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US Civil Rights Groups Demand Change

FILE - A mural is displayed as a Black History Month Memorial Ride is held in memory of those who have died through race-related violence, organized by the family of shot Black man Ahmaud Arbery, in Brunswick, Georgia, U.S., Feb.27, 2021.

As Americans recognize Black History Month this February, civil rights groups are drawing attention to issues that impact their communities, including police brutality, lacking economic opportunities and environmental justice.

This year's theme for Black History Month is "Black Resistance," recalling the historical oppression of Black people in the U.S. and rejecting its modern-day iterations.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) says it is determined to ramp up pressure to bring law enforcement officers who abuse their power to account.

Wisdom Cole, national director for youth and college at the NAACP, told VOA that it is imperative to continue the legacy of civil rights leaders like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Maya Angelou in the fight for equality.

“We have come so far but there's so many issues that impact Black people in America today — everything from police brutality, to gun violence (and) economic injustice,” he said, adding that Black Americans should "seek out justice" and "work together" to bring change.

Last month, Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, died three days after he was severely beaten by police officers in Memphis, Tennessee. Six police officers have been fired and five face murder charges as investigations continue. President Joe Biden said in a statement he was “outraged” by the “horrific” incident.

Black people represent 13% of the U.S. population, but they accounted for 27% of people fatally shot and killed by the police in 2021, according to Mapping Police Violence, a group that tracks police shootings in the U.S.

The National Council for Negro Women (NCNW), a Washington-based nonprofit focused on empowering women of African descent, says it is working to promote environmental justice, pointing to racial and gender disparities in the U.S. and the African continent.

Black History Month: Women's Empowerment
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“We're redefining our lens on environmental justice because it's becoming one of the most pressing civil rights issues of our time as we're thinking about climate change,” said Shavon Arline-Bradly, president and CEO of the council.

“We have the opportunity to also interface with leaders on the [African] continent, and our goal is to identify those presidents and prime ministers in our country to talk about ways that we can partner to engage on those policy changes,” she added.