Leah Thomas, one the two keynote speakers at Boston Colleges annual Womens Summit was the first to consider environmental issues from a race perspective while studying environmental policy in college.
Thomas said that it was difficult for him to learn about all the laws that are supposed make the world a better place. Meanwhile, many people back home are drowning under the smoke of tear gas.
The BC Womens Center held the eighth Women’s Summit virtually this Saturday. The event was designed to empower participants through workshops, speeches and discussions.
Thomas, the founder of Green Girl Leah, an eco lifestyle blog, began her speech by describing her journey to environmental justice.
I didn’t understand why my peers were focusing on this hypothetical future and not focusing on that urgency of environmental justice. She said that this is an act environmental racism if you don’t care about the reality and the adverse health effects that are affecting people right now.
Thomas is an intersectional environmentalist and advocates for justice and inclusion with environmental education. She highlighted how low-income, Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities are feeling the brunt of climate changes.
Thomas said that communities of color as well as low-income communities, particularly where they intersect, are continually exposed to environmental hazards, injustice, and other forms of discrimination. I was shocked to learn that 70% of African Americans live within areas that violate federal air quality standards.
Thomas stated that she posted a promise on her Instagram, which now has nearly 230 000 followers. It gained lots of attention.
I posted a definition for intersectional environmentalism on Instagram. Here is the pledge if you want to be an intersectal environmentalist. It was quickly shared online by hundreds of thousands. [one], Thomas said.
Thomas and other activists created the Intersectional Environmentalism Platform later, she stated. It was a website that advocates for environmental and social issues, with like-minded individuals around the globe.
Thomas encouraged participants focus on the intersections and influence of income, gender, race, and income.
Thomas stated, “My identity influences how I care about this world and this planet.” To advocate for causes that you care about, your identity should not be suppressed.
Eight workshops followed Thomas’ interview. They covered topics such as Guiding Your Transition Adventure, Creating Your Personal Brand, and Carving Your Path to a Meaningful Job.
Sarah Kay, a well-known spoken word poet, playwright and founder of Project Voice, is a returning keynote speaker. She also attended the summit in 2019.
Kay opened her speech with a poem about her mother’s teaching her to find the color orange everywhere. She explained that the story is about her positive outlook on life and how it has inspired her.
My mother, on the other hand, spends her time searching beauty and following her curiosity. I want to follow my mother’s example to look for what delights and to find beauty that is easy to ignore.
Kay then read a second poem that questioned whether narrators were responsible for their reliability.
Don’t just be someone who can observe and describe but use language for aspiration not inspiration, she said. It is important to use language to communicate something, not just any thing.
Kay admitted that she felt pressured when she was asked to give the speech. She said she hoped to find a positive tone and be sensitive to the audience.
We all deal on a daily basis, she said, with so much grief, fear, and personal weights that it feels like it is difficult to find anything of value for those efforts.
Kay stated that reading has helped her cope during the pandemic. She turned to the writings by other authors for escape.
She said it’s not about finding the right answer or finding resolution. You don’t have to feel the same way. I like to pick up a book or listen to a podcast and see what’s going on in other peoples world.
Kay answered a question from an audience member about whether the time she had off during the pandemic encouraged creativity or presented challenges.
She said that I was able write poems that felt personal and honest in a way that was truly liberating. However, this has been a challenging time for everyone. My creativity has definitely been challenged. It has been both challenging, but also rewarding.
Kays final poem asked what a society would look with a Minister to Loneliness. Kay said that she got the idea from reading about the Japanese government’s new position, the Minister of Singleness, in response to increasing suicide rates.
She said something that inspired me. I was wondering what it would be like to do that type of work.
Kay asked the audience for their thoughts on the poem and to consider the kind of world they would like to see.
This last poem is an attempt to look at the present, but also to ask you for your help in focusing on what else is possible.
Featured image by Katie Dalton / For The Heights