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Celebrating Black History Month

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” —Ida B. Wells

By Ruth Ann Norton, President and CEO

In 1986, nine African American mothers in Baltimore shone a spotlight on the terrible truth that had left  their children hospitalized and robbed of their futures: the toxic legacy of lead poisoning in their homes and in the homes of thousands of their neighbors. The deeper truth they revealed in their fight to save their children was that their plight was wholly preventable and, indeed, was being prevented in wealthier and whiter Baltimore neighborhoods. Our organization’s history was forged in this moment.

What began as grief, frustration, and disbelief in treatment rooms and corridors of the pediatric unit at  Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1986, became clear-eyed focus, resolve, and determination to get to the root of the problem that landed their children in those beds. The parents walking those halls and sharing stories with one another about their children and the poison that was coursing through their veins became Parents Against Lead (PAL), which would eventually become the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) some 25 years later.

The commitment of those nine women to get justice for their families laid the foundation for GHHI and began the campaign to eradicate childhood lead poisoning from our city and to create safe and healthy homes in which children can live, learn, play, grow, and thrive.

As we celebrate Black History Month at GHHI, we lift the courage and tenacity of our founding families as we seek to honor their legacy by relentlessly advancing the mission they began. We have made incredible progress – reducing lead poisoning by 99% in Maryland – but there is still much work to do to ensure health, wealth, and racial equity in our communities in Maryland and throughout the country.

We have rooted our organization in the simple truth that every family deserves to live in a safe and healthy home and every human deserves to be treated with dignity. We will continue to be fierce advocates for policies and practices that promote equity and meaningful opportunities for the individuals who live in the historically disadvantaged communities we have been working with for more than 30 years.

We celebrate Black history because it is our history, it is American history.

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