There’s a pervasive myth in America that Black people “aren’t interested” in environmentalism and protecting the Earth, even though they are disproportionately exposed to dangerous environmental hazards and are often the recipients of environmental racism. The demographics of America are changing quickly, but the face of the green movement- and especially the fight against Keystone XL- remains white. Pictured here are just a few of the Black people actively involved in the struggle against Keystone XL and tar sands expansion.
Julian Bond: former Civil Rights activist with SNCC and former university professor took action in February to protest the possible approval of the northern leg of Keystone XL by handcuffing himself to the fence of the White House.
Phaedra Ellis Lamkins: Labor organizer and CEO of Green For All, an organization exploring the intersections of poverty, joblessness, and the lack of a green economy. Author of an article how Keystone XL will affect communities of color should it be approved
Hilton Kelley: Resident of Port Arthur, Texas, a majority Black community suffering the effects of environmental racism (according to him, one in five residents needs medical treatment for respiratory illness). He works with the group Community In-Power and Development Association to empower Port Arthur residents to fight against the poisoning of their community and teach youth about protecting the environment. He believes tar sands refining will only worsen the air quality of his community.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood: A minister and community organizer who was previously involved in organizing around human rights abuses and neglect in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Rev. Yearwood is the founder of the Hip Hop Caucus, and has been a vocal adversary of Keystone XL, appearing at 350.org’s Forward On Climate Rally.
Tina Osby: A resident of Winona, Texas, an overwhelmingly white town (upwards of 85%) where the Gulf Coast Project runs almost exclusively through the small Black community. Tina’s family was offered only $600 by TransCanada, which they refused, but their land was taken by eminent domain just the same. The section of pipe running through her backyard was infamously revealed by the Tar Sands Blockade to have dangerous shoddy welding.
Annie Bircher: Tina’s mother and veteran environmental organizer in Winona, Texas. Her first encounter with environmental racism was as a child, when her father discovered oil had contaminated their well. A member of MOSES (Mothers Organizing to Stop Environmental Sins), she worked in the 90s to fight both oil companies and the EPA who were complicit in poisoning nearby groundwater.
Fitzgerald Scott: A longtime environmental justice activist with an MA in urban planning, Scott took action by encasing his arm in concrete on April 25 in an attempt to halt construction on KXL South as part of the Red River Showdown.