8 Black Environmentalists You Need To Know

by Alice Kurima Newberry

February 8, 2021

8 inspiring leaders in the environmental movement who are igniting lasting change in their communities and beyond.

Photo: A fist raised in protest.

© Aaron Sprecher / Greenpeace

We cannot talk about environmental justice without addressing racial justice. Throughout history, communities of color have been disproportionally impacted by climate change and access to environmental resources, pollution, toxic soil and water, the list goes on and on. The fight against institutionalized oppression is becoming more important than ever.  Here are just a few environmental heroes and their organizations who are fighting back against these systems, having an incredible impact not only in their local communities but across the U.S.

1. Savonala “Savi” Horne

Horne is the Executive Director of the Land Loss Prevention Project, an organization that works to stop land loss in African-American communities throughout North Carolina. She leads an organization that provides assistance to all financially distressed and limited resource farmers and landowners through the use of litigation, public policy, and promoting sustainable agriculture and environment.

2. Chantel Johnson

What started as a whim and grew into a multifaceted organization,  Chantel Johnson founded  Off Grid in Color (OGIC) in 2016 to help lead her community, to greater self-sufficiency through farm raised food, birth coaching, and community outreach.  Johnson’s experience with living off the grid is something she feels is important to share with others.

This never gets old!

Posted by Off Grid In Color on Thursday, February 1, 2018

3. Tanya Fields

In 2009, Fields founded the Black Feminist Project (formerly the BLK Projek), because she saw far too many women unable to rise out of poverty and sustain their families. As the Executive Director, her mission is to help address food justice and economic development by harnessing the local, good food movement and creating small business and career opportunities for underserved women and youth of color. 

4. Rue Mapp

Mapp founded Outdoor Afro because she saw a need for her community to have a deeper connection to nature. She oversees a highly-trained national volunteer leadership team who share opportunities to build a broader community, and promote leadership in conservation. Outdoor Afro has become a cutting-edge network in the U.S. that helps people connect to black history found in many natural areas, while inspiring communities to protect vulnerable public lands for everyone. 

5. Christopher Bradshaw

Bradshaw is a social justice entrepreneur who founded Dreaming Out Loud, Inc., an organization dedicated to creating economic opportunities for the marginalized community in the D.C. metro area. They help build more resilient communities with equitable economic opportunity, greater access to education and a healthy environment for all, not just for a select few.

6. Peggy Shepard

Peggy Shepard is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT For Environmental Justice and has a long history of organizing and engaging Northern Manhattan residents in community-based planning. She campaigns to address environmental protection and environmental health policy both locally and nationally. WE ACT empowers and organizes low-income, people of color to build healthy communities for all. 


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7. Jeaninne Kayembe

Kayembe is a Black Queer thought leader and multi-media artist in this generation’s industries of entertainment, civic engagement, food security, and arts/environmental activism. She is also the Co-executive Director and Co-Founder of The Urban Creators which was founded in North Central Philadelphia by a diverse group of young people, unified by a vision to bridge the gap between isolated communities and transforming a 2-acre garbage dump into a farm.


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8. Omar Freilla

Freilla is the Founder of Green Worker Cooperatives and creator of the academy model of cooperative development. Green Worker Cooperatives is a South-Bronx based organization dedicated to incubating worker-owned green businesses in order to build a strong local economy rooted in democracy and environmental justice. Freilla’s passion for community self-determination, personal transformation, and creating solutions to social injustice drives the incredible work he does. 

Originally published on February 6, 2018. Updated on February 8, 2021.

By Alice Kurima Newberry

Alice Kurima Newberry is the Community Manager Associate at Greenpeace USA. She works to engage and activate supporters across the nation to take further action in protecting the environment and its people.

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