11 Black Environmental Activists You Need to Follow on Instagram
This Juneteenth, we're honoring eleven Black environmental activists who are fighting to save the planet and make the outdoors more accessible to all.
June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, is a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln ended slavery when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation during the American Civil War. However, it wasn’t until two years later that African Americans in Texas heard the news when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865. This day became a celebration of slavery’s end, a symbol of Black freedom, and a time to reflect. And although overt oppression and the active practice of slavery ended, the Jim Crow era that continues today, through microaggressions and other forms of racism, reminds us all that there is still so much work to do. From food deserts to environmental racism, to unequal access to opportunity and exclusive hobbies, it is obvious that a different kind of enslavement still exists today. If you are interested in learning more about Juneteenth and educating yourselves on this history, you can visit their website.
As we hit the trail or pitch a tent this summer, know that freedom to recreate and the ability to get outdoors is not one equally shared. Look to these 11 Black environmental activists working hard to make the outdoors accessible for all.
Tanya Fields founded the Black Feminist Project in 2009 after seeing far too many young women lack the resources to sustain themselves and their families and to rise out of poverty. Her goal is to raise awareness and address food justice and food deserts through harnessing local and global food movements and providing opportunities to underserved women of color.
Food deserts are geographical locations that do not have access to fresh, healthy, affordable food. Food deserts mainly exist in poorer cities and neighborhoods that are often primarily inhabited by people of color. On the other hand, food oases are geographical locations close to many grocery stores and high-quality food that are often occupied by wealthy white people.
Follow Fields and the Black Feminist Project here.
Rue Mapp is the founder of Outdoor Afro and uses the network to help connect the Black community with nature and outdoor recreation. With a large, volunteer-based organization, Rue Mapp works with a large community outreach program to teach people how to protect vulnerable public lands.
Outdoor Afro is having a Juneteenth celebration that you can learn more about and register for here.
Follow Mapp and Outdoor Afro HQ on Instagram here.
Jerome Foster II
Jerome Foster II is a climate justice activist and voting rights advocate who is the executive director of OneMillionOfUs, an international youth voting advocacy organization. From striking outside the White House to now working inside as an environmental justice council member, Jerome Foster II is working hard to protect our world and highlight Black voices.
Follow his work here.
Jeannine Kayembe is a Black queer artist and thought leader in regards to food security, environmental activism, entertainment, and more. She is also the co-founder of The Urban Creators, an organization founded in Philadelphia by a diverse group of people with the goal of turning a 2-acre garbage dump into a farm.
Follow her story and The Urban Creators here.
Laura Edmondson is an educator, athlete, DEI, and sustainability consultant who shares her knowledge on a podcast Let Us Rest. She works with Brown Girls Climb, an organization promoting diversity in the climbing industry. She lives in her van and travels the world, often discussing diversity in Vanlife.
Vanlife is a movement for individuals wanting to be nomadic, not spend money, and see beautiful parts of the world. Today, popular van-lifers spend high sums of money to make luxurious tiny homes on wheels, which contradicts the original message and goal that dirtbaggers were trying to promote.
Head to her Instagram here.
Leah Thomas or @greengirlleah brought intersectional environmentalism to the spotlight. Thomas is an environmentalist, writer, and climate activist who uses her platform to highlight how racism, social justice, and environmentalism are deeply connected.
Intersectional Environmentalist is a social hub for environmental media and a safe place to educate ourselves. Thomas has founded multiple blogs, a website, and aims to amplify the unjust murders of Black lives and the silence from the environmental community.
Follow Thomas here.
Teresa Baker is a founder of the African American National Park event that invites communities to participate in events regarding culture, national parks, and heritage. Her work aims to change perceptions in National Park culture to create a diverse, inclusive, and informed community of outdoor enthusiasts. You can find African American Heritage National Park Service events here.
Learn more about Baker’s work here.
Addie Fisher is a sustainable living activist and educator who offers knowledge on how we can make sustainable choices every day. She constantly promotes living intentionally, slowing down, and doing what we can to help save our environment.
Follow her Instagram here.
Leah Namugerwa is a 16-year-old Ugandan environmental and climate activist that works with Fridays for Future. She leads tree planting campaigns, fights to enforce the plastic bag ban in Uganda, and in 2020 spoke at the World Urban Forum.
Follow Leah here.
Petrice Jones is a climate optimist, environmental activist, Lonely Whale podcast host, and CEO of The One Movement. The One Movement aims to educate and empower people to fight to protect our planet. They also recycle plastic found in the ocean into reusable bottles and low-cost housing for families in need.
Follow Petrice on Instagram here.
Will “Akuna” Robinson
Will “Akuna” Robinson is the first Black man to complete the triple crown of hiking (meaning he has hiked the PCT, CDT, and AT) in the United States—a feat not many have completed. This hiker has a mission to share the outdoors and its healing properties with veterans, people of color, and any person who does not meet the stereotype and standards of an “outdoorsy person.”
Follow him here.
These are only eleven of many Black voices that are fighting to protect our planet and raise awareness of underserved populations in America. Now more than ever, it is crucial to understand how social justice and environmentalism are deeply connected. Intersectional environmentalism is a form of environmentalism that protects all people and the planet and identifies ways injustices affecting marginalized communities and the land are connected. Acknowledging these links is integral to bringing them into the spotlight of environmental activism without minimizing microforms of oppression and aggression.
How many people of color do you see on the trail, camping, hiking, or backpacking? What about fishing, skiing, or climbing? These activities should be accessible for everyone, but they are not. Outdoor recreation is expensive, predominantly white, and generally exclusive. A simple thing we can do to change this is to invite our friends of different ethnicities, nationalities, and races to come along with us on our next adventure, offer our gear, and help create a space that defies socio-economic hierarchies.