Because clean water, access to fresh food, and the impact of climate change, and the rate of greenhouse gas emissions are all critical environmental issues that contribute to our overall health and survival, it’s important that the Black community makes environmental welfare a top priority. There are several Black-founded organizations currently taking the initiative to ensure our communities are nourished and given the necessary tender loving care to thrive for generations to come.
Whether it's tackling environmental issues, growing fresh produce in a neighborhood garden, or motivating Black folks to seek healthier lifestyles, these Black organizations are putting in work. Here are four Black environmental orgs you should know about.
1. Outdoor Afro
Outdoor Afro is a national nonprofit with 80 leaders in 30 states, with the goal to increase outdoor recreation within the African American community and "change the face of conservation." According to the Outdoor Afro their website, the organization consists of groups of trained volunteers, who lead activities such as hiking, biking, camping, environmental education, conservation stewardship and more.
Founder Rue Mapp told CNN the history of slavery in this country has often resulted in a negative association with nature for the African American community, but her organization strives to change that. The nonprofit aims to change this as well as correct the misleading narrative around Black folks and global travel. Most recently, a group of 11 people ages 25 to 60 took a trip to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Despite their lack of professional mountain climbing experience, they dedicated themselves to training and transitioning to healthier diets. Although each individual did not reach the top, according to ABC, the collective group gained a sense of pride in their ability to step outside of their comfort zones.
The Philadelphia Urban Creators began when a group of young people of color saw immaculate potential in a rundown, two-acre garbage dump, and decided to revitalize the land for the betterment of their North Philly community. In 2010, the group established both an urban farm and a creative hub for young community activists and advocates.
The organization has since grown into a multifaceted environmental organization with several agricultural focused programs. They serve the community through several initiatives, including their regeneration program, which proves to significantly decrease recidivism by providing formerly incarcerated and court involved youth with job preparation and urban farming opportunities, and its summer youth leadership program, which helps develop teenagers into agricultural leaders who are concerned about their surrounding environment. Through their Life Do Grow farm, the group grows and distributes fresh produce to local families, and even sells to restaurants in the area.If you're in Philadelphia, head over to Farmer's Keep and grab some fresh fruits and veggies.
Urban Habitat is a Bay Area-based organization comprised of advocates for housing, transportation, environmental and climate justice. Through advocacy campaigns, extensive research, and the building of people power, the organization addresses the disproportionate rate at which the low-income population and people of color are negatively impacted by California's climate crisis.
"Public transportation in the Bay Area must counter a legacy of racial and economic inequality, while also addressing a new set of challenges that are shaping the politics and economics of diverse communities throughout the region," the organization's recent report on the climate crisis states.
The need for higher use of public transportation is a result of the excessive use of greenhouse gas emissions. What this means is that the number of drivers on the road must begin to decrease for the environment's sake.
A recent report on the housing crisis that was conducted by the organization mentions the results of gentrification and the excessive increase in displacement and homelessness.
The work Urban Habitat has done ultimately facilitates the rethinking of policy and advocates for those who would otherwise remain voiceless.
Omar Freilla founded Green Worker Cooperatives with the desire "to create a more democratic economy rooted in racial and gender equity." The South Bronx-based organization serves immigrants and communities of color. Freilla, who has been an environmentalist for over a decade, has emphasized the importance of building worker-owned, green businesses in communities instead of letting out-of-state business owners or gentrifiers, who don't care about the well-being of Black communities, take over.
“When you have owners who are workers, then that means the owners are living closer to where their facility actually is, which means that those owners are less likely to make decisions that are detrimental to the health of the neighborhood because of their ties to the neighborhood,” Freilla told Citizen Weekly. “You don’t gas your own neighborhood because you don’t gas your neighbors and you don’t want people talking bad about you at the supermarket.”
The organization created a Co-op Academy, which is an intensive five-month "business boot camp" for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to better their environment through their startups. The academy is comprised of classes and the assistance of business coaches and services that will prepare participants to launch their businesses at the conclusion of the course.
Learn more about Green Worker Cooperatives here. To apply to the Co-op Academy, click here.
It’s more important now than ever that the Black community takes environmental matters into their own hands to not just maintain comfort and health on the planet today, but to plant new seeds that can secure a future for the communities of tomorrow communities for the hope of our future.