Young People Fighting for Climate Justice

Vanessa Nakate, Varshini Prakash ’15, and Toussaint Losier (moderator)

En Español

2021 James Baldwin Lecture

Young people have transformed the climate and environmental movement. Youth of color and youth from the Global South have been especially central in this process. On February 2, 2021, Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate and executive director of the Sunrise Movement Varshini Prakash ‘15 reflected on their personal experiences in the movement and shared their organizing strategy, insights, and visions for the world they’re fighting to win.

This event aired live on the Feinberg Series website, with a livestream on Facebook and YouTube.

2021 Baldwin Lecture, Co-presented with the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies.

The Presenters

Vanessa Nakate is a climate activist from Uganda. She was the First Fridays For Future climate activist in Uganda and founder of the Rise up Climate Movement in order to amplify the voices of activists from Africa. Her work includes raising awareness to the danger of climate change, the causes and the impacts. She spearheaded the campaign, Save Congo Rainforest, which is facing massive deforestation. This campaign later spread to other countries from Africa to Europe. She is working on a project that involves installation of solar and institutional stoves in schools.

Varshini Prakash is the Executive Director and co-founder of Sunrise, a movement of young people working to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process through the Green New Deal. Varshini has been a leading voice for young Americans, including when she helped lead a mass demonstration for the Green New Deal with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that went viral and put the climate crisis at the top of the political agenda for the 2020 elections. Varshini’s work has been featured in the New York Times, MSNBC, The New Yorker, BBC, The Washington Post and more. In 2019, she was named to Forbes 30 under 30 list for law and policy, and TIME 100 Next, a new list of rising stars who are shaping politics, popular culture, science, and more. Varshini currently lives in Boston, MA.

Dr. Toussaint Losier (moderator) is an Assistant Professor in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History and a Woodrow Wilson National Foundation Career Enhancement Fellow. He is co-author of Rethinking the American Prison Movement (Routledge, 2017) with Dan Berger and is preparing a book manuscript tentatively titled, War for the City: Black Liberation and the Consolidation of the Carceral State. 

The James Baldwin Lecture addresses issues connected to social, economic, and political justice and underpinnings in institutional racism. It was established by and made possible with generous support from History Department alumnus Dr. Allen J. Davis ’68. This lecture is presented by the UMass Amherst Department of History, the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of African American Studies, and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.

The Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series is made possible thanks to the generosity of UMass Amherst history department alumnus Kenneth R. Feinberg ’67 and associates. This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Advance and Student Success, in addition to the more than 3 dozen university and community co-sponsors of the series.