Black History Month week 2: Environmental activists
By Berit Thorson
Last week, we highlighted three Black climate leaders who are or have been involved with CCL. This week, we dive into more Black climate activists working in various parts of the environmental movement!
First up: Leah Thomas, one of the founders of Intersectional Environmentalist (IE). Thomas started IE in June 2020 after posting a graphic to social media with the saying “Environmentalists for Black Lives Matter.” The post’s caption gave a definition of intersectional environmentalism and included a call to action for the global environmental community to recognize the interconnected nature of harm to the planet and particular communities. The post went further, calling for individuals to act in service of underserved, affected communities. Soon after, Thomas and her co-founders Diandra Marizet, Sabs Katz and Phil Aiken launched the IE platform which has since grown to become a nonprofit organization uplifting stories and work surrounding climate change, sustainability, social justice, human rights, and more. Thomas is now writing a book called “The Intersectional Environmentalist” focused on “educating the next generation of activists on how to create meaningful, inclusive, and sustainable change.”
Next we have Vanessa Nakate, a Ugandan climate justice activist. She founded the Rise Up Climate Movement, and has worked to protect natural spaces like the rainforests of the Congo. She is vocal about the imbalanced distribution of climate change effects. Many African countries experience more intense effects of climate change than the U.S., for example, while emitting significantly less greenhouse gasses. Nakate advocates for global, equitable climate solutions and discusses her experience and insight in her book, “A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis.”
Garry Gilliam Jr. is not only a former NFL athlete, but also the founder and CEO of The Bridge Eco-Village, a real estate development company focused on repurposing unused properties like warehouses, malls, or schools into eco-villages. These eco-villages are sustainable and self-contained in inner cities, with intentional spaces ranging from housing to schools, workplaces, agriculture, and entertainment. Gilliam sees The Bridge as an empowering model for sustainable development of communities around the world. Hear more about The Bridge from Gilliam himself in Episode 54 of Citizens’ Climate Radio.
Summer Dean, known by many as “Climate Diva,” is a sustainable fashion expert advocating for climate solutions. Through her social media, especially her Instagram and TikTok, she educates followers on topics from renewable energy to clean beauty brands to the Line 3 pipeline protests. She provides useful tips for how to shop more sustainably while recognizing that prioritizing sustainability can be inaccessible for some people. Dean also serves as the Energy Topic Lead with Intersectional Environmentalist, where she is able to discuss the intersectionality of renewable energy solutions with environmental justice and equity. You can listen to her discuss these topics with Yoko Okura on Episode 6 of “Dismantled,” the Intersectional Environmentalist podcast.
Next week, we’re talking about outdoor organizations founded, led, or geared toward Black people accessing the outdoors. Nurturing a love of the outdoors is essential for the fight against the climate crisis as well as for the well-being of all humans. Make sure to subscribe to our blog to read about creating space for Black outdoor joy in our third Black History Month post next week!
Berit Thorson is the CCL Spring 2022 Communications Intern. As an outdoors enthusiast, she is passionate about protecting nature and people from the impacts of climate change, and is excited to be working with CCL toward these goals.