Some folks may not believe in science, but climate change is real. And our Black brothers and sisters have been at the forefront of the issue as researchers, policy makers, and environmental justice advocates for decades. Though mainstream news lauds advocates like Al Gore and Rachel Carson, Black leaders of this movement have been prevalent since the 1960s – just without the attention they deserve.
Though mainstream news lauds advocates like Al Gore and Rachel Carson, Black leaders of this movement have been prevalent since the 1960s – just without the attention they deserve.
We’re changing that with a list of environmental justice advocates you should know.
Dr. Brewer is a professor of African-American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota. She’s published extensively on environmental racism, the prison-industrial complex, and Black feminism. She chairs the board of Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota and helped to organize the Black Environmental Thought conference in 2012.
Ms. Jackson is Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. She oversees Apple’s efforts to minimize its impact on the environment by investing in renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency. Previously, she served as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a Presidential Appointee under President Barack Obama.
Mr. Joseph is a spoken-word poet, dancer, and playwright that has explored the role of environmentalism “in communities where solar panels seem trivial in the face of violence and dead-end schools.” He’s the artistic director of the 7-part HBO documentary Russell Simmons presents “Brave New Voices” and an inaugural recipient of the U.S. Artists Rockefeller Fellowship. He is the co-founder of Life is Living, a national series of one-day festivals designed to activate under-resourced parks and affirm peaceful urban life through hip hop arts and focused environmental action.
Ms. O’Leary was the first Black Secretary of Energy, a position that she served in from 1993 to 1997 under President Bill Clinton. She also served as the Assistant Attorney General and Assistant Prosecutor in the state of New Jersey and was appointed to the Federal Energy Administration under President Gerald Ford, as well as the Department of Energy under President Jimmy Carter. Ms. O’Leary also served as the President of Fisk University from 2004 through February 2013.
Mr. Gringo is the founder and chairman of Zoetic Energy, a leading edge renewable energy developer. He has had a lifelong career promoting sustainable development through the use of clean technology solutions. As an internationally recognized thought leader on global environmental issues, he has led both the National Wildlife Federation and the Apollo Alliance. Mr. Ringo was featured in Vice President Al Gore’s Academy Award Winning Documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and has co-authored two books: Diversity and the Future of the U.S. Environmental Movement (2007) and The Green Festival Reader (2008).
Ms. Redmond is a food justice activist, Tedx speaker, and advocate who was inspired after being unable to find healthy, fresh, and pesticide-free food in her West Side Chicago neighborhood. Her advocacy has worked to address the issue of “food deserts,” (though she’s not a fan of the term itself) and “challenge food producers and consumers to examine the inequalities in the food system and seek solutions that don’t impinge the rights of immigrant laborers or people of color living in low-income communities.” To her, the food justice movement doesn’t just advocate for grocery stores – but addressing the core issues of hunger and poverty. You can watch her talk from TedxManhattan here.
Inspired and want to know more? Check out another list curated by the the Sierra Club, North Star Chapter.