Tavis Smiley announces KBLA Talks’ 12-month campaign.  (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

 The 12-month campaign looks to educate, connect and highlight communities of color on climate change.

SmileyAudioMedia, Inc. announced that its flagship, Los Angeles-based radio station, KBLA Talk 1580 AM, will launch a historic $2 million, 12-month Climate Justice Campaign.  The announcement was made on Jan. 12 during a press conference at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial at Kenneth Hahn State Park.

“Poor people and people of color are catching the most hell,” said Tavis Smiley. “They are the disproportionate victims of these climate catastrophes, these climate maladies.”

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Smiley continued, “At KBLA Talk 1580, we believe that climate is king, so we have, on this annual MLK holiday weekend, assigned ourselves the task of building and being a bridge over these troubled waters.”

The 12-month campaign will have four objectives: center the voices of communities of color in the climate conversation, connect at-risk fellow citizens with advocacy organizations, increase climate health literacy, and highlight frontline climate justice crusaders of color.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass speaks in support of KBLA Talk’s Climate Justice Campaign.  (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

KBLA Talk 1580 is joined in this campaign by public and private partners that include LADWP, which last year launched its Powered by Equity initiative, Metro, the Port of Los Angeles, CalEndow, California Community Foundation, the Sierra Club, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and other partners who will join the campaign in Q2, Q3 and Q4. Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, local officials, and public and private partners shared their support of KBLA Talk 1580’s coming campaign.

“KBLA is about talk and action on a variety of different issues and I celebrate and champion your leadership on this issue today,” said Bass. “I want to thank KBLA and LADWP for collaborating on such an important issue in such an innovative way and a community-based way, which of course is consistent with Tavis’s history and the station.

“The climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our time and we know that low-income neighborhoods of color are disproportionately harmed by air and toxic pollution. A few years ago, the leading cause of death of Black babies was asthma that was directly related to freeways and air pollution.

“So, when we say disproportionately impacted, that’s not just rhetoric. That is a specific example of the disproportionate impact. I am proud that LADWP is taking a lead not just in climate change, but climate justice.”

“Communities of color, as you’ve heard, are the most impacted by the climate crisis,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell. “And Black communities are acutely, apparently to a legacy of environmental racism and redlining.”

Mitchell continued, “I learned an amazing new term from a young brother organizer in the Central Valley. Because when we talk about disadvantaged communities, sometimes the use of that term, from my perspective, we blame the people who live there for the conditions of which they’re living. And so, the term I have taken from what I learned and I’m trying to live up to every day is a notion of unfinished neighborhoods.

“As an elected policymaker, I have a responsibility to complete these neighborhoods to make sure they have the kind of resources that Caltrans, that Metro, that DWP, that South Coast Air Quality Management District are going to bring to the fold so we can finish these neighborhoods the way they deserve to be finished.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell speaks about the importance of climate justice and how it directly affects the community. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

“As a South Coast Air Quality Management District board member and as your supervisor, I’m committed to transforming this reality by centering equity and environmental justice in all of our policy discussions and actions.

“Because every single person, no matter who we are, where we live, we deserve a future with clean air and a healthy environment.”

“You know, Metro is both an engine of economic vitality and a major force for addressing climate change,” said Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins. “That’s why we are partnering with KBLA to educate, inform and empower people to help address the current and future effects of climate change and help build climate resilience in their community.”

Wiggins continued, “Our mission is to provide safe and reliable public transportation. It’s not only a cornerstone of transit equity, but it is an essential tool in battling climate change. Taking Metro is one of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint, and Metro is operating the cleanest fleet in its history.

“On average, transit riders have a 45 percent lower carbon footprint than car commuters and it’s our hope that through this campaign, we inspire more people to go Metro and more people to take an active role in its expansion.”

“Caltrans recognizes that environmental justice is about ensuring that all communities, regardless of their socioeconomic status or demographic makeup, have fair and equitable access to the benefits of a clean and healthy environment,” said David DeLuz, deputy director of Caltrans’ Office of Civil Rights.

“And we understand that historically disadvantaged communities have disproportionately borne the costs and the brunt of environmental impacts from transportation projects.

“We at Caltrans are committed with the help of the Biden administration and the encouragement of our Governor, Mr. Gavin Newsom, that we address the impacts of our past decisions and start today making decisions that not just focus on efficiency and effectiveness, but also take into account ideas of equity and justice.”

KBLA Talk 1580 is joined in this campaign by public and private partners that include LADWP, Metro, South Coast Air Quality Management District and many more. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

The initiative will launch a robust schedule of climate-themed broadcasts and special programming during the next 12 months, including four free community events (one per quarter), two town halls broadcast nationally from Los Angeles, and a social media and marketing campaign. Going Public PR, a Black and female-owned Communications and Branding agency, will lead the coordination of the efforts.

“I think it’s incumbent upon those of us in Black media to do our part to amplify the voices of our people on topics and in conversations out of which they have been left for far too long,” said Smiley.

“As I said earlier, we are the ones who are victimized by these climate maladies. And we’re the ones whose voices need to be heard. We want to connect people who are being victimized with the resources they need that could help them. We want to highlight all these people who look like you and me, all these people of color, who are in this space, who don’t get the exposure they need to make the case they need to make.

“This conversation has been too White. All day, all night, all White. All day, all night, all White. We want to change that.”