May 4, 2021
BLACK PUBLIC MEDIA
By Leslie Fields-Cruz
Climate Change is a Black Story, Too
May … the month of spring flowers. As a New Yorker who really hates the cold, May used to be the time of year when I tucked my winter coat and boots far back in the closet because I knew I wouldn’t need them again until October. Over the years however, this certainty has become, well, a little less certain.
As I write this, I’m sitting in my home office with my floor heater running because it went from 80 degrees on Saturday to 50 degrees on Monday. My boots and coat remain well within grasp. These weird weather fluctuations have become more commonplace over the years. I remember the summer of 2006, when an EF2 tornado travelled from Sleepy Hollow — not far from my child’s elementary school — cutting across Westchester county and into Connecticut. I’ve experienced hail in the summer and a heat wave in winter. For the past few years — with 2020 being the exception — NY metro area kids haven’t had to wear coats while trick or treating in October.
Overall I’ve been spared the worst aspects of climate change, but for African Americans and others indigenous and people of color who live in under-resourced, racialized, redlined communities, the impact of climate change can be devastating.
Black communities are also disproportionately located in areas that are physically vulnerable to climate hazards, such as hurricanes and flooding. Moreover, they are often afforded unequal levels of protection from the government as compared to protection provided for other groups. For example, Hurricane Katrina highlighted the legacy of unequal flood protection in New Orleans, where racially biased distribution of government funding resulted in subpar levee protection for Black neighborhoods.
— from "Black Lives Matter: the Link Between Climate Change and Racial Justice," by Adelle Thomas, Rueanna Haynes.
Last week, my colleague Lisa Osborne shared an email about Exposure Lab’s Climate Story Lab US-South. I perused the list of projects presented at the lab, and was pleased to see Razing Liberty Square, a BPM-funded project among the list. I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of other projects in development, but frankly, we need more stories in the content pipeline that preface the Black and Brown experience of climate change. One release every few years won’t be enough. Diverse representations across multiple platforms and artistic disciplines, engaging audiences at various levels, have a much better chance to bring about the level of awareness required to ignite the masses to demand change.
In the next couple of months, BPM will marshal its assets to bring more resources and information to content creatives who want to tell stories about the impact of climate change in Black communities. We are partnering with the PBS series NOVA to host an informational on science media and storytelling and the range of content production opportunities at NOVA. Environmental justice and climate change will be listed as key content priorities of the next open call. We’re already searching for funding partners in the climate change arena, so if you have some suggestions, or if you're a program officer at a foundation that wants to see more diversity in climate change storytelling, please contact us.
Until then, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that we don’t dip below 50 degrees this month.
Oh, and Happy Mother’s Day!
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