The Vietnamese community of greater New Orleans makes up roughly half of the fishing industry in the area. They help to supply more than one-third of the nation’s seafood. As our country faces a potential shortage of Gulf shrimp, crab and fish, these workers face complete economic uncertainty.

Low-income communities and communities of color have the most to gain from a clean-energy future and the most to lose under the current dirty economy. Their livelihoods are prisoners of, and sadly victims to, our current energy policy. We are seeing this tragic tale unfold in neighborhoods across New Orleans.

Johnson Nguyen, a Vietnamese American who has been shrimping with his father since he was twelve years old, is watching his family’s source of income sink with each gushing gallon of oil. He and his father are considering working on clean-up efforts to make ends meet, but are worried about the training provisions and the implications of signing the British Petroleum waiver.

BP is required by law to provide subsidies. Before the explosion, the Nguyen family had an annual income of $60,000. BP is offering them and other owners of fishing boats $5,000 for loss of business. Deck hands are compensated $2,500 for their loss of income.

As the true extent of economic and environmental damages will not be known for months, signing this waiver now means freeing BP from future claims from families and workers in the community. And this includes any health and safety risks that they face helping to reclaim their shores from the oil slick that is choking it.

It has been widely reported that 40-hour hazardous materials training programs are being crammed into four hours. In some cases, training is cut even shorter because of inadequate translation services. As a result, many in New Orleans’ immigrant communities are walking around with certificates without proper training – and protection – to handle ultra-hazardous chemicals.

Our workers, our country deserve better. Not only do we demand a clean-energy economy, but we must have transparency along the way. Language barriers should not compromise the safety, security and livelihood of any community. And our value should not be defined by a company that puts profits before the health and well-being of its own employees.

Groups like VAYLA, Mary Queen of Viet Nam Community Development Corporation, Inc., and Boat People SOS are on the ground along the Gulf Coast leading the way in advocacy and ensuring that the voices of our most vulnerable communities are heard.

Low-income communities and communities of color suffer first and worst from environmental tragedies, and this is no different in the case of the Gulf Coast Catastrophe. We are looking at BP to right their wrongs.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is CEO of Green For All

Students pledge to bring Earth Day to their blocks during the Campus Consciousness Tour with Drake.

By Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins Crossposted from Jack and Jill Politics and Huffington Post. On April 22nd, 1970, twenty million Americans took action for the first Earth Day, marking the unofficial birth of the modern environmental movement. Forty years later, Earth Day is as much about hip hop and hard hats as it is about polar bears and Ponderosas. Over the past few years, the green movement has seen a fundamental shift with the realization of the economic opportunity provided by fighting the climate crisis. Improving the environment and transitioning to clean energy can spark a wave of jobs and opportunity for the United States, particularly for low-income communities and communities of color. This vision is becoming a concrete reality across America. Just yesterday Vice President Biden announced the "Retrofit Ramp-Up" awards, which will help create an estimated 30,000 jobs over the next 3 years while lowering greenhouse gas emissions. By funding innovative large-scale energy-efficiency retrofits, these awards are a win for the environment and for the economy. Green For All is proud to partner with Seattle and Portland, Oregon, two winners of the Retrofit Ramp-Up awards that are ensuring that retrofit jobs are high quality and accessible to local low-income communities. Opportunities like this in the new green economy are shifting the epicenter of the environmental movement.

Anthony Mackie, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and I dig in at the Riverside Valley Community Garden in Harlem. Photo by Jennifer Cooper.

