My Hope Chest Published on January 9, 2024

An article by PDF’s Advancement and Communications Director Lora Wondolowski for the January 2024 edition of AAPOV magazine. View the entire January edition of AAPOV here.

My Hope Chest 
Happy New Year and here’s hoping for a more just 2024.  This last year has brought so many setbacks for social justice and equity in the US.  I know I am having trouble finding hope as we enter an election year and the circus that will ensue.  That being said, I want to recount our setbacks and showcase bright spots. 

Climate change & environmental justice: The summer of 2023 was reported as the Earth’s hottest on record– .41 degrees Fahrenheit warmer.  We saw devastating fires in Hawaii and a toxic train wreck in Ohio.  In December, powerful tornados destroyed communities in Tennessee.  These events have gone from being uncommon to all-too frequent.  The international climate summit is winding down with little progress in agreements to phase-out fossil fuels. The effects of climate change and pollution disproportionately affect marginalized communities.  We know this all too well in Springfield, where asthma rates are some of the highest in the country. 

Racial equity– It has been three years since the murder of George Floyd, yet 1,099 people have been shot and killed by police in the past 12 months.  In 2023, 27% of victims of police-involved shootings were Black which is more than twice the rate of Whites.  Despite an increased awareness of equity issues, several states have passed legislation rolling back civil rights.  Florida criminalizes protests, restricts the teaching of African-American history, and defunds DEI programs.  Additionally, the Voting Rights Act is under legal assault and is being hollowed out.  If that isn’t enough, the Supreme Court did away with affirmative action in higher education this summer, which is impacting hiring and other spheres. 

LBGTQ Rights–  Nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures in 2023, this is a sharp increase.  More than 220 bills specifically targeted transgender and non-binary people.  A record 70 anti-LGBTQ laws have been enacted so far this year. These bills restricted free speech, gender-affirming care, or banned drag performances. Additionally, the Supreme Court ruled that businesses can refuse services to gays and lesbians. Lastly, at least 28 transgender and gender non-conforming people were killed in 2023, 89% were people of color. 

This list doesn’t touch on book banning, mass shootings, women’s reproductive rights, and a myriad of other issues.  But I don’t want to leave us hopeless as we enter the new year.  In my role at the Peace Development Fund, I have seen so many examples of communities organizing that results in changes.   

My hope chest: 

  • In Springfield, the court has ruled that the biomass plant cannot move forward. 
  • Young activists aged 5-22 sued the state of Montana and won the right to a “climate system that is safe and stable for their lives.” 
  • Many anti-LGBTQ laws are being struck down in states as being unconstitutional. 
  • Voters in Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania voted to protect abortion rights in their states. 
  • Children detained at the dangerous Angola prison were moved to safer facilities. 
  • The Supreme Court affirmed the rights of Native families to stay together. 

As we round the new year and begin 2024, I am thankful to the countless advocates and activists who have put themselves on the line to fight for what is right.  In a time with such significant headwinds, it is easy to feel like we can’t make a difference.  I am facing 2024 with the reality of our challenges and the knowledge that victories are possible.  I plan to use my hope chest to give me the strength to continue to be a voice for social justice in my new role on the Greenfield City Council.

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