Power Shift 2021 Will Feature Angela Davis, Black Youth Organizers


It only took me one internship at a “Big Green” organization — my very first internship — to know that the mainstream environmental movement is not a safe space for Black people. The movement is predominantly white and whitewashed. For many white participants in this movement, the climate crisis is their only real and sudden threat, which is why they are quick to silo spaces and issue areas. The reckoning inspired by Ruth Tyson’s “An Open Letter to the Union of Concerned Scientists: On Black Death, Black Silencing, and Black Fugitivity” unearthed for the general public what Black people in this movement have known all too well for too long: Black culture and experiences are devalued, suppressed, and erased.

So we must center Black liberation movements and frameworks, as Black liberation is liberation for everyone in a society within which global racial capitalism is upheld to exploit and eradicate the most melanated. I am elated and honored to have the opportunity to speak with Angela Davis at this year’s Power Shift 2021 Convergence. Davis is a Black liberation thought leader from my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, who has inspired me through her writings and her journey. Her critiques of global racial capitalism and views on Pan-Afrikanism, which she links to a connected fight against imperialism and the oppression of Black labor, have influenced my ideology and frameworks.

Climate change is yet another form of genocide inflicted upon Black people. For Black organizers like myself, the climate crisis is just the icing on the cake, of which the batter is filled with layered systems of oppression stemming from internalized white supremacy that conspire for our demise. Yet this movement silences the slow genocide of Black life that is perpetuated by the same systems of oppression that brought us to this state of climate crisis.

Within the first three days of my first internship, I found myself at an event sponsored by several environmental groups. To my shock, a white man went unchecked when he got on stage saying, “White people were slaves too.” If it were not for the people of color (POC) caucus that came together to write a resolution, I would have left the movement at that very moment. What I have continued to see in this movement is trauma: Black people experiencing burnout, microaggressions, carrying out tasks that are not listed in their job descriptions, and being forced to defend their existence, their Blackness.

While all of the aforementioned could have deterred me from this work, I refused. I refused to see the continued disregard for Black life in a movement that centers solving and addressing what is perhaps the greatest vessel of genocide against Black people. I refused to stomach being the only Black person in a room. I refused to stand by while the movement uplifted white youth in the youth climate movement and disregarded the applications of young Black folx that crossed their desks.

That is why events like Power Shift 2021 are necessary: We need a space to build community and power alongside other BIPOC youth who are fighting for a just future. Past convergences have led to the start of well-known organizations like Sunrise Movement and Divest Ed and given youth the tools to use their voices to shift conversations and policy in the climate space.

The mainstream climate movement, which places itself on a progressive pedestal, not only excludes us, but exploits us, silences us, separates us, and takes resources and opportunities away from us. I founded Generation Green to avoid putting myself and others in harm’s way of this movement — to center Black youth in this work and create a safe space for exploration and connectivity without the white gaze. I brought together fellow Black Gen-Zers from Howard University’s campus and the HBCU Climate Change Conference to form our founding team.



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