News Press Release

NAACP Chair to Attend State of Union to Highlight Climate Justice as Civil Rights Issue

February 5, 2019

Guest of Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Chair of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis

Contact: Malik Russell /

BALTIMORE (February 5, 2019)—To bring attention to the important issue of climate justice, tonight, Leon W. Russell , Chair of the NAACP National Board of Directors will attend the State of the Union address as a guest of Florida Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Chair of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

“The climate crisis disproportionately impacts communities of color, whether it’s flooding, displacement or proximity of industrial pollution sites near our communities increasing health-related problems or the failure to have equal access to economic opportunities in the green economy – our communities are suffering and caught in the middle,” said Chairman Russell.

In November, 13 federal agencies released the National Climate Assessment, which showed across all climate risks, low-income communities, communities of color, and those experiencing discrimination are disproportionately affected by extreme weather and climate events.

“Taking on the climate crisis and attacking economic injustice go hand in hand.  Low-income communities are more likely to be located next to a polluting facility.  Children and their families from low-income communities, communities of color, and those experiencing discrimination are then more likely to have high rates of asthma and other chronic diseases that lead to among other things learning difficulties and certainly missed days of school.  Missed days of school lead to missed days of work for parents who are sick themselves or caring for sick children.  These families are caught in a cycle that decreases their chances and the chances of even future generations to thrive and realize the American Dream,” U.S. Rep. Castor said.  “An urgent response to breaking this cycle will be a primary focus of my new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.”

Chairman Leon W. Russell is from U.S. Rep. Castor’s home of Tampa Bay. The former Director of the Office of Human Rights for Pinellas County, he has served as a member of the NAACP Board of Directors for 27 years.

The NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program headed by Jacqui Patterson was created to provide resources and support community leadership in addressing this human and civil rights issue by advocating for these three objectives:

1.   Reduce Harmful Emissions, Particularly Greenhouse Gases

We combine action on shutting down coal plants and other toxic facilities at the local level, as well as the building of new toxic facilities, with advocacy to strengthen development, monitoring, and enforcement of regulations at federal, state, and local levels. Also includes a focus on corporate responsibility and accountability.

2.   Advance Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy

We work at the state level on campaigns to pass renewable energy and energy efficiency standards while simultaneously working at the local level with small businesses, unions, and others on developing demonstration projects to ensure that communities of color are accessing revenue generation opportunities in the new energy economy, while providing safer, more sustainable mechanisms for managing energy needs for our communities and beyond.

3.   Strengthen Community Resilience and Livability

We work to ensure that communities are equipped to engage in sustainability/climate action planning that integrates policies and practices on advancing food justice, advocating for transportation equity, upholding civil and human rights in emergency management, and facilitate participatory democracy.




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