Black History Month

Black History: Craig Hooks

As an African American scientist managing the administrative arm of the agency, I am keenly aware of my unusual background, professional journey and the successes of African Americans who have contributed to environmental protection and energy efficiencies and EPA’s progress in sustainability. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of Florida and a Masters degree in Oceanography from the Texas A&M University. I worked at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a physical scientist prior to joining EPA in the mid 1980s.

At EPA, I worked in a variety of organizations including the enforcement and the water offices. In 2009, then-Administrator Lisa P. Jackson asked me to serve as the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Administration and Resources Management. I was honored and excited about this opportunity. OARM provides national leadership, policy, and management of many essential support functions for the agency, including human resources management, acquisition activities, grants management, and management and protection of EPA’s facilities and other critical assets nationwide. I also serve as the agency’s Senior Sustainability Officer, providing leadership in implementing Executive Order 13514 which is aimed at improving Federal environmental, energy and economic performance.

It is EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. Environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive. African Americans with noteworthy accomplishments in environmental protection helped pave the way for EPA’s progress. For example, George Carruthers invented the far ultraviolet camera/spectrograph in 1969. It was plated in gold and carried aboard the Apollo 16 mission, where it was placed on the moon’s surface. The camera used ultraviolet light, invisible to the naked eye, to capture high-quality images of Earth. Carruthers’ invention helped scientists see how air pollution forms, allowing them to develop new ways to control air pollution. Clarence L. Elder, head of his own research and development firm in Baltimore, was awarded a patent in 1976 for a monitoring and control energy conservation system. His “Occustat” is designed to reduce energy waste in temporarily vacant homes and other buildings, and especially useful for hotels and school rooms.

I am especially proud to share the many successes EPA has achieved in the sustainability area. EPA scored green in every category for the 2011 and 2012 OMB Sustainability/Energy scorecards, demonstrating the success of the agency’s long-term, comprehensive approach to sustainability. EPA is a leading agency in sustainability in the federal government and only one of two (GSA being the other) agency to achieve green in all categories for two years in a row. Additionally, EPA is again leading the government by being green in 2013.

Through increased video conferencing, EPA was able to reduce green house gas emissions associated with air travel by 46 percent in FY 2012 compared to FY 2008. And employees increased their average telework hours per pay period by 35.3 percent compared to the previous year and by 136.4 percent compared to FY 2009. Due to several major energy projects and mechanical system upgrades, EPA reduced its FY 2012 energy intensity by 23.7 percent compared to its FY 2003 baseline. In FY 2012, EPA achieved a non-hazardous solid waste diversion rate of 63 percent, far exceeding the EO 13514 target of a 50 percent diversion rate by FY 2015.

And EPA continues lead federal agencies by purchasing green power and renewable energy certificates equal to 100 percent of its annual electricity use.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Black History Month: Generation Green

By Kuae Kelch Mattox
National President, Mocha Moms, Inc.

When I was growing up, I don’t remember being concerned much about the environment. We didn’t scrutinize labels, all our trash went into one can and we never considered buying “organic.” But now I’m mother to three children who remind me every day what I should be doing to be a kinder, gentler friend to this world in which we live.

My nine year-old daughter tells me I waste water when I let it run while brushing my teeth. My thirteen year old son regularly reminds me he can’t bring anything but a reusable water bottle onto the lacrosse field. He’s also the resident scholar on which plastic is recyclable, and which is not. My teenage environmentally conscious daughter chastises me for putting groceries in plastic bags and points out suspicious chemical key words on cosmetic labels. At our local elementary school, Waste Wednesday is a school tradition. Classes compete to see whose lunchroom trash weighs the least.

Our children are growing up in an era of unprecedented environmental consciousness. The environment is an important part of science and social studies curriculum, science fairs are hot ticket events and extracurricular programs remind our children how their actions impact the environment.

