Updated: Oct 28, 2020
By: Loren Negoven
You can probably name some white activists. Many know of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish 17-year-old climate activist. But climate activists of color are often disregarded and pushed aside, with the focus of the North American stereotype of environmentalism as a predominantly white movement. In my opinion, climate activists of color should be brought to the forefront of the environmental movement and cannot be ignored.
One such activist of color resides in Kampala, Uganda. Her name is Vanessa Nakate and she has been fighting since last year to bring more attention to the dire effects of the climate crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although not quite as well-known as Thunberg, Nakate has been steadily gaining traction in the media. To be more specific, Nakate has been focusing on the rising temperatures and the fires in the Congo, which have progressively been getting more out of control as a result of climate change.
In January of this year, the Associated Press (AP) came under fire from Nakate for making a mistake. She had attended a conference in Davos, Switzerland to speak, along with Thunberg, about climate change. The AP had published a picture of the activists that attended the conference along with the corresponding article, but there was one problem – Nakate wasn’t in it. The explanation? She had been cropped out.
Nakate promptly took to Twitter to question why she had been omitted. Though she had not intended it, the Tweet quickly blew up as it sparked outrage over the treatment of activists of color. She, as well as other fellow activists on Twitter, denounced AP’s decision to crop her out as an act of racism. On January 24, Nakate Tweeted, “You didn’t just erase a photo. You erased a continent. But I am stronger than ever.”
The incident caused Nakate to gain traction faster than she had ever before. She has, since then, gotten verified on all of her social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook), and now has a Wikipedia page. Hopefully, with her newfound popularity, it will make it even easier for her to get her voice out there and reach an even greater amount of people who will listen to her. It will also be an opportunity to bring more attention to the voices of activists of color.