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John Lewis’ Fight Goes On for Black Children To Breathe

July 17, 2021

July 17, 2021

We are approaching the one-year anniversary of the passing of the late Georgia Congressman, John Lewis. His life’s purpose was doing “good trouble” around voting rights. I am reminded that the fight for equality and justice advances too slowly for Black Americans, especially when it comes to environmental justice.

Congressman John Lewis died on July 17, 2020, at age 80 from pancreatic cancer. He represented Georgia’s 5th congressional district.

“communities of color are three times more likely to breathe the most polluted air than white people.”


Air pollution and climate change impact Black communities first and worst, something that I experienced firsthand growing up. At the age of eight, I developed respiratory issues that were exacerbated by breathing pollution from the nearby manufacturing and power plants. Elsewhere in my home state of Louisiana, communities of color in ‘Cancer Alley’ faced, and continue to face to this very day, elevated levels of pollution from dirty industries, leading to higher rates of cancer and other illnesses.

Statistics

In my adopted home of Atlanta, air pollution has long been a serious problem, especially for Black families and children. The American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report gave the city a failing grade for air quality. It ranked #35 in ozone pollution and #31 for particle pollution. The same report found that communities of color are three times more likely to breathe the most polluted air than white people, affecting their health.

Dr. Tonya Howard Calhoun - Rep. John Lewis' Fight Goes On for Black Children To Breathe

Author

Dr. Tonya Howard Calhoun

Tonya Howard Calhoun, Ph.D. is the National Field Manager for Moms Clean Air Force. Moms Clean Air Force is a national organization of over 1,000,000 parents united against air pollution to protect our children’s health. She lives in metro Atlanta with her husband.


For parents

Health

For families like mine, the danger of pollution is even more acute. Over 30 million children under the age of 18 live in counties that received an F grade for either ozone or particle pollution. And of those children, 2.3 million with asthma live in counties with a failing grade for at least one pollutant too. Pollution is a serious threat to the health of young people. It triggers asthma attacks, harming lung development in children, and even being deadly.

This is your fight

Our children and families need us to fight for public health and the environment at this critical moment. Leaders must also join us to deliver on the promise of a better America. In March, President Joe Biden proposed a plan to do just that. Biden’s plan will create a once-in-a-generation investment in our communities to fight climate change, pollution, and environmental injustices. The president’s plan also commits to ensuring that at least 40% of the benefits of the proposed investments are directed towards communities that have been borne the brunt of pollution.

As parents, it is time to re-commit to fighting environmental injustices. John Lewis said, “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” Mobilize for your children’s health. Take action for your children to breathe quality air. It is good, necessary trouble.


Dr. Tonya Howard Calhoun - Rep. John Lewis' Fight Goes On for Black Children To Breathe

Author

Dr. Tonya Howard Calhoun

Tonya Howard Calhoun, Ph.D. is the National Field Manager for Moms Clean Air Force. Moms Clean Air Force is a national organization of over 1,000,000 parents united against air pollution to protect our children’s health. She lives in metro Atlanta with her husband.


For children – ages 6-9
For children – ages 8-12

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