

Environmental Justice: Mapping Awareness
With Clio Gates, LyLena Estabine, Sarah DeMott, and George Clark
An audio-guided walking tour to alert one’s senses to the ways that environmental racism operates, especially during the pandemic. 
The goal is to build awareness around life with environmental injustices and covid-19,  heal from the social isolation of the pandemic, and to build good living!  
It is our hope that participants will take a walk where they live/work/play and then contribute back.

Workshop Materials with Audio Tour. 
Google Drive Folder with Audio Tour, PFD Tour, Participants Folder, Instructions for Listening (here)
Audio Tour: (here) (here)

AUG 20:  Zoom Recording of Workshop with integrated audio transcript  (here)
AUG 27: ZOOM Recording of Workshop with integrated audio transcript (here)



Title Source Image
Derrick Z. Jackson: Fighting for a just COVID-19 response: Coronavirus is going to batter us far longer than the worst of hurricanes. We must not let environmental justice communities be flattened in the process.
Environmental Health News
Derrick Z. Jackson
April 3, 2020
news NYC subway riders on March 31, 2020. (Credit: Pamela Drew/flickr)
Higher Coronavirus Mortality Rates for Black Americans and People Exposed to Air Pollution 
Forbes Magazine 
Alexandra Sternlicht
April 7, 2020
news Healthcare workers transfer the corpse of a coronavirus victim to one of the container morgues by ... [+] TAYFUN COSKUN/ANADOLU AGENCY VIA GETTY IMAGES
Race, Pollution and the Coronavirus
New York Times 
Lisa Friedman and Zoë Schlanger
​April 8, 2020
news Chicago in January 2019.Credit...Daniel Slim/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Why COVID-19 Is an Environmental Justice Issue Too
NowThis News
April 11, 2020
news, video, op-ed undefined
Environmental Justice's Role in the COVID-19 Crisis
Green America
April 17, 2020
blog Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash
The “Father of Environmental Justice” on Why He Isn’t Surprised by COVID-19 Health Disparities: An interview with Robert Bullard on how the novel coronavirus exacerbates existing environmental health issues.
Texas Monthly
Amal Ahmed
April 17, 2020
interview Dr. Robert Bullard. Courtesy of Dr. Robert Bullard
The Climate Reality Project
April 17, 2020
blog The Climate Reality Project

When a Virus Exposes Environmental Injustice: Reducing air pollution isn’t just something to strive for. COVID-19 is illustrating why it’s a moral imperative.
Jeff Turrentine
April 17, 2020

news A worker with a protective face covering disinfects a bus stop in New Orleans.
COVID-19 and Climate Change Threats Compound in Minority Communities: Port Arthur, Tex., is a case in point: disproportionately hit by hurricanes, fossil-fuel pollution and now the coronavirus
Scientific American
Kristoffer Tigue
April 20, 2020
news An oil refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. Credit: Keith Wood Getty Images
Danielle Sydnor
April 22, 2020
blog Danielle Sydnor
Marcus Ray and Arnita Gadson
April 22, 2020
blog Marcus Ray
Environmental Justice in the Age of COVID-19
The Takeaway Podcast, WNYC Studios
Produced by Lydia McMullen-Laird
Hosted by Lizzie O'Leary
April 23, 2020
podcast Robert Bullard, the founder of the environmental justice center, talks about some of his projects while in his office on the Clark Atlanta University Campus in Atlanta, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2004. ( AP Photo )
Coronavirus is not just a health crisis — it’s an environmental justice crisis
Yvette Cabrera
April 24, 2020
news Grist / © Santiago Urquijo / Getty Images
COVID-19 and Environmental Justice
Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter
resource collection Sierra Club Michigan Chapter
Connecting the Dots Between Environmental Injustice and the Coronavirus
Yale Environment 360
Katherine Bagley
May 7, 2020
interview People wait in line to receive masks and food in New York City on April 18. AP PHOTO/BEBETO MATTHEWS
Environmental and Climate Justice
resources NAACP
Fatemeh Shafiei Lends Her Voice to "Coronavirus as an Environmental Justice Crisis" Article
Spelman College
education, news Fatemeh Shafiei

Detroit families still without clean water despite shutoffs being lifted,”
The Guardian,
May 20, 2020


Why Technology Matters for Inclusive Cities
Urban Institute
Gary Brantley, Majestic Lane, Lori Nelson, Erika C. Poethig, and Alena Stern
June 2, 2020

View the original event page here 

event, panel discussion, video Why Technology Matters for Inclusive Cities
Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in Boston
Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, Boston Foundation
Andre Perry, Orlando Watkins, Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Esq., Soni Gupta, and Glynn Lloyd
June 5, 2020

View the original event page here

event, webinar, video Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in Boston
Racism in pollution and policing: A conversation with Robert Bullard, father of environmental justice
Brian Roewe
June 19, 2020

Watch the video here
event, video The Houston skyline is seen from the Holmes Road landfill in this May 1972 photo. A study by sociologist Robert Bullard in 1979 found that the majority of the Houston metro's garbage was dumped near black communities. (Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Senators: It's Time for a National Moratorium on Water Shutoffs
Food & Water Action!

resource Food & Water Action!

In 'Cancer Alley,' a renewed focus on systemic racism is too late 
NBC News
Luke Denne
June 21, 2020

news undefined

Former county health chief: Racism common factor in deaths '95 Chicago heat wave, COVID-19
Chicago Sun Times
Maudlyne Ihejirika
June 28, 2020

news Dr. Linda Murray, today an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, was an internist at a clinic in Cabrini-Green during the deadly 1995 Chicago heat wave, and says the structural racism responsible for the deaths of 739 Chicagoans 25 years ago has again played out during the COVID-19 pandemic and police brutality reckoning. Here, she participates in a June 4 demonstration by “White Coats for Black Lives,” at old Cook County Hospital. Provided
The Connections Between Race, Pollution, and Covid-19
Rebecca Leber
June 30, 2020
news Chris Henry / Unsplash

Hearing on "Pollution and Pandemics: COVID-19 Disproportionate Impact on Environmental Justice Communities" 
The Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change of the Committee on Energy and Commerce
June 9, 2020

congressional hearing

HEATED Episode 3: COVID-19 and climate justice 
Heated Podcast
Emily Atkin 
April 8, 2020

podcast undefined

A Small Mattapan Farm Blooms, Despite The Pandemic
Bruce Gellerman
August 7, 2020


Toward Racial Justice: A Conversation on Environmental Justice
Charles D. Ellison



  • Take a virtual tour of Harlem, one of New York’s most storied neighborhoods.