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The ongoing battle to combat climate change has attracted the attention of various individuals and organizations across society. Yet, according to a report conducted by Green 2.0, 40 of the top international environmental justice groups are mostly staffed by White individuals. Although there have been attempts to increase their level of diversity amongst staff members, most of these organizations have succeeded in adding approximately six people of color from 2017 to 2020 (Green 2.0). Due to the fact that many environmental organizations internally need to promote diversity and environmental justice, it is important to celebrate and support existing organizations led and run by People of Color, especially during February’s Black History Month.
Initiating in the mid-1970s, Greenlining originates from a group of grassroot leaders that represent African American, Asian American, Latino, and disabled communities. These grassroot leaders congregated in support of fighting against redlining – the illegal practice of denying services to communities of color – and, instead, work towards greenlining. The original mission of the leaders was to work together across racial and ethnic lines to promote greenlining, “the affirmative and proactive practice of providing economic opportunities to communities of color” (Greenlining). The Greenling Institute was officially formed in 1993 and conducts its work by publishing research and policy frameworks, supporting realistic policy solutions, and keeping track of implemented policies. This organization proudly supports and represents the BIPOC communities by keeping economic and environmental issues at the forefront of their work.
Working primarily across the United States, Outdoor Afro celebrates and supports the connections and work in leadership that Black communities do in nature. Led by environmental leaders across 30 states, Outdoor Afro encourages local communities to engage in their inclusive outdoor experiences that revolve around nature, recreation, and conservation.
OPAL Environmental Justice
Founded in 2006 in Portland, Oregon, OPAL Environmental Justice focuses on activating leaders and serving the BIPOC and low-income communities. The organization conducts state-wide work and aims to “achieve a just economical transition from an extractive and exploitative, destructive cycle to a feminist economy rooted in regeneration and cooperation” (OPAL).
Based in Harlem, this environmental organization focuses its work around youth development by using food justice to aid in social transformation. Food justice for the youth has been the
foundation of Harlem Grown’s work, however, in recent times the organization has enhanced its programs and services to provide deeper attention to racial and social justice. The organization has the mission of “inspiring the youth community to live healthy and ambitious lives through mentorship opportunities and hands-on education in urban farming, sustainability, and nutrition” (Harlem Grown).
The Ron Finley Project
Born and raised in the South Central Los Angeles food prison, Ron Finley experienced what it’s like to live in an area lacking fresh produce. In 2010, Finley strove to fix the problem by planting vegetables in the curbside dirt strip next to his home. From those initial steps, Finley has inspired a revolution focusing on community oriented environmental justice. The Ron Finley Project, also referred to as “Garden Gangsters”, has been determined to positively change South Central Los Angeles from being a food desert to a food forest. Finley desires for his work to be educational, inspiring and nutritious. Part of the organization’s effort is to create an urban garden from unused space in South Central Los Angeles. These efforts will be made in conjunction with community led work, hence, creating jobs for local residents.
Initiating in 2009, City Blossoms is an organization who supports and fosters kid-driven green spaces. Over the years, this organization has worked on 42 sites in Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia. City Blossoms connects environmental work to underserved youth and their families by offering bilingual affordable after-school, in school, and summer programs. The organization primarily serves African American and Latino youth, ages two through teens. As indicated by its name, City Blossoms continues to “blossom” in communities that may not have access to green spaces.
Working across the international landscape, Earth Guardians trains diverse youth to be effective leaders that contribute to environmentalism and social justice movements. It conducts its work across a wide range of activities, such as, music, storytelling, field projects, legal action, and civic engagement. Earth Guardians continuously serves the environment by assisting diverse youth across the globe to be leaders in environmental movements and conversations.
Acres of Ancestry
The Acres of Ancestry Initiative and the Black Agrarian Fund is a self-sustaining collaboration aiming to preserve the values of our Black ancestry, which is anchored in collective land tenure, spirit-culture reclamation, and ecological harmony (Acres of Ancestry). According to One Percent for the Planet, this multidisciplinary nonprofit ecosystem, located in the South, maintains its roots in Black eco-cultural traditions and textile arts with the aim of regenerating custodial land ownership, ecological stewardship, and food and fiber economies in the South.
Maya’s Ideas for the Planet
Founded in 2011 by environmental activist, Maya Penn, this nonprofit organization is focused on the fields of environmentalism, humanitarianism, and tech. The 20 year old founder, accredited by Oprah Winfrey and President Barack Obama, has conducted various community oriented projects across the realms of COVID-19 relief, food insecurity, homelessness, and fashion sustainability. Maya’s Ideas for the Planet aims to continue striving for environmental justice, climate justice, and diversity and equity in STEM and tech careers.
For 40 years, the Rural Coalition has worked to assure that diverse and equitable organizations have the opportunity to contribute positively to the issues that affect the global society. Born out of the civil rights and anti-poverty rural movements, this organization aims to amplify and enhance the alliance between its 50 grassroot member organizations that represent African American, Euro-American, Latino, and female farmers, ranchers, farm workers, and rural community members. Rural Coalitions continues to work in support of just and sustainable food systems that provide fair returns to the diverse rural communities that it serves and represents.
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