In a different career, as the Washington correspondent for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper, I was lucky enough to get to know civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who was marching for black lives and was a target for police brutality long before I or George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery or Breonna Taylor was born.
As I watch what’s happening in our world today, I’ve found myself reaching for inspiration in the life and words of Rep. Lewis. A passage in his 2012 book Across That Bridge sticks with me:
“I have seen this restlessness among people before. It was in another millennium, another decade and another time in our history, but it pushed through America like a storm.
“…this history lends us one very powerful reminder today: Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society.”
We feel that commitment and determination in the marches and protests from Washington DC to Washington state. We sense that power. And we know together, with commitment and determination, we can make a difference — on racism, on police brutality, on climate change, on building a better, more resilient and more inclusive economy.
Mark Hall is an E2 member and founder of Revalue.io, an energy efficiency company in Oakland, Ca. He also happens to be an African-American entrepreneur who studied political science at Morehouse College, the Atlanta alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As I try to get my head around how E2 could be doing its part to address racial inequity, I sought the advice of Mark and many others.
“The thing to remember is that these issues are not mutually exclusive,” Mark told me. “They are definitely intertwined. And the more we can see these connections, the more we can create avenues to do constructive good.”
E2’s mission is to advance policies that make our environment and our economy better. Mark reminded me that by fighting to advance clean energy policies, we also can help make the air cleaner in communities of color, which suffer unfairly and disproportionately from pollution and climate change. By pushing our lawmakers to rebuild a better, more resilient and more equitable economy, we can help create new opportunities as we continue to transform our economy, including more opportunities for people of color. And by using our resources to amplify these needs not just with policymakers but with the public, we can raise the public’s attention level on these issues.
The environment and economy are at the core of our mission at E2. And, as a wise colleague reminded me, it’s the mission of all of us to stop racism and inequality.
And at E2, we must do more.
For starters, we must improve the lack of diversity in our own ranks. Our membership — and our staff — is predominately white and not reflective of society. We must do better. We’ll start by convening a committee of E2 chapter directors and staff to come up with specific and clear steps to improve our own diversity.
We must also call attention to diversity issues in the clean economy transformation. Clean energy companies are overwhelmingly white, especially at the executive levels. At E2 we’ll start by looking deeper into these racial disparities in our research and reports and making sure policymakers and the public understand them in our communications and advocacy work.
We must also ensure that as we rebuild our economy in the wake of COVID-19, we do it in ways that create new opportunities for African-Americans and other people of color — paving the way for those “avenues to do constructive good” that Mark Hall talks about. As we continue to push Congress and state lawmakers to focus on clean energy and other areas to help us build our economy back better and faster, we’ll use E2’s megaphone increasingly to call on them to build it back more equitably as well. We will also do more to find ways to work alongside and support our allies and other organizations who are already leading the way on equity issues.
The steps we take today and will take in the future are but small ones in the long march to equality that our country once again finds itself on. But as Rep. Lewis, and Mark Hall and all those marching across America today have reminded me, every step in every march matters.
And as long as we are committed, as long as we are determined to make a difference in our society, there’s nothing that can stop us.