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Let Us Breathe: A Juneteenth Conversation on Equity, Justice, and Climate in the African American Community

June 19, 2020
11:00 am
- 1:00 pm

This Let Us Breathe event will highlight the continual fight for racial justice, specifically, environmental injustices in the African American community. Our goal is to generate solutions through conversation that discusses how air pollution, climate change, and COVID impacts the African American community, and what needs to be done to ensure that we continue to advocate for equity, justice, and climate action beyond this national pandemic.

The event will feature panelists Representative Alma Adams (NC-12), Dr. Mildred McClain, Rev. Michael Malcom, Tina Spencer-Smith, and Catherine Flowers. The conversation will be moderated by Moms Clean Air Force’s National Field Director Heather McTeer Toney.


  • 11 a.m. Welcome and introduction by Heather McTeer Toney
  • 11:10 a.m. Rep. Alma Adams presentation and Q&A
  • 11:25 a.m. Dr. Mildred McClain presentation and Q&A
  • 11:40 a.m. Rev. Michael Malcom presentation and Q&A
  • 11:55 a.m. Tina Spencer-Smith presentation and Q&A
  • 12:10 p.m. Rep. Bobby Rush presentation and Q&A
  • 12:25 p.m. Catherine Flowers presentation and Q&A
  • 12:40 p.m. Panel discussion moderated by Heather McTeer Toney
  • 12:55 p.m. Introduction of Environmental Justice Pledge
  • 1:00 p.m. Closing remarks by Heather McTeer Toney


On June 19, 1865, the final group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, received news that they were free—more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The day became known as Juneteenth, (also known as Freedom Day) and is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in 45 states, including Florida. Juneteenth more generally observes the emancipation of enslaved African Americans throughout the former Confederate States.

Juneteenth represents the good and the bad in what makes the United States the country it is: It’s symbolic of a liberation, but one that was delayed due to consistent opposition and resistance to equality. In many ways, Juneteenth represents how freedom and justice in the US has always been delayed for black people.

Right now, we are in the midst of a global respiratory pandemic. America is facing major health and economic impacts of a national public health emergency that has filled our hospitals, closed businesses and schools, and killed more than 100,000 Americans. Preliminary research indicates that even the smallest increase of exposure to air pollution is associated with an increase in complications and death from Covid-19. Pollution causes heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. These are exactly the underlying health conditions that make people more vulnerable to severe illness from Covid-19. Coupled with a history of disparities on African American communities, this statistic is even scarier. Social conditions, structural racism, and other factors elevate the risk for COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths in black communities.

Take the Environmental Justice Pledge

Today and always, we must join together to fight for justice and equity. As a first step, pledge your commitment to fighitng with us for environmental justice.

The Environmental Justice Pledge:

“Right now, we are watching the living breath being taken from Black people, over and over again — in so many different ways. Communities of color are bearing the brunt of police brutality as well as the COVID crisis. And these same communities breathe significantly more air pollution than others. These are just a few examples of how our history of systemic racism have harmed Black people.

In honor of this Juneteenth, I am pledging to acknowledge this fact: We do not all breathe the same air. Until we do, we will not be able to live in a just, fair society.

Because of this, I am committing myself to working toward environmental justice for all. Furthermore, I commit to organize with local environmental leaders and initiatives, like Community Rx, to advocate for, educate with, and amplify the stories of African-Americans in impacted communities so that we may all go forth and fight for justice.

I vow to stand against environmental racism. I vow to stand with African-American communities who are disproportionately affected by climate change and air pollution. I vow to inform my community, family, and friends about these issues so that we can collectively demand environmental justice in our communities.

Lastly, I commit to making changes in my own life that support protecting the earth, air and other natural resources, because I know every person, no matter the color of their skin, has a right to breathe clean air, and that right is a civil right for all.”



June 19, 2020
11:00 am - 1:00 pm


Tonya Calhoun