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YES Coordinator Keem King Appointed to Young Black Climate Leaders Initiative
Anyone who has ever met Keem King knows his energy is infectious. Whether he’s leading a workshop on food justice as a Youth Energy Squad Coordinator or working at a community garden, King’s dedication to climate justice and making his community resilient to climate change is beyond admirable. Now, as a member of the Young Black Climate Leaders Initiative, a nationwide organization that brings together Black voices in the environmental justice movement, King hopes to bring his new connections and resources back to his work in Detroit.
EcoWorks: What is the mission of the Young Black Climate Leaders Initiative?
King: The mission is to do work around climate change, climate resiliency, climate justice as a Black person. A lot of times in this work, we see a lot of white people or not that much Black representation where a lot of people don’t see climate change as a social justice issue and as a racial issue as well. This Initiative is taking a stand as a Black person to become a hub for other Black people to gravitate towards to do their climate work as Black people and understand that this is not just environmental work. It connects back to our ancestors, it connects to the
future of our children, and it connects to our purpose in being here now. We’re fighting for the Earth but also fighting injustice for yourself at the same time.
EcoWorks: What are your goals as a member of the Initiative?
King: Specifically I want to expand the Redzone Garden to make it a Red Zone Farm and also have green space with a water catchment system so we don’t depend on city water. I also want to start Redzone University. In this green space, there’s grass chairs, there’s natural earth seating where people can sit and other people from the community could come and host different classrooms so they could be teaching different things about sustainability. That way we can be sharing knowledge within the community and have a place to do it and not have to worry about how long the building is gonna be up.
EcoWorks: How is being in the Initiative going to help you realize those goals?
King: There’s a curriculum that helps me come up with the strategies to do that. There’s also different information about how planting works. They’re giving me political strategy so another part of one of my goals in expanding the garden to the farm is to promote food sovereignty and have a small group of people within the community so I don’t have to always be there to create this connected system of compost … So the Initiative is giving me the tools to be able to build that network and team of people. I’m always good at organizing stuff like I could get everyone excited to clean up the street one time but I don’t think I have the skills to create a program where the people in the community would want to do that and there would be a schedule so the community stays clean. I’m the guy that’ll clean it up super good one day then watch it get dirty again over time.
EcoWorks: What are the next steps as a cohort of young Black climate leaders?
King: We’ve been having these weekly sessions every Wednesday where we take time to grow together, to understand each other, understand each other’s goals and we have professional development sessions. They send out a lot of information in the mail like books and different resources. The next step is to keep working through these resources individually and we’re gonna build our own networks within our respective cities or regions and I think that is gonna all come together for this nationwide project. It’s all a part of the same project.
EcoWorks: Do you have any final comments on the Initiative and your goals?
King: Any work on this planet that involves people of color and climate justice should have me involved in it.