Environmental justice is one of the important topics that the BREATHE Act addresses. The Movement for Black Lives introduced the bill, which would make enormous changes to the justice system, as well as education, healthcare and many other aspects of Americans’ daily lives.
“We crafted this bill to be big,” said Gina Clayton Johnson, executive director of Essie Justice Group and a co-creator of the act, as reported by New York Magazine’s The Cut. “We know the solution has to be as big as the 400-year-old problem itself.”
The proposal is divided into four sections. The third section, entitled “Allocating New Money to Build Healthy, Sustainable & Equitable Communities for All People,” calls for creating a clear plan to ensure all communities can access safe, clean water; bringing air standards within EPA safety limits; and making a plan to meet 100% of power demand with renewable and zero-emission energy. Other proposed environmental policy changes include funding preparedness efforts for climate change-related disasters, subsidizing community-owned sustainable energy solutions and funding for returning and preserving sacred sites to Indigenous communities.
The other three sections of the BREATHE Act address divesting federal resources from incarceration and policing, investing in new approaches to community safety, holding officials accountable and enhancing self-determination of Black communities.
The Movement for Black Lives is a nationwide coalition composed of Black organizations. Since forming in 2014, they’ve adopted an anti-capitalist, abolitionist stance calling for axing prisons, police forces and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. The organization’s political champions include Ayanna Pressley, Democratic Representative of Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District and the first Black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib, Democratic Representative of Michigan’s 13th Congressional District and the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan legislature.
“The BREATHE Act is bold…. It pushes us to reimagine power structures and what community investment really looks like,” Tlaib said. “We can start to envision through this bill a new vision for public safety. One that protects and affirms Black lives.”
Image via S. Hermann & F. Richter