As we unfurl the rainbow flag and paint our world with the bold hues of Pride Month, there is a critical aspect that we often overlook: the role of Black queer environmental activists. With approximately 1.2 million Black LGBTQ+ individuals in the United States — there are plenty of LGBTQ+ folks fighting against climate change, and their efforts ripple out far and wide.
It’s no surprise, given that Black activism has been at the center of the movement for LGBTQ+ rights since day one.
Pride Month emerged from the turbulence of the Stonewall Riots, a landmark uprising in the history of LGBTQ+ rights. That fateful night on June 28, 1969, when the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York, was stormed by police, a six-day-long protest ensued. It’s worth remembering that Black queer individuals, such as activist Stormé DeLarverie and drag queen Marsha P. Johnson, were at the helm of these historic events, a fact often sidelined in mainstream narratives.
To keep modern-day Black LGBTQ+ environmental advocates from being sidelined in the same way, let’s give them their flowers now. And as we journey through Pride Month, let’s shine a spotlight on these individuals and amplify their stories. They remind us that Pride isn’t limited to a month; it’s a ceaseless acknowledgment of the courage, innovation, and impact of the LGBTQ+ community. The work of Black queer environmental activists reminds us of this truth, intertwining the fight for queer rights with a commitment to safeguarding our planet.
Here are four Black LGBTQ+ climate activists who should be on your radar.
- Sophia Benrud (they/she)
This Minneapolis-based community organizer has been advocating for environmental justice since 2016. In 2019, they founded the Minnesota Environmental Justice Table to address environmental injustices in Minnesota’s capital. From giving tours to protesting air pollution, Benrud is no newbie to climate justice.
“Black folks are affected by climate change in so many different ways. We are on the frontline of environmental harms,” Benrud told Word In Black.
The chef, climate activist, and postpartum doula continues to fight for climate justice on a daily basis, whether it be through speaking out against a local trash incinerator near a Black community or educating folks about lead-contaminated water in North Minneapolis.
- Dean Jackson (they/them)
This Washington-based farmer is serious about food justice. Jackson runs a Black mushroom growing project alongside Native herbalists in Tacoma.
They also started Hilltop Urban Gardens, a food sovereignty and racial justice organization. Jackson started planting gardens in empty parking spots, which led to the development of the Urban Farm Network. The organization focuses on housing and land liberation, and is working to protect Black-owned land from gentrification.
- Asha Carter (she/her)
Asha Carter’s environmental justice journey began when she was only 14. She visited the Galapagos Islands and saw how deeply their government cared about protecting the environment. Now, she is the food justice strategist at DC Greens, an environmental non-profit committed to food justice.
For activists like Carter, food justice is racial justice. She believes in openly acknowledging the intersections between queerness, Blackness, and climate justice.
- Jeannine Kayembe Oro (she/they)
Jeannine Kayembe Oro’s entry into climate activism was spurred by the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In 2010, a year after helping with disaster relief in New Orleans, she founded Urban Creators, an organization that intertwines art, education, and food as tools to build resilience among Black communities in Philadelphia.
During her time at Urban Creators, Oro created even more green spaces in Philadelphia, where the population is 44% Black.
“This next iteration of my career is really documenting and creating space for a narrative shift for Black Indigenous women of color to have their climate solutions documented,” she told Word In Black in a recent interview. “The solutions live within the matriarchs’ work.”
Get Word In Black directly in your inbox. Subscribe today.