American Red Cross unveils heat-action mural on Juneteenth holiday

American Red Cross unveils heat-action mural on Juneteenth holiday
25 June 2024

By the Climate Centre

The American Red Cross selected the Juneteenth holiday on 19th of the month that commemorates the end of slavery in the US to unveil a mural painted specially by the Climate Centre for global heat action day as an ode to environmental and climate justice.

The event (photo and gallery) organized by the National Capital and Greater Chesapeake Region of the American Red Cross coincided with the current expanding and dangerous heatwave in the US, and underscored the urgent need for preparedness and community resilience.

The mural features symbols of the reduction and prevention of heat stress, such as planting trees, creating green spaces, and spending time in the shade – crucial measures as rising temperatures and extreme weather affect the most vulnerable populations.

But “empowered and equipped” communities are essential for making such strategies effective, said Climate Centre resident artist Rebeka Ryvola de Kremer, who painted the mural.

“My inspiration came from environmental and climate justice efforts observed locally in Washington, DC and across the US.

“The strength of communities in addressing environmental harms and preparing for a changing climate is a central theme of the artwork.

“The piece showcases individuals who have significantly contributed to environmental and climate justice, highlighting the strides in, especially, vulnerable African-American communities.”

Among the African-American personalities depicted are Hazel Johnson and Robert Bullard, often referred to as the mother and father of environmental justice.

‘My inspiration came from environmental and climate justice efforts in Washington, DC
and across the US’

The late Hazel Johnson was a pioneering figure who linked industrial pollutants in air, water and land to adverse health impacts in her Chicago community.

Robert Bullard began collecting data on the health impacts of environmental conditions in the 1970s – a time when little investigation was being done in the low-income communities where pollution tends to be concentrated.

“The mural’s outdoor dinner scene symbolizes inclusivity and community,” Ryvola de Kremer added.

“It underscores the idea that all community members deserve to experience well-being and belonging in the face of climate change.

“This message is reinforced by the diverse group of leaders and heroes depicted, showing that every individual can contribute to creating thriving communities.“

The 2024 Juneteenth day, which has been observed since 1866, saw participants at the unveiling of the mural help paint its final elements themselves.

This mural project was part of events for the 2 June heat action day in the US, marked globally every year since 2022; National Societies around the world observed it this year with a huge array of activities centred on urban art as a platform for raising awareness of the dangers of the extreme heat.

The first-ever global summit on extreme heat was hosted in March jointly by the United States Agency for International Development and the IFRC, gathering political and civil society leaders, and representatives of the private sector and the world’s most affected communities.

(Photo: Mariah Miranda/American Red Cross)