February is Black History Month , a time to commemorate the contributions and achievements brought about by African Americans and reflect on past injustices. This month, the Green Life will post weekly features on black Americans who are actively pursuing environmental change in marginalized communities.
Profile: Jordan Howard
The importance of engaging youth in activism early on is not lost on Jordan Howard. Since attending Environmental Charter High School, a school with a curriculum focused on environmentalism, she has been attuned to those issues and how they connect with her own life. Howard, now 21, has been changing the face of youth engagement one classroom talk at a time.
While she may be currently taking the world by storm, Howard admits she was reluctant when first exposed to environmental curriculum at her green high school.
"There was resistance in the beginning because I saw no connection between me and environment," said Howard. It was after she saw the holistic benefits of environmentalism in her personal life that she felt empowered.
Howard saw first-hand the benefits of being exposed to environmentalism at a young age and seeks to ignite that same passion in youth across the nation, and even world. She approaches education through making it clear that change isn’t impossible.
“Whenever I heard about global warming or other issues, it was always doom and gloom,” she said. “Give young people solutions to environmental issues.”
Youth can take action on many levels, Howard said, starting in their homes, schools, cities and beyond. What’s important is “teaching them they can be the catalyst for change now” and sparking immediate action and involvement.
One of her more memorable classroom experiences was at an elementary school Mumbai, India. After giving the same presentation to 25 middle and high school classes it was the first graders that surprised her. Howard said they knew the presentation by heart and were so excited that some students had created fliers for their own recycling management club, to ensure proper recycling on campus.
“What’s so powerful about working with young people is that we are naive,” Howard said of her youth engagement. “Being naive when talking about problems is good because you aren’t jaded. You say, ‘No, there is a solution and that’s what we can do.’”
When asked how young people can start to make change today Howard stressed finding that personal connection to the environmental issues. Finding where individuals fit into the larger discussion creates ownership and agency. After creating that individual bond, it’s time to be vocal.
“If you aren’t being heard, create a platform to be heard,” urged Howard. Education can begin at home, with family and friends and spread from there to communities.
She sees young people as the catalyst for change, which is why she has focused on educating them. Howard continues to do get involved and stay involved because she sees there is still much to do, specifically for underrepresented communities.
“We need to connect to communities of color and marginalized communities across the country,” Howard said. To create more involvement in discussion around climate change she feels it’s important to make the connection between individuals and communities.
To stay inspired Howard says she looks to others.
“Learning about different visionaries… keeps me inspired,” she said. “Visionaries that are saying ‘No’ to the status quo and constantly innovating in their field.”