That's why today I am honoring Earth Day with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson not at a National Park or natural wonder, but in the heart of New York City. Along with renowned actor Anthony Mackie and community members, we're digging in at The Riverside Valley Community Garden in Harlem. This neighborhood initiative is not only a source of nutritious food; it is transforming a former drug haven into a thriving, green public space. In 2010, the green movement is in bloom in Harlem. And it is in bloom in low-income communities and communities of color across the United States, where concerns about health and excitement about green jobs are sparking a new surge of environmentalism. This April, thousands of people who are motivated by a brighter future for their communities have taken a pledge to bring Earth Day to their blocks. They're taking 10 simple steps for the environment and their neighborhoods, and urging our leaders in Washington to pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill. What's remarkable is how many of these folks are not environmentalists, but Black Eyed Peas or Drake fans who went to a concert this spring, and walked away with a head full of ideas about strengthening their communities through a green economy.  These musical talents are harnessing their messaging power to spread the word about the green economy, and have partnered with Green For All and Green The Block (a joint campaign with Hip Hop Caucus), to engage new audiences in the movement.  As a result, we've touched thousands of people who otherwise would not have taken the day to focus on environmentalism. The transformation is taking hold in Washington D.C. as well, where the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses have become some of the biggest champions of innovative green jobs bills. Most recently, Representatives Bobby Rush, Barbara Lee, and others championed the Home Star bill, which will soon be voted on by the full House of Representatives. The bill is designed to create 168,000 jobs quickly by making American homes more energy-efficient, building on the "Retrofit Ramp-up" investments. Home Star also includes strengthened job quality and access provisions, which will help to ensure that low-income people and communities of color have access to these job opportunities. This Earth Day, let's celebrate how the green movement has grown and expanded to be more inclusive of all of America's communities and concerns. We are awakening to the interconnectedness of environmental and economic issues, and the interconnectedness of all of our communities. This awakening comes just in time to take on the challenges of today, which are even more daunting than they were 40 years ago. As much as we need innovative policy solutions and technology to transition to clean energy (and we do), what we need most desperately is the political will to fundamentally shift how we run our economy and how we treat the earth. Only an inclusive, expansive movement for people and the planet can build this will.
Co-authored with Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr, Hip Hop Caucus On April 22, 1970, the world recognized the first Earth Day. That same year, Hip Hop was born in the streets of New York City. For four decades, Earth Day and Hip Hop have been seen by many as rebellious; two voices speaking out against injustice, two commitments to principles that make some uncomfortable or angry. For us, Earth Day 2010 marks a moment to reflect on 40 years of progress, to continue our commitment to addressing problems that have been ignored for too long, and to celebrate the spirit of doing what's right, not what's easy. Today the Hip Hop Caucus and Green For All announce Earth Day on Every Block. This effort is part of Green The Block's monthly calls to action, which engage people across the country in building healthier, stronger, more sustainable communities through local educational events. In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day and Hip Hop, Earth Day on Every Block will bring core principles for smarter living to every block in America. This sounds harder than it is. Making your block greener means doing simple, thoughtful things - for example, turning off electronics that aren't being used, using less water, eating better, recycling whenever possible. These small changes improve our own lives immediately, and have a massive impact on the world when added together. Join us now: Take the Earth Day on Every Block Pledge. This Earth Day, we'll demonstrate the power that we all have to make a difference. Young people and communities of color can and will be leading the effort to improve our communities - because it is our neighborhoods that are impacted most, because we're the ones who are inheriting the planet. And this pledge won't just have an impact on your block - it's going to have an impact on our leaders in Washington. Think about that. You can change your own life, in easy but meaningful ways, which can spill over to the rest of your block. If you recycle, you neighbors and parents will be more thoughtful about doing so. If you buy healthier foods, it gives local stores more incentive to stock them. If you and your neighbors, family and friends tell your elected officials that these things are important to you, it can tip the balance and make the House and Senate pass policies for a sustainable America and opportunity in our neighborhoods. All this is possible if you stand up for what you believe in. It took over a century for us to create the environmental crisis. The economic crisis was a decade in the making. These massive challenges didn't emerge overnight, and solutions are also unlikely to come quickly. But by taking personal action, changing our own lives, and working for change in our neighborhoods, our collective action can change the world. Make a statement about who you are and what you believe in. Continue making your voice heard. Take the pledge, and join our cause. Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.
By Julia Rhee. Crossposted from Global Grind. If you ever meet Fergie, I’ll give you an inside tip: you don’t have to remind her that she’s much shorter than you expected.  “I get that a lot,“ Fergie shrugged and smiled knowingly. At under 5’3” myself, I stood at eye level with the woman who made “lady lumps” an international sensation. It was a night unlike any other.  I was in Des Moines, Iowa, a stop on The Black Eyed Pea’s E.N.D. World Tour.  I have been with the tour since February as an ambassador from the Pea’s non-profit partner, Green For All , but still hadn’t met the band.  And there I was, rubbing elbows with Taboo to my left, and talking about Filipino restaurants with Apl to my right. Beyond the excitement of finally meeting the Peas, what made the night really special was that we had gathered to focus on community empowerment and green solutions, with two distinguished public servants: Governor Chet Culver and State Representative Wayne Ford of Iowa. Governor Culver and Representative Ford honored The Black Eyed Peas, Ludacris, and Green For All for our leadership in communities of color and innovation in the field of green jobs.
The Black Eyed Peas with Green For All Academy alumni Karen Monahan and Green For All Tour Ambassador Julia Rhee.

