Congratulations are in order!
Ebony Twilley Martin was just named the first Black co-executive director of Greenpeace, NBC News reports.
In 2008, when Martin's son was just three years old, he was diagnosed with asthma. When asked how he had developed the respiratory condition, Martin's pediatrician said, "Look around your neighborhood."
During that time, Martin lived with her family in subsidized housing in Prince George's County, Maryland, near a busy freeway ravaged with severe car pollution and little to no trees or grassy areas. It turns out; those environmental factors were contributing to her son's declining health.
"That stuck with me and hurt me. I began to research, and I learned that Black and brown children are disproportionately impacted by asthma that's induced by the environmental conditions they're in. I was like, 'What can I do,'" Martin recalled.
She didn't have the money or means to pick up and move to a place with better air quality, and she remembered feeling isolated and not having anyone to speak to during the early days of her son's illness. That's when she began deep diving into environmental issues, eventually joining Greenpeace in 2013 with the hopes of bettering the planet. For years she worked in tandem with the organization to enroll Black, Indigenous, and people in environmental justice causes. This past week, Martin was named the group's co-executive director, making history as the first Black person ever to hold the title.
"It feels amazing. In this role, my goal is to reach out to other folks like me that don't always see themselves reflected in this movement or don't always know how to join the ranks of the movement," said Martin.
Greenpeace is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, calling Martin a "champion for justice and equity."
"Martin has recruited more Black people into leadership positions, strengthened [our] recruitment and compensation practices, and implemented new sexual harassment policies," Greenpeace said via statement.
Climate change and environmental justice have long been a hot topic that hasn't always included Black and Brown people in the conversation, despite Black communities being severely impacted. According to National Geographic, redlining and other oppressive practices have pushed Black communities further into cities with more pavement and roads than trees, creating what's referred to as urban heat islands that can often be nearly 10 degrees hotter than other areas. A 2013 study published on Environmental Health Perspectives shows that Black people are 52 percent more likely than white people to live in these areas, compounding health issues like asthma and diabetes.
Martin will work alongside Greenpeace's Annie Leonard to manage operations in her new role, emphasizing the organization's engagement with Black communities. She hopes to bring more Black, Indigenous, and people of color to the forefront to address the "intersecting crises" of environmental and racial justice.
"I didn't have anyone. No one was talking to me about it. So that is the thing that I want to change about this movement as a whole, who we're reaching out to. That's why I'm excited to be in this role so that I can talk to other mothers like me and point them in the direction of what to do. If we're going to combat the climate crisis, we have to have the broadest, most diverse organization and movement. So I invite folks to join the ranks," Martin said.
Photo Courtesy of Tim Aubry/Greenpeace