The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the country’s foremost civil rights organization, extends their deep gratitude to Rosario Dawson for her support and promotion of their Solar Equity Initiative and Go Solar in Your Community pledge.

Dawson – a prolific producer, actress, singer, and political activist for women’s rights and environmental justice, recorded a video to stand in her place at NAACP’s Image Awards on January 15, 2018. An NAACP Image Award winner, Dawson recorded Live from the Art, Culture and Social Action festival, Into Action, where she made the connection between the degradation of the environment and communities and populations who are hit first and worst by the extractive energy economy, namely communities of color and indigenous communities, low-income communities, women, formerly-incarcerated persons, and other groups.

• Studies show that 71% of African Americans live in counties in violation of federal air pollution standards as compared to 56% of the overall population.
• More than 1.78 million, or 3 percent of Latinos, live in areas where toxic air pollution from oil and gas facilities is so high that the cancer risk due to this industry alone exceeds EPA’s level of concern.
• Nearly 70% of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, which in 2016 generated 30% of the United State’s electricity. The health conditions associated with exposure to toxins emitted from these plants disproportionately impact African Americans.
• Low income populations on average spend a significantly higher fraction of expenditures on energy purchases than the middle-class and the wealthy: 13% of expenditures in the lowest income groups as opposed to just 5% of household income in the highest income groups.
• The asthma rate for Puerto Rican children is 23.5 percent, a rate that is more than 3 times higher than for non-Hispanic whites.
• The Solar Foundation’s 2017 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study found that racial diversity within the solar energy industry has remained relatively stagnant over recent years and that all people of color are at risk of being left behind as the solar workforce continues to grow. In 2016, only 6.6 percent of U.S. solar workers were African-American. According to the 2016 census, African-Americans make up 13.3 percent of the U.S. population. As such, even while we must promote clean and renewable energy over fossil fuel energy sources , it is necessary to address the obstacles to access and diversity in the renewable energy sector.

“All of these social justice issues are interconnected, driven by profiteering in a culture of dominating groups and individuals amassing wealth, power, and control at the expense of women, communties of color, low-income communities, and the environment,” explains Dawson. She also highlights the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program’s year-long Solar Equity Initiative, which will provide solar job skills training to 100 individuals, install solar panels on 20 households and 10 community centers, and strengthen equity in solar access policies in at least 5 states across the country.

Dawson opened a challenge to everyone to take the pledge and join the solar movement: “By going solar, we support communities of color to join and lead the solar revolution. I’m calling on all of you to do the same and to be a part of advancing the movement to take back our power – figuratively and literally. So I challenge you to join me. Join me in advancing the solar revolution by going to www.naacp.org.”

The NAACP Solar Equity Initiative brings together partners including GRID Alternatives, Solar Energy Industries Association, Sunrun, United Methodist Women, Vote Solar, and others to advance the aims of an multiple civil rights initiatives: Environmental and Climate Justice, Economic Development, Labor, Education, Health and Criminal Justice.

The reformation of the energy sector into a cleaner, sustainable, and vibrant economy means more than shifting to clean energy sources. They call for equity; local communities must control their energy sources and benefit from local economic growth through stable employment opportunities.

Take the pledge and learn more here.

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