The Black Eyed Peas with Green For All Academy alumni Karen Monahan and Green For All Tour Ambassador Julia Rhee.

Beyond the celebrity glitz and backstage access, we were a group of people connecting over our shared desire to build a better world with communities in need of some change. Accepting the award on Green For All’s behalf was a woman named Karen Monahan. When asked who could represent the work being done in America’s heartland to create new jobs that also improve the environment, Karen was an easy pick. Born in Iran, Karen was adopted by American parents and moved to Springfield, Missouri, as an infant.  Unfortunate events in her childhood led her into the foster care system, where she bounced from shelter to shelter. A mother at the age of 16, people wrote Karen off and thought she wouldn't amount to anything.  But her foster-care attorney believed in her potential and helped Karen finish college. With no family or home to turn to, Karen says she looked inward to find her own strength.  Though she "might not have had a high school prom," Karen says, "I learned to have enormous empathy, compassion, forgiveness, and love for others." Her experience showed her what it feels like to be given up on, and to be believed in, and motivated Karen to work for social justice.  She began organizing for an inclusive green economy because it offers solutions to a range of issues like poverty, racism, environmental degradation, and community health. Karen has been leading the way to widen green economic opportunity at Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota.  She’s also an alumni of the Green For All Academy, our leadership training program for community leaders across the country. The Green For All Academy invests in local leaders, mostly from low-income communities of color, who are leading the push for quality green jobs and opportunities in America’s cities and towns.  It allows people like Karen to connect with one another, learn from each other, and grow skills that can help grow a movement.  In Des Moines, Karen’s role as an alumni also helped her make a connection with Representative Ford.  They decided right then and there, with the Peas looking on, to strengthen the partnership between Iowa and Minnesota to create more green jobs and other pathways out of poverty. “That’s such a big highlight for me,” Monahan commented. “I got to talk with Representative Ford, and to know that there’s interest to bridge our work between our two states is incredible.  Without this ceremony, I wouldn’t have been able to make that connection.” A long-time advocate for lifting up inner-city communities, Representative Ford has been working with Green For All to transition Iowa to a future filled with renewable and clean energy possibilities. He hopes that recognizing the trail that The Black Eyed Peas have blazed with their lyrics promoting peace and justice will allow others to learn from their example. The state of Iowa is taking bold steps to jumpstart local economies and revitalize community development in sustainable ways. Representative Ford and Governor Culver’s leadership demonstrates that a transition to a green economy is beneficial for communities of color, particularly in hard times. Joining forces in Des Moines with Karen, the state of Iowa, The Black Eyed Peas and Ludacris, I got to feel what the rhythm of a new economy, one that is truly green for all, could be like. To connect to Green For All on tour with The Black Eyed Peas, visit http://blackeyedpeas.greenforall.org/ or text GREENFORALL to 41411.  Once you text, you’ll get a voice mail from The Peas and the chance to win a free t-shirt.

After health care, the battle turns to climate change.

