Credit: Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Interfaith America this week hosted an event that focused on the unique challenges climate change poses to Black communities all across the nation and the critical role that Black Interfaith leadership is playing in combating these challenges. Climate Reality Project Chair and former United States Vice President Al Gore delivered keynote remarks at the initiative’s May 17 launch event, hosted at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The group also unveiled The Black Interfaith in the Time Climate Crisis Toolkit, a resource intended to support local efforts to make communities more sustainable. 

“Faith not only gives us purpose, it unites us. No matter your faith tradition, you’ve made the surrendering decision to invest belief in a spiritual reality larger than any single individual, larger than each and every one of us. And we need to channel that belief and unity to the important work of fighting the climate crisis,” Founder and Chair of the Climate Reality Project and Former United States Vice President Gore said. “And that’s why interfaith dialogues like the one that Interfaith America has convened here tonight are so important. Now more than ever we need to harness the shared values that unite, that encourage us to care for our neighbors, our brothers and sisters.”

Interfaith America launched the Black Interfaith Project with the White House in February of this year, featuring keynote remarks from Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. The Black Interfaith Project works to spotlight the longstanding diversity of Black religious life and the many ways Black interfaith engagement has contributed to American spiritual and civic life. The effects of climate change will disproportionately harm communities of color, as environmental risks — such as increased flooding, rising temperatures, and associated socioeconomic effects — could create an estimated $40 billion worth of damages for the Black community alone by 2050, according to a recent report in Nature Climate Change.

“The environmental justice and climate justice movements have come as a response to protect the planet and to protect the people who bear the brunt of pollution and climate change,” said panelist and Green Deen author, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin. Those seeking to live a Green Deen should understand that communities without control of political and economic power often suffer disproportionately the negative effects of environmental pollution and environmental degradation. These communities are also less able to make a living wage from the resources available in their locale.”

Panelists at the May 17 launch event at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture include:

  • Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet and co-founder of Green Squash Consulting
  • Karenna Gore, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary
  • William Barber III, Director of Climate & Environmental Justice, The Climate Reality Project
  • Crystal Cavalier, Co-Founder, Seven Directions of Service
  • Pamela Ayo Yetunde, Professor, Chaplain, Pastoral Counselor, and co-editor of Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation and Freedom

“The Black Interfaith project is about bringing the collective genius of religiously diverse Black leaders together to engage the great issues of our time — with special attention the ways that those issues impact Black communities,” Eboo Patel, Founder and President of Interfaith America said. “Climate change is of course at the top of the list. We are enormously hopeful that the Black Interfaith and Climate Change event with Vice President Gore will catalyze inspiring action that focuses on concrete solutions that bring people of all identities together to make a real difference.”

This year, Interfaith America also announced the inaugural 20 fellows of the Black Interfaith Project’s Fellowship program. Led by Frederick A. Davie, Senior Advisor for Racial Equity, and Alexis Vaughan, Director of Racial Equity Initiatives at Interfaith America, the program convenes Black professionals from a wide range of sectors and worldviews who are engaged in interfaith bridgebuilding through their lived experience, scholarship, and civic engagement. Gathering regularly over the course of two years, and engaged through training and networking, collaborative and individual projects, and multi-platform discussion and dissemination, the new Fellows’ activities will inform a more accurate narrative about and by Black interfaith leaders. 

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