While it is generally accepted within environmental and social justice circles that those of us on the frontlines of the climate crisis are impacted first and worst because of racism and poverty, we often don’t consider how the whitewashing of the mainstream environmental movement has prevented the leadership development of talented and inspiring black and brown youth within our movement.

Black communities continue to be disproportionately burdened by some of the worst environmental injustices across the US, yet it remains extremely hard to access funding and political support for the thought leadership of our communities leading the fight against climate change, toxic pollution and waste, and the “dig, burn, drive, dump” industries causing these existential crises. This has everything to do with racism and the way in which our bodies are seen as disposable by greedy corporations and governments, and similarly portrayed as voiceless victims by those professing to be our allies.  

Simply put, we remain invisible as protagonists in this struggle, even though we have always been there and will continue to lead the fight against the oppression of our communities. A space to discuss such challenges that continue to impede the growth of the environmental justice movement in honest and constructive ways is now needed more than ever. In part, that is why we are organizing the Black 2 Just Transition Assembly and Training in Detroit, Michigan from November 8-12.

Grassroots organizers from African American and other low-income communities of color, on the frontlines of the ecological crises and the extractive economy causing these crises, will convene in a city that has been a historic hub for visionary, black liberation struggles and organized resistance. Together, we will examine systemic change pathways away from destructive industries toward models that center the health, well-being and self-determination of our communities, in short a Just Transition.

Our trainings will center the lessons, principles & practices of Black Liberation, Indigenous sovereignty, healing, environmental justice and other allied struggles for decolonization. This historic assembly will be an intergenerational organizing space (check out this warm welcome from our youth!), where we will cultivate new narratives for organizing an economy that is purposed to restore our relations with the earth and each other. Grounding our work in Just Transition campaign strategies, organizing skill shares, political education, and practices for movement care and healing, we aim to foster ongoing collaboration amongst a number of community groups across the nation, sharing replicable strategies and tools for organizing at the intersection of race, poverty and the environment.

As we find ourselves in a time of increasing racism, white nationalism and corporate control, with little time left to salvage the planet as we know it, centering the leadership of black communities in forging a Just Transition is paramount to our success. Fostering increased participation and leadership from our communities must be a priority for us all, especially from those within the environmental movement.

East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC)

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