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7 Black Climate Justice Leaders that deserve our gratitude


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Black leaders have made invaluable contributions to solving our nation's toughest problems, using their lived experience, character, and genius to create a more just world. However, throughout history their voices have tragically been silenced, diminished, and erased from the heroic stories of changemakers, creating a false narrative that omits the Black excellence that has shaped so much of our world today.
This Black History Month we're putting the spotlight on seven Black leaders that inspire us each and every day to create a more equitable future for our communities and our planet. They are history makers who paving the way for a more equitable, more sustainable future in the U.S.

Dr. Mildred McClain

Photo credit: The Harambee House
Photo credit: The Harambee House

Dr. Mildred McClain, also known as Mama Bahati, is the Executive Director of Harambee House, a prominent environmental justice organization in Savannah, Georgia, and a Dream.Org Transformative Communities partner. Dr. McClain is a 50-year veteran of the People’s Movement for Justice and Self-Determination worldwide. For the past 30 years, she has engaged with underrepresented communities all over the world to help them make their voices heard, focusing on climate change and food sovereignty.
Dr. McClain has fought relentlessly to bring attention to the plight of people of color who live near nuclear weapons production sites and address the impact of radiation. She has also trained over 3000 youths to support their communities.

Dr. Robert Bullard

Photo credit: Clean Air Council
Photo credit: Clean Air Council

Dr. Robert Bullard is the father of the environmental justice movement in the U.S., a concept that originated in the 80s, but originally didn’t get a lot of support. However, Dr. Bullard spearheaded a ground-breaking study that put the idea of environmental justice on the national agenda.
The study highlighted how toxic waste management facilities were more likely to be placed in communities of color, and inspired his book Dumping in Dixie which further detailed this correlation. The study was the first ethnographic study to identify neighborhoods in proximity to polluting industries, and the book became an environmental justice bible in the U.S.

Dr. Carolyn Finney

Photo credit: Edge Effects
Photo credit: Edge Effects

Carolyn Finney, PhD is a storyteller, author, and cultural geographer who uses her knowledge and experience from culture and academia to challenge and educate on the subject of representation and who gets to speak on environmental policy and action.
Her first book Black Faces, White Spaces dives into the importance of African Americans exploring the outdoors to reconnect with nature and the environment, and she has highlighted this topic in televized media, news outlets, commercials, and for eight years on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board.

Rue Mapp

Photo Credit: The Heinz Awards
Photo Credit: The Heinz Awards

Rue Mapp is an outdoor apparel pioneer who founded Outdoor Afro, the nation’s leading organization for helping Black people get out in nature. The organization has trained over 100 volunteers in over 60 cities across the U.S. and is supported by companies like CLIF BAR, enabling an inspiring forest hike with CLIF athlete Venus Williams.
By combining her engagement with connecting Black people to nature and her profession as an apparel designer, she is dedicated to empowering Black environmentalism. In 2022, she was invited as a founding member of Hurtigruten Expeditions’s historic Black Traveler Advisory Board to help drive change and new opportunities for Black people in the adventure cruise industry, increasing the visibility and inclusivity of Black travelers.

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

Photo Credit: Vogue
Photo Credit: Vogue

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, and writer who co-founded the Urban Ocean Lab, a non-profit think tank that addresses climate adaptation policy for coastal cities and develops equitable solutions for these areas.
As the climate gets warmer, coastal cities are at risk of rising seas and storms, and disadvantaged communities will often be hit first and worst. The focus of Dr. Johnson’s advocacy work is on climate solutions involving local communities in the U.S.

John Francis

Photo credit: PlanetWalk.Org
Photo credit: PlanetWalk.Org

John Francis lived in San Francisco in the 1970s when an oil spill devastated the nearby beaches. The experience of cleaning the shore of the spill and scrubbing birds and sea animals clean of oil stains jarred him, making him pledge to stop using motor vehicles again so that he wouldn’t contribute to this happening again.
He started walking everywhere, eventually becoming known as the Planetwalker. In 1991, he was appointed the United Nations Environment Program’s Goodwill Ambassador to the World’s Grassroots Communities, and he spent the rest of his life studying environmental issues and acted as project manager for the United States Coast Guard Oil Pollution Act Staff of 1990, in Washington, DC, where he assisted in writing oil spill regulations. For this work, he received the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Public Service Commendation.

Beverly Wright

Photo Credit: Aspen Challenge
Photo Credit: Aspen Challenge

Beverly Wright grew up and lived in Cancer Alley, an area stretching between Baron Rouge and New Orleans, where over 150 petrochemical plants and refineries are located. She found that these facilities negatively affected local communities and that this effect became even worse because of the lack of community engagement in policymaking.
To address this, Beverly developed the communiversity model, connecting universities and locals to include community feedback and experiences in research and policymaking for academic educators and researchers. She also founded the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, the first center for environmental justice in the United States. Under the Biden administration, Dr. Wright was appointed to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, where she advises on how the federal government can address current and historic environmental injustices.
  • Tabitha Kimani

    7 w

    Wow. Good to know that we have so many people around the globe dedicated to the environment conservation. They deserve recognition.

    1
    • Chris Ndungu

      7 w

      Adulation to these 7 Giants. Indeed, black is beauty attached with genius brains. Seeing such leaders focusing on problems facing climate change is a commendable work.

      • George Kariuki

        8 w

        There's no better time to do it than during the black history black month.

        1
        • zelda ninga

          8 w

          They all need to be recognized,thanks for sharing this.

          • Munene Mugambi

            8 w

            It is good to see positives about black leaders, especially during Black History Month. They should be seen as pioneers, whom we shall emulate their steps in climate change and climate justice. A beacon of hope for the planet if you may

            1
            • Rukia Ahmed Abdi

              8 w

              Black is beauty and great brains. A big thank you to the seven black climate justice leaders. Blacks will never be silenced, we will keep on contributing to world discover to address challenges facing humanity.

              4
              • Rotich Kim

                8 w

                good information

                4
                • Sarah Chabane

                  8 w

                  Thanks for sharing 💚 it's great to get to know about these fantastic climate leaders

                  1
                  Welcome, let's solve the climate crisis together
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