4 Black Climate Activists Fighting Environmental Racism
Research indicates that non-white Americans bear a disproportionate burden of air pollution, stemming from sources like automobile fumes, smog, soot, oil smoke, ash, and construction dust, in comparison to their white counterparts.
This intersection of climate change and racism is commonly referred to as environmental racism.
In response to the health and safety challenges of environmental racism, Black climate activists shed light on this intersection and convey a powerful message of hope and resilience. Here are a few of the notable Black leaders in the space.
Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny
Amariyanna "Mari" Copeny, also known as "Little Miss Flint," gained recognition for writing a letter to then-president Barack Obama about the water crisis in her hometown of Flint, Michigan. Her activism started at the age of 8, and she has been working to raise awareness and mobilize resources to address the ongoing crisis. Mari has received various awards and acknowledgments for her efforts in empowering young people and advocating for positive change in her community.
Jerome Foster II
Jerome Foster II, the youngest-ever White House Advisor in American history, is a prominent leader in the environmental movement. He is a leading organizer for Fridays for Future, co-founder of the nonprofit OneMillionOfUs, and a member of the White House's Environmental Justice Advisory Council. Foster's research paper on "The Human Right to Natural Capital" for Harvard University earned him an invitation to speak at the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights.
X (Twitter): @JeromeFosterII
Leah Thomas, also known as "Green Girl Leah," is a leading voice in the intersectional environmentalism movement. She launched The Intersectional Environmentalist community in 2020, which aims to promote diversity in climate activism. Leah is the author of the book The Intersectional Environmentalist and inspires others to explore new places, live sustainably, and practice radical self-acceptance.
Dr. Robert Bullard, known as the 'father of environmental justice,' has been campaigning against the dumping of harmful waste in predominantly Black neighborhoods in the southern US since the 1970s. His work has highlighted the connection between systemic racism, environmental oppression, and the disproportionate exposure of descendants of slaves to pollutants. His efforts led to the signing of the Executive Order on Environmental Justice in 1994, which is being built upon by the Biden administration.
Karen Washington is an urban gardening advocate born in New York City in 1956. After completing her education, she settled in the Bronx and began her activism in urban farming in 1988. Washington's work led to the creation of community gardens and organizations, such as the "Garden of Happiness" and the Black Urban Growers (BUGS). She has been recognized for her influential work and continues to advocate for urban food sustainability and activism.