What Black History Month means to me
I’m Gloria Ukoh and I’m a Senior Internal and Digital Communications Executive with the DCC. I’m a second-generation Nigerian, with a lot of love and appreciation for my culture.
For me, Black History Month is not only a month to reflect on black history and culture and celebrate the achievements and work of the black community, but it’s also a safe space. As much as Black History Month is about community, it’s also about accountability and ensuring that the black experience, including the challenges, is front of mind.
Accessible sustainability is an issue that is very close to my heart and is one of the reasons why I joined the DCC. I was hugely inspired by DCC’s purpose of ‘making Britain more connected, so we can all lead smarter, greener lives’ as I wanted to work for an organisation that had a direct impact on climate change. For this Black History Month, I wanted to highlight and showcase five of the many black environmentalists who have contributed to the work of looking after our planet.
1. Sandile Mtetwa
Sandile Mtetwa is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge and is researching the conversion of sunlight into clean, storable energy.
Her research is focused on developing materials that can convert sunlight into hydrogen, giving her home country (Zimbabwe) access to cost-effective solar energy. Her interest in clean energy was sparked by the frequent power cuts in Zimbabwe, during the time of her undergraduate studies.
Read more about Sandile and her research on the University of Cambridge’s website.
2. Ian Solomon-Kawall
Ian Solomon-Kawall is the co-founder of May Project Gardens, an award-winning London-based community garden which brings communities together to address poverty, disempowerment and access to resources and influence.
Created in 2007, May Project Gardens is based in the garden of his late mother’s house and provides practical, affordable, and collective solutions for people to live sustainably. In an interview with the Evening Standard, he talks about the origin of the project: “Because of my experience feeling so terribly isolated as a carer, I wanted to ensure that anyone who lived locally and felt marginalised had a nurturing place to go.”
3. Fatima Ibrahim
Fatima Ibrahim is the co-founder and co-director of Green New Deal UK and the winner of the 2020 Global Citizen Prize: UK’s Hero Award. She has spent nearly a decade as a climate justice campaigner. Many of those years were as an activist with the UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC) mobilising young people around climate change. She has also been a senior campaigner for WeMove.eu, a citizen’s movement for a progressive EU, and global NGO Avaaz.
During her time at Avaaz, she helped lead the organisation’s climate campaigns and ran the biggest public-backed advocacy push for a long-term goal in the Paris Agreement. Fatima was also one of the lead organisers of the People’s Climate March that brought more than one million people onto the streets ahead of the 2014 Climate Summit and again in the run-up to COP21.
4. Maxwell Ayamba
Maxwell is a journalist and academic who has consistently championed for countryside access for Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. He grew up in rural Ghana and carried his love of nature over to the UK when he moved to study journalism. In Sheffield, he created his first countryside access project with two friends named 100 Black Men Walk for Health.
Since its creation, the project has now phased into Walk4Health, which now includes other ethnicities, women, and young people.
In 2016, he founded Sheffield Environmental Movement, which promotes access to the natural environment to boost the health and wellbeing of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people and refugees (BAMER). They host outdoor activities, from fishing and horse riding to air quality monitoring - with the hope that participants will be more likely to seek out those environments for recreation as well as conservation work.
5. Anita Okunde
Anita Okunde is an award-winning activist and public speaker focusing on issues surrounding intersectional climate justice and feminism. She is currently a student at the University of Oxford studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
Her work focuses on putting those disproportionately affected by the climate crisis at the forefront of the climate movement. Currently, she’s active in the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) – the grassroots youth climate strikes organisers in the UK – and is the founder of Girl Up Manchester, which is a grassroots organisation to celebrate and empower young people in local communities and beyond.
Senior Internal and Digital Communications Executive