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Fight for light engages minority students in environmental narrative

6/26/2013, 10:32 a.m.

As part of its mission to create an innovative, high-impact and scalable model for preparing HBCU students for leadership positions within the environmental movement, Atlanta-based Fight For Light has joined forces with 350.org and Hip Hop Caucus to produce a student video urging President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

Just as President Obama unveiled a plan for national action on climate change, FFL seeks to make sure the voices of students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) are heard as the nation begins its environmental transformation.

“America’s environmental movement is becoming aware of the need to ensure longevity by deepening engagement within the emerging non-white majority. If America's environmental movement intends to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, it needs a more diverse base of narratives, supporters and solutions,” says FFL co-founder Markese Bryant.

FFL is a nonprofit organization created and designed to bridge that divide. As former Morehouse students and Echoing Green fellows, Bryant and co-founder John Jordan are keenly aware of the need to elevate the importance of sustainability work and environmental careers for HBCU students. Specifically, HBCUs could increase their relevance and job placement rates by preparing their students for new opportunities in the emerging clean energy economy while also playing a significant role in building urban capacity for issues such as climate change resilience.

The video is FFL’s first student media project as it amps up programming throughout the Southeast, starting with Atlanta University Center, comprised of Morehouse and Spelman Colleges and Clark Atlanta University.

"With 103 institutions located mostly in low-income African American communities and over 300,000 students, HBCUs are ideally positioned to drive social, environmental, and economic (SEE) innovation within communities of color,” says Bryant. “Harnessing the creativity, optimism, cultural capital and relationships of HBCU students is critical to engaging low income communities and communities of color around sustainability.”

FFL co-founder John Jordan describes FFL’s goal as illuminating the path for HBCUs to move to the forefront of the clean energy economy and prepare students for leadership on environmental issues — while simultaneously putting them on a fast-track toward social impact careers.

“Today President Obama made it clear that climate change is a national priority that can support a strong economy. So it just makes sense for youth leaders to be engaged around sustainability and entrepreneurship. It’s critical that HBCU students are addressing climate change and other sustainability issues now and in the future — both for them as individuals and as agents of change for minority communities.”

This fall, Fight For Light will be launching a fellowship program focused on cultivating sustainability leaders at HBCUs who can lead their communities toward sustainability while diversifying the leadership U.S. environmental movement. The group is also planning a series of events supported by movement leaders, including one with Van Jones in the Bay Area on July 26th and later this summer in New York and Atlanta.

“We believe in collective action and collective impact, and we are committed to building a community of people who understand the enormous opportunity before us,” says Jordan. “Not only to diversify the U.S. environmental movement but to empower HBCU students to carry that movement into their hometowns and adult lives.”