Juneteenth has become a day to celebrate the journey and freedom of the Black community — a day where we recognize the moment the last Black people were freed from slavery and reflect on the centuries-old history of racism within our society.
While the reality of racism continues, it is important to take a step back and celebrate progress. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "Nobody's free until everybody's free" — which is part of why it's so important to truly acknowledge the historical significance this date has to American society as a whole, not just the importance it holds for people of color.
As historical knowledge about Juneteenth grows, you may be unsure of how to best honor the holiday and show support and be a better ally. One of the most important things we can do is use our resources to lift up voices of others, so in honor of Juneteenth, we’ve rounded up 19 of our favorite young Black climate activists that you should check out, follow and support. And of course, don't forget to wish your Black friends a Happy Juneteenth.
Summer Dean, Climate Activist and Content Creator
“There’s never been a shortage of Black people in sustainability. Green spaces have just always been exclusive. Now, I see that Black environmentalists and advocates are everywhere, and we all come with a diversity of experiences, cultures, and backgrounds that are helping to build a better world every single day,” (Atmos Interview).
Mikaela Loach, climate justice activist
“I felt this huge amount of climate anxiety; I couldn’t breathe properly at night because I was so scared of our future,” she recalls. “I think that came from realizing that changing my behavior—I went vegan and boycotted fast fashion and tried to go zero waste—wasn’t going to create the change that we need. We need something bigger.” (Vogue)
Issac Smith, ACE Action Fellow
“Climate emergency to me means that the earth is at a tipping point. It means that we have an opportunity now to slow the rate of climate change to bearable levels. On the other hand, climate emergency means that we’ve pushed the environment to its absolute limits and need drastic action to prevent environmental disasters on a global scale. It means that it’s time to make a change if we want to continue living on this planet,” (ACE Interview).
Jerome Foster II, Onemillionofus, The Climate Reporter
“Young people have been the face of movements for so long. We’ve been the face of change in the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-war movement… And now our generation is coming of age and saying clean air and clean water, these are rights,” (ReThink Together Interview).
Vic Barrett, Ace Staff, Youth V. Gov
“We're aware of what we're inheriting. And we have solutions in mind and innovation in mind. And if we just had the opportunity and the chance to make that heard, that’s what's going to make the difference. So I think that's why young people are so important to the conversation around climate change, because we have to own this world after,"(Mashable Interview).
Mari Copeny, “Little Miss Flint”
"Politicians don't think attending a March for our lives rally means you are doing something, and don’t use these marches as photo ops. Do your job and pass laws that protect us. It only starts with marching, but the activism has to turn into ACTION,” (Social Media Post- Twitter).
Aniya Butler, Youth vs. Apocalypse
“I am impatient. I want to live in a nation where my leaders actually lead. They see our lungs are being filled with last breath from burning trees drowning in ashes, more flames than people,” (Yale Climate Connections Article).
Aja Barber, Writer and Stylist, Sustainable Fashion
“If it were encouraged, people probably would buy a lot less. And that’s the root of it. It’s even pushed by politicians,” (Green is the New Black Interview).
Nyarout Nguany, Maine Environmental ChangeMakers Network
“When you think about the effects of climate change, the people who are going to be affected the most are those marginalized groups. I understood that as an individual — as someone who grew up in a low-income household in a low income-neighborhood. I saw how disproportionate the access to clean greenspaces was within my upbringing,” (Yahoo Life Interview).
Kirsten Hamilton, Zero Hour
“When we talk about how climate change is actively doing things towards these communities — and how people in power and the fossil fuel industry are actively taking advantage of these communities — it’s something that is happening right before our eyes, but some people just choose to ignore it,” (TeenVogue Interview).
Dillion Bernard, Future Coalition
“As a young Black student, I was taught about the climate crisis only in the framework of rising temperatures and the impact on ecosystems, not the ongoing and unimaginable direct human impact. Beyond this being a call for climate justice-centered education, I am talking about the need to change the narrative and messaging across the movement,” (UCLA Blog).
Nia Smith, One Up Action
“I learned that justice is intersectional; if you’re willing to fight for one thing, you better be willing to fight for it all. So my need to make things better, coupled with an environment I had to familiarize myself with, and quickly since I wanted to transfer, meant that I needed to find a space to pursue my goals,” (Vogue LA Interview).
Oladuso Adenike, ILeadClimate
“Climate change is a huge disruption to the present and future generation. Being an Eco-feminist is all about creating a safe place for women as we fight the climate crisis. The climate crisis is a multi-dimensional crisis and so should be the solution to it. We are all needed to be part of the solution,” (GDC Blog Post).
Wanjiku (Wawa) Gatheru, Founder, Black Girl Environmentalist
“I find that if we're going to create equitable programs to try to ensure that all people have equal access to public land and green space, we need to be cognizant about the way that white supremacy serves as a deterrent, even if it's not as visible for people who don’t experience colorism or colorist statements directed to the,” (Mighty Forces Interview).
Vanessa Nakate, Rise Up Movement
“Climate change is more than statistics, it's more than data points. It’s more than net-zero targets. It’s about the people, it's about the people who are being impacted right now,” (UN.Org Interview).
Rue Mapp, Founder and CEO, Outdoor Afro
“There are aspects of the Black experience that we have to find healing through. The consequences of that are people feeling like there are outdoor activities that are either not safe or welcoming to them. We are deliberate in carving out a safe space for the Black experience in nature – that helps us to be more related and understood,” (Ten Strands Interview).
John Lewis, Co-Writer and Co-Directer, They’re Trying to Kill Us
I want people to understand that they have a right to good food and they have a right to social justice. I want them to understand that everyone, no matter the economic background, social background, financial background, skin color, etc.—it doesn’t matter; we all deserve justice,” (Choose Veg Interview).
Leah Thomas, Founder, Intersectional Environmentalist Platform
“If you take a moment to think about who’s being impacted the most at the very beginning, and include their voices, then you can have more solutions,” (The Allegheny Front Interview).
Ron Finely, Gangsta Garden for the Urban Community
“I think we’re all artists, all of us, and we can use our art to propel this planet and toward a new horizon. I think the whole thing is about exposure. You seeing shit that you didn’t know could happen, it’ll make you think. This doesn’t have to be common, this doesn’t have to be the same, there is no fucking box,” (Everybody.World Interview).
Sustainable brands like Wolven simply would not be here today if it wasn’t for the impact Black environmentalists have made in communities around the world. The environmental justice movement has such deep roots in Black history which can be seen even today through the Black Youth’s dedication to a clean and safe future.
Author: Stephanie Tarr, Community Manager