By: Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins Today President Obama signed health care reform into law. This is an incredible victory not just for the President and members of Congress who championed the legislation; not just for the movement of people and organizations who advocated for change; not just for the millions of Americans who will soon have affordable health coverage when before they had none; but also for our country. Today America takes a giant step towards the dream of being a land of opportunity for all. Today, we deserve to celebrate. Unfortunately though, I've got some bad news for my friends who have worked so tirelessly for this moment. There is no time to rest. You may all need a vacation right now, but we can't afford that. Our job of building a stronger, more just America is only getting started. We've got to build on this momentum and press on towards the next critical issue that threatens our nation's health and well-being. That next issue is the economy and unemployment, which leaves millions of Americans without the opportunity to work, without the means to support themselves and their families. And the solution is comprehensive climate and energy legislation. A climate bill? To fix the economy? Yes. Because the route to ending the climate crisis is to transition America from dirty, polluting power sources to clean energy sources like the wind and sun. And this transition will create hundreds of thousands of American jobs. It will provide us the opportunity to be productive again as a nation. President Obama himself said, "This is a jobs bill," of the climate and energy bill that the House passed in June of 2009, the American Clean Energy and Security Act. It's been almost a year since the House acted, and now it's up to the Senate to lead on a climate and energy bill. The Senate's job isn't over with the passage of health care. Our planet is in peril from devastating climate change; our economy is still weak, and millions of Americans still need access to decent work. We expect the Senate to take on these issues now, and to enact solutions as quickly as possible. Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman have been leading a bipartisan process to craft a Senate climate bill. This process is encouraging, but it will ultimately be judged on the outcomes it yields for working people and for our planet. It must boldly address the threats of global climate change and pave the way for an inclusive green economy that lifts people out of poverty A strong climate and energy bill must aggressively reduce America's carbon pollution and invest in an inclusive green economy, built on clean energy jobs. In particular, there are two critical provisions that we feel are crucial to any effective Senate legislation. Green For All and a coalition of civil rights, faith, labor, environmental, and community groups fought for and won these provisions in the House version of climate legislation last summer. These are: 1. $860 million allocated to the Green Jobs Act. This measure would provide training to workers who need new skills for the jobs that will repower and rebuild America. For many in desperate need of work, enrolling in Green Jobs Act programs would be the first step out of poverty. 2. Local access to quality jobs, through the creation of a green construction careers demonstration program. This program would promote middle-class careers and quality employment practices in the green construction sector. It would empower the Secretaries of Labor and Energy to ensure that these green construction jobs are good jobs, and are accessible to low-income communities and local workers. These two provisions are essential in ensuring that building a clean energy economy also creates good jobs for communities in need. Changing our country, reforming our laws, bringing opportunity, power, and resources to those without: this is grueling work. The battle for health care reform showed us as much. We can be proud of the enormous impact the health care bill will have. And we must draw strength from this victory. Because the hard part is just getting started, and there is work to be done.
By Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO, Green For All Originally published on TheRoot.com Today the Senate Energy Committee will begin debating a weatherization bill known as Home Star that aims to make American homes more energy efficient, while creating thousands of American jobs in the process. Home Star has the potential to significantly reduce residential energy consumption, saving consumers almost $10 billion over the next ten years, while cutting greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to the removal of more than 600,000 cars from American highways. Even more importantly given the state of our economy, the legislation is projected to create 168,000 local jobs in communities all across the country. That, more than anything else, is what Americans urgently want, particularly the people who have been hardest hit by the tough economic times - poor people and people of color. While job creation is the consensus number one national priority at the moment, global climate change threatens not only the long-term health of the planet but our economic viability as well. We believe that the solution to both these crucial problems is a clean energy economy that creates million of green jobs that do not harm the planet. Home Star moves us in the right direction. And it is exactly the kind of innovative thinking and leadership that the American people want. That was evident this week in the results of a survey by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies which found that African Americans -- who as a group were disproportionately impacted by the recession -- said they were willing to pay more for clean energy in order to combat global warming. During the last three weeks of November 2009, The Joint Center, a Washington think tank focused on African American issues, surveyed 500 black adults in each of four states -- Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri and South Carolina. By considerable majorities in each state [See Table 6 of Survey], they said global warming was a major or moderate problem and that they were willing to pay an extra $10 each month on their electric bill if it would help fight global warming. All we need now is leadership. Home Star is a small but significant step in the right direction. Washington these days is spending a lot of time obsessing over its own gridlock, with each party blaming the other for the lack of action on issues critical to the American people. The completely broken process on health care reform stands as the prime example. Outside of Washington however, the only concern is the ragged state of the job market and what is being done to fix it. Congress needs to pass a comprehensive jobs bill in order to further stimulate the economy, and that bill needs to include provisions that direct both investments and hiring to the people and communities where they are most needed. As we continue to debate the size and shape of such a jobs bill, Home Star is a good first step that can quickly generate jobs, many of them in low-income neighborhoods, and boost appliance sales. Home Star, and the larger question of job creation, gives Washington a chance to break out of the current cycle of gridlock, recrimination and failure and do something for the American people at a time when we urgently need the government to be aggressively working on our most urgent interests. Home Star will help three million American families retrofit their homes to make them more energy efficient, and will save those consumers as much as $9.5 billion over ten years. The program dedicates $200 million to provide access to low-interest financing for homeowners to weatherize their homes or buy new, more energy efficient appliances. In addition, the majority of the goods used for home weatherization are made in the U.S., and as a result the program will also boost domestic production in the building materials manufacturing sector. This sector is operating at less than 60 percent of capacity today, with an unemployment rate of almost 25 percent. The country needs the economic jolt that Home Star can provide and Congress needs to rise to the occasion and pass it as soon as possible. If it gets to the President's desk he is sure to sign it. Last week in Georgia he laid out the stakes around Home Star: "We know it will make our economy less dependent on fossil fuels, helping to protect the planet for future generations," he said. "But I want to emphasize that Home Star will also create business and spur hiring up and down the economy." We are for that.