Unlike the dot-com and digital revolutions, many green leaders want African Americans to get in on the ground floor of the green movement. “Most of the time [African Americans] don’t know it is happening and by the time [they] find out about it, [they] do not have access,” says Karen Bass, speaker of the California State Assembly and an advocate of green technologies.
Bass is also afraid that many youth who need employment may get left behind because trade careers are not presented to them as viable options or because as ex-felons they are legislated out of jobs.
Indeed, for Majora Carter, a pioneer in green-collar job training, the realization that blacks had been sourced out of green jobs in her Bronx neighborhood motivated her in 2003 to launch Sustainable South Bronx, a non-profit environmental justice corporation.
Carter, a 2006 MacArthur “genius” Fellow, created an urban green-collar job training and placement program that teaches students eco-skills, such as green-roof installation and maintenance, and how to retrofit buildings to boost their efficiency. Nearly all of the students were on some form of public assistance, and about half had prison records. Now in its fifth year of operation, none of the ex-convicts have returned to prison, more than 80% are employed and 15% have gone on to higher education, according to her Website.
Green literacy is spiking in minority communities. In fact, many of the larger HBCUs including Clark Atlanta have begun offering programs to train students for green careers.
Green DMV’s O’Neal and his business partner Rhon Hayes established environmental awareness days in Washington D.C.’s underserved schools to expose youth to sustainable lifestyles and green jobs.
They also recruit at-risk youth and people with arrest records and teach them how to weatherize and add solar panels to churches in southeast Washington. They hope one of their students will add solar panels to the White House one day.