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Black Environmentalists

10 Black Environmentalists to Celebrate This Month

There’s no denying the strong connection between climate change, the environment and racial injustice. But in this article, we want to celebrate environmentalists from our African-American community who are making strides towards the fight against climate change.

1. Van Jones

van jones

Van Jones is best known as a CNN political contributor, regularly appearing across the network’s programming and special political coverage. In this role, he has used his public voice to be the inspirational changemaker that is at the core of his humanity. 

The Dream Corps was founded by Van Jones in 2014 to help cutting-edge initiatives grow big enough to impact millions of lives. They back initiatives that close prison doors and open doors of opportunity.

Dream Corps supports economic, environmental and criminal justice innovators – all under one roof. As the green jobs advisor to President Obama, he helped lead the inter-agency process that oversaw the multi-billion dollar investment in skills training and jobs development within the environmental and green energy sectors.

2. Savonala “Savi” Horne

Savonala “Savi” Horne

Savonala “Savi” Horne is Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers’ Land Loss Prevention Project, a non-profit law firm that has offered legal representation of clients, community economic development, and professional outreach in the effort to promote wealth, land preservation, and rural livelihoods for more than 33 years.

As a state, regional, and national non-governmental organization leader, Savi has been instrumental in addressing the needs of socially disadvantaged farmers and rural communities.

3. Dorceta Taylor

Dorceta Taylor

Dorceta E. Taylor is an environmental sociologist known for her work on both environmental justice and racism in the environmental movement.

She is the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Michigan’s School of Environment and Sustainability (SEAS), where she also serves as the James E. Crowfoot Collegiate Professor of Environmental Justice.

Taylor’s research has ranged over environmental history, environmental justice, environmental policy, leisure and recreation, gender and development, urban affairs, race relations, collective action and social movements, green jobs, diversity in the environmental field, food insecurity, and urban agriculture.

4. Tanya Fields

Tanya Fields

Tanya Fields is a young, budding activist and social entrepreneur based in the South Bronx.

Tanya’s ultimate goal is to help facilitate ushering in a new democratic system that gives the power back to the communities, promote sustainability in environmental justice communities by investing in green collar jobs and economy and to head up her own non-for profit that would address these issues in a creative, funky and artistic way!

5. Robert Bullard

Robert Bullard

Robert D. Bullard is often described as the father of environmental justice. He is an award-winning author of eighteen books that address sustainable development, environmental racism, urban land use, industrial facility siting, community reinvestment, housing, transportation, climate justice, disasters, emergency response, and community resilience, smart growth, and regional equity.

In 2019, Apolitical named him one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People in Climate Policy, Washington State University honored him with the William Julius Wilson Award for the Advancement of Justice and Climate One named him the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication.

6. Peggy Shepard

Peggy Shepard

Peggy Shepard is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice and has a long history of organizing and engaging Northern Manhattan residents in community-based planning and campaigns to address environmental protection and environmental health policy locally and nationally.

She has successfully combined grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy, and environmental health community-based participatory research to become a national leader in advancing environmental policy and the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities — to ensure that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment extends to all.

7. Mustafa Santiago Ali

Mustafa Santiago Ali

A renowned thought leader, international speaker, policy maker, community liaison, trainer, and facilitator, Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali serves as the Vice President of Environmental Justice, Climate, and Community Revitalization for the National Wildlife Federation.

Mustafa worked for 24 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He most recently served as senior advisor for environmental justice and community revitalization and assistant associate administrator, working to elevate environmental justice issues and strengthening environmental justice policies, programs, and initiatives.

8. Jacqueline Patterson

Jacqueline Patterson

Jacqueline Patterson is the Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program. Patterson served as a Senior Women’s Rights Policy Analyst for ActionAid where she integrated a women’s rights lens for the issues of food rights, macroeconomics, and climate change as well as the intersection of violence against women and HIV&AIDS.

She currently serves on the International Committee of the US Social Forum, the Steering Committee for Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, Advisory Board for Center for Earth Ethics as well as on the Boards of Directors for the Institute of the Black World, Center for Story Based Strategy and the US Climate Action Network.

9. Omar Freilla

Omar Freilla

Omar Freilla is an environmental justice activist, cooperative developer, and founder and coordinator of Green Worker Cooperatives, Bronx, New York. Freilla is passionate about creating a green and democratic economy.

He is nationally recognized as a leading voice for worker ownership, green jobs, and environmental justice and is founder and coordinator of Green Worker Cooperatives, an organization dedicated to incubating green and worker-owned businesses in the South Bronx.

10. Rue Mapp

Rue Mapp

Rue Mapp is the Founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a national not-for-profit organization network that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature.

Rue oversees a carefully selected and trained national volunteer leadership team of nearly 90 men and women who represent 42 cities around the US, and shares opportunities to build a broader community and leadership in nature.

From its grassroots beginning, Outdoor Afro now enjoys national sponsorship and is recognized by major organizations for its role in addressing the ongoing need for greater diversity in the outdoors.

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