A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Black Faces, Green Collars
By Natalie Goode

The green revolution has arrived and blacks are at the forefront of the movement. With her mission to "green the ghetto," Majora Carter buried the misconception that latte-sipping garden club suburbanites are the only people concerned about the environment, and developed a non-profit organization, Sustainable South Bronx, dedicated to environmental restoration of urban communities.

The group also found a way to bridge the gap between ecological issues and job opportunities by creating the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Program—a green collar job training and placement project, which is designed to teach urban forestry, wetland rebuilding and green roof installation. According to the group’s Web site, 80 percent of the program’s participants have landed a job and 15 percent have gone on to college.

Building green awareness and tackling poverty is what led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide a $200,000 grant to STRIVE/East Harlem Employment Services program to assist the “hard-to-employ” in green collar training.

The seven-week program teaches students job preparedness while fostering their weatherization and asbestos abatement skills—which can land students green construction jobs in the near future. Both programs strive to broaden minorities’ perspectives on the environment so that they may find solutions to ecological problems in their own backyards.

“With the growth of the green economy, we have the opportunity to simultaneously wed a consciousness of sustainability and an inclusion of communities that have been explicitly excluded from economic growth,” Myles Lennon, senior policy at the green-collar-promoting nonprofit Urban Agenda, said to City Limits.org. “Some of the greatest environmental problems are concentrated in low-income communities of color, and that is where there is the greatest potential for change.”

Change that comes in the form of a new face in eco-job leadership; President Obama tapped Van Jones, 40, founder of Green Jobs for All organization who is committed to engaging low-income communities in green jobs, as his special adviser for Green Jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

President Obama has also vowed to devote $600 million in green job training programs and $5 billion for weatherization plans for low-income homes in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.