INTROVERTED ACTIVIST | BLACK GIRL ENVIRONMENTALIST
There aren’t many people in the mainstream environmental movement who look or sound like Wawa Gatheru—and she is determined to change that. As a woman of color, Wawa—a recent University of Connecticut (UConn) graduate and its first Rhodes Scholar, a public speaker, introvert, and activist—is on a mission to empower Black, Indigenous, and people of color (a.k.a., BIPOC) communities, as well as Black girls, womxn, and femmes to participate in building an environmental movement that represents all people. “I want to ensure there is a narrative that not only acknowledges us but centers us,” she affirms.
Despite growing up in a long line of farmers, Wawa always thought she’d become a doctor. But a visionary high school environmental science teacher, Mrs. Rose, helped Wawa connect her life experience with environmentalism. “I became interested in trying to make the environmental movement more inclusive and make the space feel more at home for me,” she explains. This course-correct propelled Wawa to lead (and receive national recognition for) numerous university initiatives related to sustainability and environmental justice, climate change, food insecurity, and access to healthy food.
Now a full-time University of Oxford graduate student, Wawa is building the groundwork for a new project, Black Girl Environmentalist, which will create a supportive community for Black girls, womxn, and non-binary environmentalists. “I’ve been spending the last few months creating the platform for this movement, which doesn’t exist in the environmental sphere,” Gatheru explains. “And it’s been a really healing experience.”
Who inspires Wawa Gatheru?
Wawa is inspired by what individuals who have a platform, like Mikaela Loach, Elsa Mengistu, Ayana Imani, and Anushka Bhaskar, can do to help shape narratives. “Mikaela is an incredible black woman who dedicates her platform to educating people on intersectional environmentalism, climate justice, and the importance of having a movement that includes everyone.” Elsa—a Howard University sophomore, Generation Green co-founder, and Black Girl Environmentalist member—”has a track record of bringing people together.” Ayana—a Howard University alum, Generation Green board member, and fellow Black Girl Environmentalist—”is a powerful advocate for centering Black lives in the environmental movement.” And Anushka—Harvard University junior and founder of nonprofit, Arvitah—”is another incredible advocate who educates people on the intersectionality of public health.”
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