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On World Asthma Day and throughout the month of May, people with asthma, health professionals, community activists and organizations are dedicating events to discuss and prioritize strategies to reduce asthma strategies. Clean Water Action joined the Moving Forward Network in holding a World Asthma Day Virtual Town Hall featuring elected officials, health professionals and grassroots leaders working on the front lines to address the root cause in “asthma hotspots” like Newark, Elizabeth, Camden, California as well as state legislators promoting environmental justice legislation. Watch here.

As a mother of three asthmatic children and resident of Newark New Jersey, acknowledging World Asthma Day with a Virtual Town hall was especially crucial during this COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent Harvard Study, COVID-19 disproportionately impacts communities of color and low income neighborhoods due to pre-existing exposure to air pollution and health vulnerabilities such as asthma, respiratory and heart conditions.

As an Environmental Justice Organizer, I have been fighting for clean air to breathe in New Jersey for more than 20 years. The black soot from the 18,000 daily trucks at the Port of Newark, the warehouses and industry is a lingering threat that we can’t escape from, it’s everywhere and it’s killing us. 

The Town Hall featured speakers including Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-10); Dr. Robert Laumbach, Rutgers University School of Public Health; Councilwoman Shaneka Boucher, Camden, NJ; Jacqui Patterson, Director, NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program; and Angelo Logan, Policy Director, Moving Forward Network.

In addition, voices from the community were lifted and heard ranging from parents like Baiyinah Wright who lost her child to an asthma attack in Newark, seeking connections to organizations to collaborate, college students like my daughter Frankie Walls, Ithaca College student who experienced an asthmatic attack on campus, advocating for a healthier environment or Asada Rashidi, Spellman College student majoring in Environmental Science and seeking engagement as the next generation of environmental activists. 

The common thread is change. Whether the change is through legislation, story-telling, health precautions or protests, people see this current situation with COVID-19, as the moment to wake up our communities and demand changes now.

This is the beginning of a call to action for our frontline workers, community activists, parents, health professionals and policy makers to unite. We can make a difference in our communities and this world.  There will never be an opportunity like this one, where our lives have been disrupted and will never be the same again. The world is watching and in need of individuals to stand up. Let your voice be heard! 

Let us breathe - we demand clean air and good jobs now! Please contact us here to learn more and get involved.