I have always seen myself as my children’s first teacher, but when it comes to the environment, I find that my children are often the ones teaching me. It is a source of great pride that they see taking care of the environment as a serious matter. I see it as my role, particularly as an African American mother, to guide them along the way, to serve as a reminder that it does feel good to treat the place that we call home with honor and respect. Each moment that they teach me is an opportunity for me to show them that I am listening and I, too, care. I also want them to understand the unique needs of the African American community, and that in many communities people of color suffer from disproportionate levels of environmental risk.

For my son, who has asthma, he needs to understand in particular the importance of breathing clean air. For all children, we must be ever vigilant, making sure that their natural curiosity and desire to do good for the earth continues as they grow into adulthood. Let’s talk about the issues – dirty water, polluted air, leaking pesticides, dangerous toxins, health disparities, and let’s explore solutions. Let’s teach our children to be environmental advocates and help this generation to “green” the next one. Let them know, it isn’t just about recycling plastic bottles and paper products. It’s about giving love to the planet – the grass, the trees, the birds and yes, the bees. It’s about planting vegetable gardens, beautifying the landscape outside your school and leaving that odd shaped stinkbug on your wall alone. It’s also about understanding the environmental justice battles of our African American forefathers, knowing how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.

The baby steps we take with our young environmental stewards today will help the next generation to take even bigger steps in the future.

About the author: Kuae Kelch Mattox is the National President of Mocha Moms, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports stay at home mothers of color with 100 chapters in 29 states.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Black History Month: Administrator Lisa P. Jackson: Black Women in History and Culture

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

Every February, our nation marks Black History Month. In 2012 we have spent the month honoring the work of African American women who shaped our country and earned their place in American history.

As an African American woman, this has been a time for me to reflect on the women who ensured that my generation would have every possible opportunity. I grew up in the years after segregation ended. I was able to get good education and had access to the rights of every American. Rather than fearing that I would be denied entrance to college because of prejudice or unequal treatment under the law, my parents fully expected me to go on to higher education and use that opportunity to chart the course of my own life.

Without the work of African American women through the years, my life and the lives of millions of Americans would not be what they are today. That is why we take this time to share that history with others, and recognize that the stories of black women in American history – fighting against slavery, struggling for equality and voting rights, refusing to be silent in the face of violence and oppression – are stories that matter to every American.

Those stories begin as far back as the earliest days of our country, when a Massachusetts slave named Phillis Wheatley learned to read and write and became our country’s earliest black poet. They include Harriet Tubman and the women of the Underground Railroad, who put their lives at risk to bring their fellow Americans to freedom.

They are the stories of brave women like Ida Wells who, in the wake of the Civil War, used her writing to expose the brutality and intimidation of lynch mobs. They are actresses like Dorothy Dandridge and authors like Zora Neale Hurston, who broke through barriers to reach new audiences and give African American women new venues for expression.

During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, the Montgomery Bus Boycotts started with the actions of an African American woman: Rosa Parks, refusing to move to the back of the bus. Throughout the movement, women like Septima Clark, Coretta Scott King, Ella Baker, Myrlie Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer and others marched and spoke and worked to make our nation a more equal place, where men and women of every race had the same fair shot. One of those women, Dr. Dorothy Height, started her Civil Rights work at 25 years old, and marched beside Dr. King in Washington. I met her not long ago, when she was 96 years old and still taking action to ensure equality and opportunity for every American.

Alongside these names from the history books are the mothers, sisters and daughters whose stories we may not have heard, but who played a critical role nonetheless. I think of my mother, her mother and my aunts, and the times they lived through. I know how important their perseverance has been in nurturing me and the women of my generation, and passing down the values and culture that give us strength.

As the old saying goes, “To whom much is given, much is required,” and for today’s generations the contributions of African American women through the years is both an inspiration and a responsibility. From them, we know that nothing will inspire future leaders like the example we set. It is important today that we nurture the talents of young women and empower them to confront the challenges ahead.

That is what celebrating Black History Month has always been about: remembering our past so that we can strengthen our future. The work of African American women through the years shows us how to fulfill the promise of this great nation, and move us all toward a more perfect union. Now it is our turn.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Black History Month: In The Spirit of Service and Stewardship

By Carolyn House Stewart, Esq.

