By Maya Richard-Craven | Word In Black
(WIB) – Environmental injustice and the climate crisis have hurt Black folk for too long. Need a few examples of how we’re affected? How about these:
- Black folk are 75% more likely to live near toxic waste facilities.
- We are 40% more likely to live somewhere with extreme temperatures due to climate change.
- 68% of Black folk live within 30 miles of a coal-fired plant.
The good news is that the Black climate justice movement is going strong. Head to TikTok, and you’ll find Black environmentalists on EcoTok taking a positive approach to acknowledging inequities. If you read about the UN Environment Programme you’ll learn that Black women are making major changes in the global response to climate change.
Several Black organizations are working to fight the effects of climate change and its impact on Black communities. Here are a few that should be on your radar.
1. The NAACP Center for Environmental & Climate Justice
Leaders at the NAACP understand that there can’t be conversations about civil rights without acknowledging environmental inequities. That’s why the civil rights organization has spent the past decade fighting for climate justice.
During his five-year term, former NAACP president Ben Jealous created the NAACP Center for Environmental & Climate Justice. Abre’ Conner, a Black woman and licensed attorney, was appointed as director of the center last year.
Conner has plenty to say when it comes to climate justice.
“You can’t really have conversations about environmental injustice unless the people who are most impacted at the community level are able to speak for themselves,” she says.
“That’s a key component of how we look at this work. We build out public education and help people understand their rights.”
Learn more about the NAACP Center for Environmental and Climate Justice here.
2. Black Millennials for Flint (BM4F)
It’s been nearly nine years since the water in Flint, Michigan, became contaminated with lead and other toxins. Members of Black Millennials 4 Flint refuse to forget.
Climate advocate LaTricea Adams founded Black Millennials 4 Flint after learning about the Flint water crisis in November 2015. By the following February, Black Millenials 4 Flint had officially become a movement.
The organization trains its community members in public speaking in order to help them feel more comfortable speaking before larger audiences.
BM4F is on a mission to ensure that Black folk avoid exposure to lead from drinking water. Although the water in Flint was first contaminated in 2014, the fight for access to clean water is far from over.
“Within the first one to three years, there was a public outpouring of support with gallons and gallons of water to support residents,” Adams says. “A lot of those donations stopped. Fast forward to 2023, people still don’t trust their water. They shouldn’t.”
Learn more about Black Millennials 4 Flint here.
3. Soul Fire Farm
It is important that we, as Black folk, re-establish our relationship with the land. For many of us, this means growing food and tending to animals. For others, it means fighting food insecurity through volunteer work.
Soul Fire Farm co-director and farm manager Leah Penniman believes food justice is climate justice. The self-described “soil nerd” has created a safe space for BIPOC folk to come together in the fight against food inequality.
The Afro-indigenous community organization offers training to BlPOC farmers, hosts food justice workshops for young people of color, and delivers food to families experiencing food insecurity.
The Soul Fire Farm food sovereignty program reaches over 50,000 people every year. And Penniman wrote “Farming While Black,” a book that stresses the importance of Black folk owning land as a means of liberation.
“Stewarding our own land, growing our own food, educating our own youth, participating in our own healthcare and justice systems,” Penniman writes, “this is the source of real power and dignity.”
Learn more about Soul Fire Farm here.
4. National Black Environmental Justice Network
The National Black Environmental Justice Network has been fighting for climate justice for over 20 years. In December 1999, almost 300 Black grassroots organizations met in New Orleans, Louisiana, to create a strategy to address environmental inequities in Black communities.
This led to the birth of the National Black Environmental Justice Network. Today some prominent Black folk are on the board’s executive committee, including Dr. Beverly Wright and Dr. Robert D. Bullard.
Bullard, the “father” of environmental justice, believes that race and the environment are heavily intertwined.
“You can’t really have conversations about environmental injustice unless the people who are most impacted at the community level are able to speak for themselves.” ABRE’ CONNER, NAACP CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL AND CLIMATE JUSTICE
“Environmental justice embraces the principle that all people in communities are entitled to equal protection of our environmental laws; housing, transportation, energy, food, and water security and health laws,” he says. “Environmental justice is nothing more than this whole principle: people have the right to a clean, healthy, sustainable environment without regard to race, color, or national origin.”
Learn more about the National Black Environmental Justice Network here.
5. Climate Justice Alliance Black Caucus
The Climate Justice Alliance Black Caucus pushes for environmental policies that benefit predominantly Black communities. The Black Caucus was founded after some members of the Climate Justice Alliance felt it was necessary to acknowledge Black folk who have contributed to the climate justice movement. From the site to social handles, the Black Caucus uplifts Black leaders in the environmental justice movement.
For the past year, the Black Caucus has worked on a documentary archiving the roles Black folk have played in the climate justice movement through oral history and songs.
But the Black Caucus doesn’t just focus on historical preservation. Organizers also tackle food sovereignty, federal policy, and more. Members of the caucus created six principles of food sovereignty, which include making daily decisions, localizing food systems, and working with nature.
Learn more about the Climate Justice Alliance Black Caucus here.