The Green & Healthy Homes Initiative stands in solidarity with the efforts across this country to tear down white supremacy and anti-Black racism that has undermined and oppressed our Black and Brown communities throughout our nation’s history. We will continue to be fierce advocates to eliminate policies and practices that promote inequality, bring harm, and block meaningful opportunity. We will fight every day in every action to build a just and fair society, advance health, economic and social justice, and lift the voices of the communities we serve.
Our hearts were once again torn apart as we witnessed the unforgivable stain of racism in our nation with the senseless murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer charged with the duty to protect his rights, his safety and his life. Like many of you, the emotions I have are far beyond anger and disgust as the names of so many others resonate in our heads – Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray – far too many to name. Victims not only of racist and unjust acts, but of the legacy of slavery woven into the culture, institutions and the very fabric of this country creating a history of unjust policies, reprehensible inaction, and racial terrorism.
As helicopters flew over my house, marchers convened in my neighborhood this week. On vivid display was a community united by determination and frustration as they peacefully called upon our nation to tear down racist policies, practices, and institutions and to build a truly equitable future for all. They were announcing that the time has come to end the systemic policies that continue to hinder and harm black and brown youth, leaving them with a sense of constant fear and denying them the chance to reach their potential.
For far too long, we have talked but not acted to end this reprehensible madness; we have allowed injustices to persist and turned a blind eye to blatant and hidden racism that has resulted in deep disparities that undermine health and opportunities and rot the very foundation of our society.
In 1992, I met a young African American man at the Franciscan Youth Center in Baltimore. He was eight years old, wise beyond his years and with so much potential yet without hope. His 19-year-old brother had been killed and six members of his family had been severely poisoned by lead. He knew then the challenges ahead of him and could not even imagine a future for himself. It broke my heart. It also inspired me to join the work of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, which later became the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative.
Over nearly three decades of work to confront the racist policies that have resulted in a toxic legacy of unfit and unhealthy housing, GHHI has witnessed firsthand the ugly result of disinvestment and disregard for communities of color in this country. A disproportionate number of black and brown families are confined in inferior, unhealthy, and dangerous homes, which contribute directly to negative health, education, and economic outcomes. Unhealthy housing is both a source and perpetuator of systemic racism. In our fight to eradicate lead poisoning and improve the health of home environments, we aim to open pathways to better health and opportunity. To truly succeed in this work, we need the courage in this country to commit to fundamental fairness and authentic equity that levels the playing field for young men, women and families of color.
As an organization, the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative is fiercely dedicated to efforts to undo the prevailing legacy of white supremacy, racism and the devaluation of black and brown lives that have created indefensible inequalities. GHHI is committed to working with an extraordinarily talented and diverse group of people to seek justice for the communities we serve. We are also committed to making GHHI an exemplar of an organization that offers equal opportunity for all of our staff to contribute, to advance and to lead.
We stand in solidarity with the communities we serve. And we call on white leaders at all levels to heed the voices they have heard for generations and are hearing today with passionate urgency. White leaders can no longer wring their hands or announce their good intentions. All of us must act. All of us must change. There can be no compromise.
Ruth Ann Norton
President and CEO