We know that environmental justice and racial justice are inextricably linked, and we wanted to do something meaningful to honor Martin Luther King day and his life's work in both areas.
For the rest of this week, we are donating 10% of all profits to the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit focused on criminal justice reform.
We chose to support this organization in particular, because of their dedication to challenging poverty and racial injustice, which is so aligned with Martin Luther King Jr.'s mission to eradicate racism, poverty and militarism.
The Equal Justice Initiative, EJI, was founded in 1989 by Bryan Stevenson, and is "a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons. [They] challenge the death penalty and excessive punishment and provide re-entry assistance to formerly incarcerated people."
Black and Brown people are incarcerated at much higher rates than white people, and they are also unfairly treated once they are inside the prison system. As King said in a 1967 speech about why Black Americans face more obstacles than white European immigrants, "it’s a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps." In the same speech, he spoke about how when Black Americans were emancipated, they were not given the same economic base given to European peasants at the time (like free land, which was taken from Indigenous people and redistributed). It's telling for how we got to where we are today. It is so important to fight for prison reform and to redistribute wealth in America. EJI advocates for equal treatment in the criminal justice system and advocates for communities that have been marginalized by poverty and inequality. They also fight against the death penalty, excessive punishment for children, and abusive prison conditions.
Above: Protestors after MLK's death in Memphis
These issues are all so complex and intertwined, and they are heavy on our heart as we continue to educate ourselves and engage in activism. We subscribe to Intersectional Environmentalism, which is an inclusive form of environmentalism which advocates for the protection of people and planet, arguing that social justice and environmental justice are deeply connected.
This weekend, I was reading more about Martin Luther King's work in the environmental justice realm, including this thoughtful article by Leah Thomas. I read about how King's work eventually lead to the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. I learned that in his final public speech, "I've been to the Mountaintop," he spoke to the gross environmental injustices happening to Black sanitation workers in Memphis. He urged the crowd of sanitation workers to continue their strike, to boycott companies that had unfair hiring policies like Coca-Cola and Wonderbread, and to move their money to Black-owned banks and insurance companies in Memphis. His work in the Civil Rights movement paved the way to the Environmental Justice movement, and that work is ongoing.
Martin Luther King in Memphis. Click here to read the story.
At Eco Collective, we believe it is our responsibility to continue to contribute to the environmental and racial justice movement in ways that have a measurable impact. Last summer, we donated over $500 to the NAACP, and we are committed to ongoing financial support of organizations fighting for racial equality, environmental justice, and criminal justice reform.
That is why we are supporting the Equal Justice Initiative this week, and why we will continue our antiracism work. Together, we can reform and rebuild America's systems to uplift and empower Black communities and in doing so, promote environmental justice and a brighter future for the planet and the people.