Alpha Kappa Alpha women are known for wearing their pink and green as they serve communities all over the globe.To effectively serve in these communities requires being healthy.

As one of the world’s leading service organizations primarily comprised of African-American women, we have a mandate to promote programs on heart health, asthma, cancer prevention, diabetes awareness and other health initiatives as part of our service mission.

We are honored to be working closely with the EPA and Administrator Jackson, to help educate our members on the importance of protecting human health and the environment. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and EPA share a commitment to address human health issues and to expand the environmental conversation within the communities we serve.

This partnership supports our programmatic theme: “Global Leadership Through Timeless Service.”

Our health is our wealth, so we encourage our members to take simple actions to mitigate the impact of health and environmental hazards. These include recycling at our national and regional conferences, raising awareness on heart health through programs like “pink goes red for a day” in support of the American Heart Association’s Go Red Campaign, and by supporting First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” fitness campaign.

Together, AKA and the EPA are working to promote greater awareness about environmental triggers that can lead to asthma attacks and other ailments that compromise health. Our hope is that our partnership with the EPA is only the beginning of an ongoing national dialog to educate and empower women of color to be greater advocates for healthier environments.

As the leader of this dynamic organization, I have a personal stake in conveying this message. So, in the spirit of love, I appeal to you to make the changes, adjustments and modifications in your lives, so we all can be better stewards of our environment. It is a gift of love you give yourself, your family and your community.

About the author: Carolyn House Stewart of Tampa, Florida was installed as the 28th International President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. The swearing-in ceremony was marked by a compelling mix of pageantry, pomp and ritual and was witnessed by an overflow crowd of members. It marked the climax of the Sorority’s weeklong conference that took place July 9-16 at St. Louis’ Convention Center.  In ascending to the international presidency, Attorney Stewart becomes the first lawyer to head the organization. She also makes history as the first president to serve a full term in the Sorority’s second centennial. Alpha Kappa Alpha celebrated its first century in 2008

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Black History Month:The Power of a Mother’s Voice

By Kuae Kelch Mattox
National President, Mocha Moms, Inc.

It’s been said that there is no one more protective than a mother over her children, and when it comes to our children’s health, our passion knows no bounds. Yet many women, like me, grew up taking the environment and the air we breathe for granted. We left the work of fighting for clean air to the die-hard environmentalists and dared speak up unless an issue hit too close to home.

But now across this country, many mothers, and mothers organizations in particular are realizing the incredible power of their collective voice. Mothers are the new face of environmentalism. You see us now on the frontlines, writing letters to the editor of our local paper, organizing grassroots efforts to educate our peers, promoting online environmental campaigns, going door to door with petitions and demanding accountability at town hall meetings. We now know that clean air is not only important, it is vital to the health and well being of future generations.

As an African American wife of an asthma sufferer and mother of three children, one of whom also suffers from asthma, I am horrified by the statistics that are devastating our community. African Americans visit the emergency room for asthma at 350 percent the average rate that whites do, and die from it twice as often. Mortality rates for cancer are higher for African Americans than for any other group, and heart disease is the most fatal illness in the black community.

We need to expand the conversation to include the environmental causes of illnesses that affect communities of color, the pollution that makes its way into our schools and the environmental challenges in our neighborhoods that hold back economic growth.

When the EPA asked Mocha Moms to join them in the fight for cleaner air, we jumped at the chance to further educate our mothers and their families.
Our hope is that our partnership with the EPA is only the beginning of an ongoing national dialog to empower mothers of color to be greater advocates for healthier environments. We are thrilled to have a seat at the discussion table. After all, it is our children who will ultimately reap the greatest benefit.

About the author: Kuae Kelch Mattox is the National President for Mocha Moms, Inc.  Mocha Moms, Inc. is a national, non-profit organization that supports stay at home mothers of color with 100 chapters in 29 states.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.