Black Resilience: A New Green Agenda Nationally And Globally

Felicia Davis, a Justice 40 fellow White House fellow, and Illai Kenney are building equitable energy futures, starting on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). 

The mother and daughter duo created an HBCU Green Fund that works to advance campus-wide sustainability. The fund promotes green resilience by financing more efficient buildings and infrastructure, encourages an interdisciplinary sustainability curriculum, and promotes student engagement in sustainability activities, including United Nations sustainability events. The duo also organizes a global network of youth working to advance climate justice and to promote the upcoming Africa Virtual Summit.

In July, the HBCU Green Fund sent a small delegation of students from HBCUs to the 3rd African Peer Review Mechanism Continental Youth Symposium in Kampala, Uganda. This year, the symposium’s theme was African Union 20th: Reposition the Youth Agenda for a Transformative Continent. The HBCU Green Fund brought students from HBCUs together at the event with more than 800 attendees from African and Europe.

“It’s up to young people to advance equity and justice, solve the climate crisis, and make the transition to clean energy,” Illai Kenney, Director of HBCU Green Fund, told attendees during a session at the symposium. “To do that, youth of African descent must work together across continents to create solutions. I am here from Washington, DC, with my associates in the audience – Jared Sawyer, Jr. from Atlanta, Georgia; Faida Uwase of Rwanda; and Destin Sempijja of Uganda. We’d like to connect with you to share ideas. We invite all of you to join our network of youth leaders from over 20 countries united to build a sustainable future for Africa and the Diaspora for our PreCOP27 Africa Virtual Summit.”

The daughter of the dynamic duo, Illai, stated the following, “Sustainability is not just a word; it is a lifestyle. It is a culture. It is a thing that we have always done as African people. It is what I was taught as a member of the African diaspora who’s been dislocated. A person whose ancestors were taken from this continent, brought to another, and used to sustain the culture and livelihood of other people. But that’s OK because those skills will sustain us today.”

Hosted by the Government of Uganda, the African Union, and the European Union, the goal of the Continental Youth Symposium is to develop recommendations for ways to empower youth to contribute meaningfully to the socio-economic transformation of their respective countries. The dynamic duo mobilizes support for projects and will help fund African youth participation in COP27 in Egypt in November 2022.

Check out our podcast — where the duo discusses why resilience continues to serve as the new green nationally and globally