The Black Lives Matter movement, which began in the US in 2013 in response to the murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin, drew a wave of renewed global support this year, inspired by anger at the unjust killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both killed by police. As well as addressing police brutality and racism in the justice system – both in the US and globally – the Black Lives Matter movement has grown to encompass all areas in which Black people continue to face marginalisation and structural violence.

#iwill Ambassadors Adam, Athika and Jo, and #iwill4nature partner Action for Conservation share their reflections on how Black Lives Matter has impacted them, moved them and shaped their work.

#iwill Ambassador Adam

Like many Black people, I’ve rarely felt comfortable in my skin. As a mixed boy, I’ve always grappled between my Caribbean and European heritage – made to feel like the two couldn’t be seen together. Ashamed of my blackness, I erased part of my culture in hopes of pleasing those who didn’t appreciate my story or my music.

This summer, BLM made me realise that yet again I had forgotten who I was when confronted with a sea of university students that didn’t represent me. Youth Social Action has always taught us to believe in ourselves and the power of youth to create a change. Now, more than ever, I have realised that we must not only stop injustice when we see it, but actively celebrate blackness for the beauty & culture it shares to the world. Because, if for nothing else, we finally need black youth to know that they’re enough.

#iwill Ambassador Athika

People of colour have been facing racial injustice for the longest time, but as time stood still in the light of COVID we managed to witness how bad racism really is in this world. The Black Lives Matter Movement, especially after recent events, for me represents a cry for help. A cry that holds the voices of millions still fighting a war that was fought by their ancestors. A cry that carries centuries of sufferings and hurt for just being black.

The movement highlighted how we can’t go back from this. This isn’t just a trend, and we can’t just be ‘not racist’ anymore; we have to be actively anti-racist. Society is built on a system of power that was never made to favour people of colour so we have always been disadvantaged. The movement has shaped my social action to focus even more on the social inequalities faced in communities. We truly can be great if we all worked to eradicate racism together.

#iwill Ambassador Joana

There has never been a time where I didn’t care deeply about the injustices that plague our society, including racism. However, since the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2016 and especially since the murder of George Floyd earlier this year, the urgency and severity of eradicating racism has been made particularly apparent.

Personally I’ve found the recent discussion around the BLM movement has helped me realise just how much power and privilege I have that I need to utilise, and all the different ways in which I can contribute positively as an ally. I’ve also become so much more conscious of institutional racism, systemic racism, and other forms of covert racism that we don’t deem as the really obvious forms of racism that we know how to deal with. Social action, therefore, has never been more important. It is up to us to create the version of the world we are proud to love in.

I am not proud of the world we live in right now, but I am proud of the people, especially the young people, who are working for a better world. I hope that’s something we achieve for the future generation.

Laura Kravac, Head of Programmes, Action for Conservation

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has significantly accelerated our efforts to build a more inclusive youth movement. Crucially, it has built our team’s confidence to better link environmental and race issues in an educational setting and embed a more intersectional approach throughout our work. BLM influenced our new WildWEB programme, which specifically aims to demonstrate the connection between environmental and social justice issues and support young people to take action on the issues most relevant to them. We discussed BLM within the context of consumerism and activism and worked with experts to demonstrate the links between fashion activism and knife crime, and our food system and colonialism. 

BLM has also led us to reflect on the voices we share through our communications; this month we’re working with our Youth Ambassadors to plan a communications campaign for Black History Month, to celebrate inspiring black environmentalists, educators, creatives, activists to inspire our network of diverse young people to take action. BLM also inspired our newest project, ‘Race for Nature’s Recovery’, designed in partnership with two Black-led organisations, Voyage Youth and Generation Success, and SOS-UK. The project aims to place 100 young people from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds into paid placements in the environmental sector, tackling racial inequality and building a more diverse and impactful movement.

Action for Conservation has been celebrating the activism of #iwill and ACF Ambassadors Yetunde and Princess, as part of Black History Month.