5 Black Environmentalists Making History in Energy and Sustainability

5 Black Environmentalists Making History in Energy and Sustainability

Image: Majora Carter and crew of The Promised Land/The Peabody Awards/CC-BY-2.0

February is Black History Month, a time where we honor and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans. There have been many scientists, activists and politicians who've played an important part in promoting sustainability and eco-awareness throughout the years.

Get to know five black environmentalists who are making their mark today:

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin formerly served as a sustainability policy advisor to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He has been an active voice in promoting sustainability, with his writing appearing in publications such as The Washington Post and CNN.com and The Daily Beast. He's also founder of the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment, a New York City public high school that “supports students in becoming critical thinkers, active learners and problem solvers who are scientifically literate, engaged citizens who value and respect the environment.”


Majora Carter is an urban revitalization strategy consultant, real estate developer and public radio host. She is credited with bringing the South Bronx — where she grew up — its first open-water front park in 60 years. She told the story of this project as one of the first six TEDTalk presenters to be featured on the TED.com website when it launched in 2006. Majora's company, The Majora Carter Group, focuses on unlocking the potential of every environment, from rural areas and urban neighborhoods to businesses and government projects. She was listed as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business in the June 2010 issue of Fast Company, among other honors.


Kari Fulton is an activist who works to mobilize young people by building awareness of the connection between environmental and social justice issues. She led the youth campaign for the Environmental Justice and Climate Change (EJCC) initiative of the United Nations and co-founded "Loving Our City, Loving Ourselves," a campus and community initiative that builds solidarity on issues of concern. Through EJCC, Kari has trained hundreds of young people at more than 50 colleges and universities — primarily students of color at historically black colleges — about the importance of the green movement. She also co-founded Checktheweather.net, a web platform that aims to give a voice to young people of color who are advocating for environmental issues.


Sophie Maxwell's lifelong exposure to political activism, paired with her desire to make her city a better place for her son and others, motivated her to run for a spot on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, where she served three terms. During her time on the board, she worked to increase economic development opportunities for all residents, as well as the more equitable distribution of public resources. But her activism didn't stop there. Since then, she has been involved in promoting environmental justice and clean energy, among other important issues. In 2006, she helped to successfully close the Hunters Point power plant, one of the oldest and dirtiest oil-fired power plants in California, and a major cause of pollution in the state.


Nicky Sheats serves as director of the Center for the Urban Environment at Thomas Edison State College. In his role, he provides support for New Jersey's environmental justice movement. He has addressed issues such as air pollution, climate change, schools sited on contaminated land, boosting the environmental justice community's ability to address environmental issues. Nicky also serves on the national NAACP's Environmental and Climate Justice Advisory Panel.

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