Welcome to our third post in our four-part series for Black Green History month! Our first post gave a brief explanation of what environmental justice actually is. In our second post, we learned about the history of environmental justice and how deeply it is tied to the movement for civil rights from Dr. Mildred “Mama Bahati” McClain. This week we’re highlighting people who are finding intersectional solutions to the problems people in their communities face every day. These leaders aren’t just trying to solve climate change or roll out clean energy infrastructure, they're working to build a more just and equitable world for us all.
Dr. Adrienne Hollis is a Senior Climate Justice and Health Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in Washington D.C., where she helps develop projects that document the health impacts that climate change has on communities of color. Dr. Hollis has also worked at the grassroots level as an environmental toxicologist and environmental attorney. In these roles, she was actually mentored by Dr. Mildred McClain, who was profiled in our Black Green History post last week. At UCS Dr. Hollis identifies health concerns in black and brown communities and evaluates ways that policies can be changed to address climate change and the well being of people living in climate impacted and environmentally unjust areas. To keep up with Dr. Hollis and her work follow her on Twitter here.
Talia Buford writes about environmental justice and impacts for ProPublica, a leading investigative news organization. Previously, Buford reported on environment and labor issues at the Center for Public Integrity. Her marquee pieces there centered on poor enforcement of the Civil Rights Act by the EPA. Her reporting profile includes pieces on obscure charges energy companies add to your bills and deep reporting on North Carolina’s failure to curb pollution from hog farms in the aftermath of hurricanes. Buford has carved a niche for herself by creating stories that center black and brown people and reminds me of how labor, the economy, energy, and the rights of working people intersect. To see some of Buford’s work go here.
Dr. Na'Taki Osborne Jelks is an Associate Professor at Spelman University and spends her time mobilizing urban communities and youth of color in Atlanta around environmental stewardship as the Board Chair of the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA). WAWA was formed as a response to community concerns about discriminatory wastewater treatment practices in West Atlanta and has since evolved into a partnership with members of the West Atlanta community that protects greenspace and water quality while educating residents about environmental issues that affect their communities. Dr. Jelks is also an Assistant Professor at her alma mater, Spelman College, teaching Environmental and Health Services. In her classroom, Dr. Jelks demonstrates the importance of community involvement in environmental justice, and in doing so inspires the next generation of environmental advocates. She is nationally acclaimed for her work in centering and empowering communities in environmental spaces. Visit Spelman College's faculty page for more information on the work Dr. Jelks in leading in Atlanta.
Zsa Zsa Heard is the Chief Executive Officer of the LaGrange Housing Authority (LHA). Under Heard, the LaGrange Housing Authority has introduced programs to improve the lives of its residents including training in economic empowerment, educational advancement, health and wellness, and character and leadership. In order to prepare its residents for future job opportunities, LHA unveiled a new solar flower in June 2019, which is being used to teach local children about solar power and open up future job opportunities. The power generated from the solar flower will help offset the costs of running the housing authority. If you want to learn more about the awesome work coming from LHA, check out their site here.
These are just a handful of black leaders from different parts of the country who are challenging the mainstream view of what a climate solution is. Stay tuned for our final installment of Black Green History next week where we’ll wrap up this month of coverage on black leaders and lay out a vision for what comes next!