5 Black Climate Activists who are changing the world
Updated: Apr 3
Black and brown communities are amongst those most affected by the climate crisis. While for us here in Europe it is mostly a concept that will start affecting us in years, for them it already is a reality.
Prolonged droughts leading to food and water scarcity, air pollution and deforestation are only a few issues that these communities are already fighting against – and have been for years.
Yet there is not much mention of these activists, so I decided, in honour of #BlackHistoryMonth, to dedicate this space to them.
Yola Mgogwana (South Africa)
Yola Mgogwana is a 12-year old climate activist from Khayelithsa, a township in Cape Town, South Africa. Yola started seeing the effects of climate change first hand in 2017, when a severe drought hit South Africa and people feared “Day Zero” – the day taps would run dry.
Yola started volunteering with the Earthchild Project, an organisation that provides environmental education for under resourced schools, with whom she is now monitoring her school’s water and electricity consumption.
She has also been on the forefront of the climate strikes in Cape Town. In March 2019 she held a speech outside the Parliament Building in front of more than 2000 students, appealing for climate justice and demanding environmental policies.
Yola wants to show that black youths in townships care about the climate emergency, because “they are (among) the ones affected the most.”
Jerome Foster II (USA)
Jerome Foster II is a powerhouse.
The 16-years old climate change & human rights activist puts even my most productive days into shame with his extensive list of achievements.
He is the Founder & Co-Editor-in-Chief of “The Climate Reporter”, a youth-led news organisation, whose mission it is to call for truth and clarity in environmental journalism.
Jerome is also the Founder & Executive Director of OneMillionOfUs, a youth unifying voting organisation, aiming for +1 million young people in America to register to vote in 2020, based around advocating for youth rights across all States.
He is the CEO of TAU VR, a virtual reality company that has done virtual reality projects for international environmental organisations and much more. Jerome says, he wants to change the world by bringing critical social issues to his peers in an immersive way.
On September 20 he led the White House Climate March in Washington, DC, which saw more than 10.000 attendees.
Oladosu Adenike (Nigeria)
Oladosu Adenike describes herself as a ‘ecofeminist’ and climate justice activist. The 25-year old agricultural economist is from Abuja and tirelessly campaigns for our planet. She was inspired to join the #FridaysForFuture movement after reading the 2018 IPCC report on climate change.
Oladosu is part of African Youth Voices, a collective that raises awareness on climate change & inspires people to make their voices heard and join the climate strikes. In March 2019 she mobilised over 800 young people from across 3 Nigerian States and urged Nigerian leaders to take action.
She is active on Twitter, educating her followers on the complexities of climate justice, writes for her own blog ‘Women and Crisis’ and educates communities around Abuja on the environmental dangers of bush burning and the consequences of climate change.
Mari Copeny (USA)
Mari Copeny, also known as “Little Miss Flint” gained popularity in March 2016, after she sent a letter to then-President Obama about the Flint water crisis. At that point she was only 8 years old, but speaking out on behalf of all the kids of Flint that are affected by it. Her letter inspired Obama to travel to Flint himself, giving the crisis national attention.
Thanks to her activism, she was able to donate over one million bottles of water to families affected by the Flint Crisis.
Mari has recently, in collaboration with a water-filtration company, started a GoFundMe for a water filter to eliminate both the need for single-use plastic bottles and the need for families to queue for hours for access to clean water.
Leah Namugerwa (Uganda)
Leah Namugerwa is a 15-year old climate activist from Uganda. She was inspired by Greta Thunberg’s protest after she learned about the effects of a prolonged drought and landslides in Eastern Uganda – causes of which were attributed to climate change – and both the lack of response by the government and the lack of coverage by national media outlets.
Since then she has been protesting regularly and given speeches in regional capitals and mobilised a group of young people to join her in Kampala, Uganda’s capital. She is encouraging people to make the connection between natural disasters already happening in Uganda and the climate crisis.
Leah also led a campaign to urge Kampala to implement a ban on plastic bags and raises awareness about deforestation. She was one of several activists among the Fridays For Future movement to receive Amnesty International’s highest human rights award for their work.
A new hope
Researching about these activists has given me so much hope for our future.
Greta Thunberg gets a lot of stick for being a white girl and the face of the climate crisis, but if it wasn’t for her, many young people in underdeveloped countries would not have started their own fight for climate justice.
What I do hope for though is more coverage of activists, like the ones I mentioned. They are the ones on the forefront of the fight for climate justice and they are the ones we should be looking up to.
Another thing worth mentioning, is that these young people have all inspired hundreds, if not thousands of people, by believing in their message and working towards their goal.
One person can make a difference.
We create ripple effects with every single action we do.
I hope these stories have inspired you to try and make a difference in your community, too, even if it's just raising awareness, by talking or posting, about an issue you care about.