Hip hop has been speaking to peoples’ struggles since it came out of South Bronx in the 1970s, whether it’s been about poverty, racism or gun violence. Why shouldn’t it be about environmental justice, too?

Although people of color in the United States face elevated risk from environmental harms — including air pollution, hazardous waste and flooding — their voices often are neglected in important discussions about environmental policy. In many cases, they simply aren’t at the table. A 2014 survey of environmental nonprofits, foundations and government agencies, conducted by Dorceta Taylor of the University of Michigan, found that while people of color make up 36 percent of the U.S. population, they constitute no more than 16 percent of the workforce of any environmental organization.

This isn’t because environmental professionals do not want to speak to people of color or that people of color don’t want a seat at that table. Too often, I believe, it’s that these different groups are simply speaking different languages. Those in the environmental fields are accustomed to speaking to small audiences that understand a specialized language that does not resonate with people of color.

Too often people in these communities dismiss environmental concerns because they have other pressing issues in their lives — in many cases, they’re in survival mode — and they believe "the environment" is disconnected from their experiences. We need to find forms of communication that resonate with those affected by climate change, pollution, food insecurity, contaminated water and toxic exposures, and that speak to their values.

This is where hip hop sustainability can make a difference. Hip hop is a form of expression created by the marginalized communities of color I am trying to reach.

Read the full article about how hip hop can connect communities of color to green issues by Thomas Easley at GreenBiz.