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Black History Month Voices: Shashawnda Campbell | Commentary

Shashawnda Campbell of Baltimore reads her essay for Black History Month.

During February, Maryland residents are commemorating Black History Month by studying and celebrating the past. Meanwhile, what’s being called the racial reckoning of 2020 is barely in the rearview mirror. Those recent events — Black people killed by police and marches demanding systemic change — are prompting some Baltimore residents to explore what needs to be done to ensure there is substantial progress toward achieving racial justice and equity.

The Baltimore Sun asked residents: What will it take to move the region ahead in 2021 and beyond? Specifically what do they want to change, and how will they help make those changes happen? Each week this month, we will share some of their comments about how they hope to move forward after a tumultuous 2020.

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The essays have been edited for clarity and length.

Shashawnda Campbell, 23, member, South Baltimore Community Land Trust

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In an essay for Black History Month, Shashawnda Campbell says she is committing 2021 to advancing environmental justice. February 8, 2021
In an essay for Black History Month, Shashawnda Campbell says she is committing 2021 to advancing environmental justice. February 8, 2021 (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

“We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point.” Martin Luther King spoke these words in 1968 the night before he was assassinated as he addressed a group of Memphis sanitation workers who had decided to strike in the face of unsafe working conditions and exposure to toxic hazards.

Now, over 50 years later in Maryland, the wealthiest state in the wealthiest country on earth, sanitation workers still face unsafe working conditions while earning among the lowest wages within their sector in the nation. And in Baltimore, poor and Black people live amid a sea of toxic waste, including the air from BRESCO incinerator, the city’s worst air polluter.

I am committing 2021 to advancing environmental justice by building unity across labor and community to realize Baltimore’s answer to environmental injustice: Zero Waste.

I will work with the Zero Waste coalition to reach out to every community association and city council member in Baltimore. At the same time, I will work with students to leverage collective buying power to finance a new compost facility in our region to turn 80,000 tons of commercial food waste into healthy soil amendment, create new jobs and reduce methane emissions.

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— Compiled by Christine Condon

Read other Black History Month Voices essays

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