Addressing Racial and Environmental Injustice

The brutal and unsettling images that have captured headlines and sparked outrage in populations around the globe this month force us to recognize that, as a nation, we are still failing to guarantee everyone the basic human rights and equality of Dr. King’s Dream and promised in the U.S. Constitution. In fact, it’s a tragic reminder our nation has never guaranteed everyone these basic human rights and equality.

California ReLeaf works closely with grassroots and social justice organizations in many marginalized neighborhoods to build stronger, greener, and healthier communities through trees. Seeing the incredible work these partners are doing and the challenges they encounter has helped us understand why we must step outside of what is familiar and lend our voice to support efforts that address and curb systemic racial and environmental injustice that these communities face every day.

Though we are keenly aware our actions will not nearly address all of the inequity that occurs against some communities, below are some of the things California ReLeaf is doing to support equity. We share it in hopes that it ignites in others the same desire to step outside their comfort zone and push for progress:

  • Supporting AB 2054 (Kamlager). AB 2054 will establish the Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems (C.R.I.S.E.S) Act pilot program which will promote community-based responses to local emergency situations. This bill is a step forward to provide stability, safety, and culturally informed and appropriate responses to immediate emergency situations as well as in the follow-up to those emergencies by involving community organizations with a deeper knowledge of the emergency. See our support letter here.
  • Co-authored a 10-page list of recommendations for a just COVID-19 response & recovery to support resilient communities. We are not only very proud to join partners at The Greenlining Institute, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), and Strategic Concepts in Organizing & Policy Education (SCOPE) in crafting a comprehensive approach to implementing transformative change with an emphasis on meeting the immediate needs of our most vulnerable populations, but also be an active voice for this change through direct advocacy with the Legislature and Administration.
  • Getting dollars to disadvantaged communities (DACs). California ReLeaf will award more than one million dollars over two years in CAL FIRE Urban Forestry pass-through grants to community benefit organizations working directly with vulnerable populations to create safer, healthier spaces to work, live, and thrive. Our grants will be developed in close collaboration with longtime environmental justice partners and provide significant technical assistance to new grant seekers wishing to “learn the system” for state grants to improve their communities.

We will continue to evaluate our own policies and practices to focus on what we can do to progress at California ReLeaf, as we know there is much more work to be done. We will amplify POC voices in urban forest community work to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the ReLeaf Network. The Network was created to support and learn from each other, and in this as well we can share and learn how to increase racial and social justice in California.

From all of us at California ReLeaf,

Cindy Blain, Sarah Dillon, Chuck Mills, Amelia Oliver, and Mariela Ruacho

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