Housing and Education

Student perspective

By |Ceirra Noel and Angel Amankwaah

 

The Resolution Lies Within Us

For a long time now, the common belief that if one works hard enough to overcome a few obstacles, they can achieve the epitome of complete freedom has dominated the minds of many while completely disregarding the ineradicable barriers that many face in the form of environmental injustice.

Environmental injustice isn’t simply not having schools with diverse course offerings nearby, or a Whole FoodsTM 5-10 minutes away. It’s much deeper than that. So deep that some fail to see the lasting effects of it. Environmental injustice is poor, lead contaminated pipes mainly present in Black and Latinx communities that lead to high childhood lead poisoning rates. Environmental injustice is chemical and air pollution caused by big corporations exacerbating health risk for low income communities. It’s the continuous exposure to life threatening conditions towards low income and POC communities that result in poor life outcomes that stand as overbearing impediments for families.

It’s ridiculous that many communities have experienced extreme inequities and their lasting effects through gentrification, unaffordable housing and healthcare, and food deserts. And because these aren’t new conditions to a lot of underrepresented communities, folks would much rather travel to farther schools that are out of reach solely because the resources the school offers are seen as better than the resources available at local schools. Parents have to make the decision between driving 20 minutes to access a natural-based grocery store like Trader Joe’sTM to provide for their families, or stock up on processed foods 3 minutes away from their house, both with detrimental effects to their own health or to the environment. The placement of these stores isn’t by coincidence, and our communities continue to suffer from these conditions. Instead of depending on majority white and privileged communities to retain resources for us to succeed, we pose the questions “Why can’t we build success in our own area?” and “Why must we work tirelessly for resources that are given to others?”

We don’t want resources that are ‘one size fits all’; we want initiatives and programs invested in improving different types of people and that focus on us. We don’t want research-based programs from white affluent research groups. We need data that directly address our communities and understand the dynamics of our individual and whole group structures. We don’t want representation in the form of one of hundreds/thousands of people expected to speak on behalf of our whole community. We want accurate representation of the women, men, youth, and our concerns in multitude to get an accurate depiction of what our community needs. And we don’t want many different organizations working on their own solutions. We want collaboration, we want unity, and we want partnership in helping build up the aspects and people that make up this community.

Above all, we don’t want a resource-rich community that effectively serves youth in the way they claim they will, with poor coordination and limited success. All throughout the GVR-Montbello community we have many small organizations, non-profits, and initiatives that overlap work with other established programs, thereby limiting their impact. We hold the greatest power of all, and that’s the power of people, power of community, power in unity, and power in our oneness. We want to see more and better collaboration, partnership, and coordination in order to effectively eradicate the systems continuously neglecting our needs.

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Ceirra Noel is a Junior at MLK Early College. She’s lived in the GVR-Montbello community for 14 years, and is involved in her community through organizations e.g. DMLKs Volunteer Club founder, The Power of One youth leader, YAASPA intern, and member of The Know Justice Know Peace: The Take.

Angel Amankwaah is also a Junior at DMLK. She’s lived in the GVR-Montbello community for 4 years, and is an active community member through her participation in YAASPA, MLK volunteer club, her internship at Children’s Hospital, and Steps to Success
Montbello.

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