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Last weekend at the Peoples Climate March, Johana Vicente, a community organizer with Chispa Maryland, addressed the crowd at a rally in front of the Washington Monument. After a day of marching for every person’s right to live their lives peacefully with their families and communities and carrying the Creators of Sanctuary banner, she shared the following insights and passion with the audience:
Buenas tardes, my name is Johana Vicente and I’m a community organizer with Chispa Maryland, a program of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. I’m proud to be joined by 150 lideres que vienen de Maryland!
I’m here fighting for environmental justice because families and communities like mine carry the burden of climate change, yet our voices are erased from the broader fight.
I was born in Ecuador—a country where our indigenous population is being displaced left and right by government and corporate greed.
I am passionate about environmental justice because, for me, it is personal.
It is personal because my mom was diagnosed with asthma after a few years of being in this country. For many years, she has struggled to breathe, going to the hospital on multiple occasions with severe respiratory problems.
As I grew up, I learned that poor air quality causes asthma attacks. That is when my passion for having a cleaner planet began.
I am in this fight because I want an environment where our communities can go outside and not worry about whether they will be able to breath or not.
I want to be able to look back and say that we have left this planet better off for future generations.
I want to make sure that our madre tierra is protected.
This fight is also personal because our community is being affected disproportionately. Communities of color and low income communities are the most affected by environmental issues. Our communities are the ones closest to power plants, highly trafficked highways and dirty emissions. These communities are surrounded by trash and litter, often neglected and lack the basic resources to thrive.
Back home in Maryland, we are working on our Clean Buses for Healthy Ninos campaign. This campaign aims to replace diesel school buses with zero emissions buses, which will benefit kids across the states.
The clean buses campaign will be possible thanks to our strong group of promotoras, many of whom are here in the audience today.
As one of our promtoras said, “estamos expuestos al aire contaminado todos los dias.” And these strong women are doing something about it. This isn’t just about the environment, it is about people’s lives. It is about saving the communities we live in.
From advocating for fair housing to fighting for clean air and water, our Promotoras have demonstrated that the environment affects us everywhere.
This amazing group of women has worked hard to fight for the rights of their communities, in fact, some of these women were vital in helping the city of Hyattsville receive sanctuary status.
Nuestras Promotoras demostraron que nuestras comunidades no se dejaran intimidar.
It is time for the voices of communities like mine to be at the forefront of the fight for cleaner air, water and communities!
We will not sit back. We will join the conversation, join the fight, and be part of the solution. The power to create change is on us and we will make sure that we are heard.