Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Marjahn Finlayson, Ife Kilamanjaro, Chantelle Lindsay and Mikaela Loach. Heard of any of these women? Chances are your answer is no, and that’s because our society as we know it doesn’t give these incredible Black, women of colour, and environmental activists enough credit for the world of good they do for our planet. Black History Month is a chance to change this - make sure you check out their amazing work.
There are a number of Black women who are looked up to every day in society, whether that be Serena Williams or Micheal Obama and although representation in all sorts of communities and careers is increasing, why is it that few Black environmental activists are remembered or showcased compared to their white counterparts?
Could this be because of stereotypes of what Black people are and what that they discourage young Black boys and girls from entering the world of activism, or could it be because our society as we know it, refuses to give them acknowledgement enough for their monumental contributions, seeing them only as a lesser helper, or individuals that only deserve to be in the background?
I say, as a Black environmental activist myself, that this ought to change NOW. Too many Black people feel as though there is no place for them in environmental activism, which isn’t the case. The truth is without all these people of colour and diversity of experiences and thoughts, we wouldn’t be where are now. Environmental activism is a place where anybody with an inclination towards nature can be and is a place indeed where more young people, particularly of colour should be encouraged to be.
AFC Ambassador Tamar, photo credit Nick Dolding
In the modern world and the 21st century, there’s no excuse for refusing to acknowledge someone due to their skin colour or underestimating them because of their background. It is not enough to not be racist or ignorant, we must be anti-racist. James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced”, I think it’s time we tackle stigmas head-on, and in light of Black History Month 2023, where we are ‘Saluting our Sisters’, it’s about time we listen to the incredible Black voices in and around our community.
During the AFC’s Black History Month Instagram live, I spoke to two women of colour about their experiences and whilst many of our struggles as Black women in environmental activism were similar, our stories in a plethora of ways were vastly different and that’s what I love about them. Our stories are our stories so we should be able to shout about them! And in our individual stories, there is a wealth of experience that we have to share which we are experts in.
There’s no one Black environmental activist who has reformed the environmentalist community, but instead, there are a number, some mentioned above that should be celebrated and appreciated as anyone else. As an #iwill ambassador, I am a part of an organisation where I speak with a number of other passionate young activists and all of them agree that seeing someone who is just like you in any field, encourages you to go ahead and join it. My advice to any young person of colour reading this is to just get involved, and don’t be afraid because the biggest obstacle to overcome is the misconceptions in your head.
Let’s start this month, I think we owe it to Black activists to praise them just as much they deserve, and not not just this month but every month, but this one in particular is a substantial opportunity for us to say ‘thank you’ to them for all they have achieved. My journey is just starting, as a young Black woman in British society, I say there is hope for a future with more representation. Why can’t Black women have spaces in powerful organisations and respected roles? Whether that be in the Supreme Court, as Prime Minister or as an environmental activist, we want to be the change we would like to see in the world. Picture: Tamar and Harry, AFC Ambassadors at the Manchester Festival of Nature 2023
Progress isn’t over, but there are people like you and me actively making way for change and that gives us hope!
Thank you for reading,