Diversity in the Green Sector: Engaging Communities of Color

with Angelou Ezeilo of the Greening Youth Foundation

Data shows communities of color are among the strongest advocates for sustainability, yet are underrepresented in the environmental workforce.

Angelou Ezeilo, Founder and CEO of the Greening Youth Foundation, provides insight on programs designed to connect diverse young adults to the outdoors and careers in conservation.

Posted on:

January 29, 2021

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: More and more businesses are beginning to adopt sustainability protocols, boosting the creation of green jobs and green careers. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Research shows that while communities of color are among the strongest supporters of sustainability policies, they remain underrepresented in the environmental workforce. Joining me to talk about the scope of this is Angelou Ezeilo. She's the founder and the C.E.O. of the Greening Youth Foundation. And, Angelou, thank you so much for being here.

Ezeilo: Thank you so much for having me, Tetiana.

Anderson: So you've been doing this for some time at the state level, at the local level, a history of wonderful conservation work. Based on your experience, how would you say that black and brown people sort of view the issue of the environment in general?

Ezeilo: So people of color have such a symbiotic relationship, really spiritual relationship with the environment and land that goes back hundreds of years. However, now there seems to be somewhat of a disconnect between people of color or at least the perception of people of color and the environment. And I think there's many barriers that exist to people of color having a connection from a recreational and even from a workplace perspective. So that's what we're doing within our organization, is really shifting that paradigm and making that reconnection to people of color and the environment. It's there, but making it alive and real for people of color to work and recreate in the outdoors.

Anderson: And you guys are actually doing some great work in that area. You've got several partnerships, several programs, that are really sort of changing that relationship, as you said, educationally, professionally. What are some of the specific things that you're doing? The National Park Service program comes to my mind. But what else?

Ezeilo: Absolutely, yes. So we start at a very young age, and we do our Forever Green Program, which is our environmental education program. We had to shift this past year to The Green Box because we made it digital and virtual. But that's where we bring environmental education programs to young people at Boys & Girls Clubs, recreation centers, and K-through-third grade. And we make sure it's really interactive but fun and really resonate with young people that we are wanting to reach. So we're making sure it's really culturally relevant material. But then we also have our Youth Conservation Corps. That's our program where we partner with federal land-management agencies like the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife, NOAA, and so forth. And we provide paid internship opportunities for diverse and underrepresented young adults to work on federal lands across the country and its territories.

Anderson: So you're doing all of these great things, really sort of changing this relationship, but at the same time, we know that even though some of these children from communities where the environment is not the focus get exposed, but they don't take that to the next level. They don't necessarily see the environment as a viable career path. You all have looked at this. You've studied this. What have you found, and why?

Ezeilo: Yes, so we worked with Brigham Young University to conduct a study called The Green Stop Sign, and that's one of the questions that we were trying to figure out. Like, we are providing this exposure, The Greening Youth Foundation. There are other organizations that are providing these access points or at least the exposure to this field. But why aren't they going into jobs? We found there's many reasons now. Well, one, there are a lot of barriers that even exist within USAJobs. And the way for them to actually enter these fields -- Like, there's direct hiring authorities, but there's limitations of how they can actually get into these fields. And it's quite a barrier. But there's also all sorts of biases. But that's exactly what we have focused on. The result of that study has really raised our awareness. But not just ours -- A lot of our partners'. So we're really working to be intentional with creating on-ramps for a lot of these young adults. One of the things that we're doing, we're partnering with The Nature Conservancy and Turner Foundation, SAAS, and a couple of other organizations on -- It's called the Bridge Project, which is a two-day curated hiring event. And that's really where we're bringing employers, potential employers, with potential employees. And that's a way to just directly deal with the question of, where is the access points for these young adults?

Anderson: So, Angelou, if people want to find out more about what you're doing, what's your website?

Ezeilo: Thank you for asking that. It's www.gyfoundation.org. I'll repeat it -- www.gyfoundation.org.

Anderson: Angelou Ezeilo, the founder and the C.E.O. of the Greening Youth Foundation, thanks for joining us.

Ezeilo: Thank you for having me.

Anderson: And thanks to our viewers, as well, for watching. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the country, log on to comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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