Happy Black History Month! | Black Environmental Justice Advocates

Happy Black History Month! | Black Environmental Justice Advocates

February is Black History Month! Our founder and CEO Chinonye Akunne specializes in Public Health and Environmental Health Science, which inspired her to start a company that makes products that protect you, instead of putting harmful chemicals in your body. Because of our commitment to clean beauty and honest ingredients, we wanted to highlight some Environmental Justice advocates for the first blog post of Black History Month.

Environmental Justice is focused on similar principles as our company: all people and all communities should have equal access to environmental protection and the formation of environmental policy. Some Environmental Justice issues include:

  • Air and water pollution concentrated in low-income neighborhoods
  • Unequal access to healthy and nourishing food/ingredients
  • Limited transportation options
  • Poor representation and access to advocacy in the Environmentalism/Sustainability movement

Listed below are 3 different Environmental Justice activists. You may have heard of some of them, and some of these people might be closer to you than you think! The information listed in this blog is in no way a complete summary of their accomplishments. At the end of this blog post, there is a section below if you would like to find out more.


1. Dr. Robert Bullard

Dr. Bullard is considered the father of the Environmental Justice movement. Dr. Bullard became drawn to Environmental Justice in the 1970s when his wife (attorney Linda McKeever Bullard) asked him to help collect data for a lawsuit she filed. The lawsuit was in regards to a proposed landfill that would sit in the middle of a predominantly Black, middle-class neighborhood. When Bullard did some research, he found that 100% of all city-owned landfills in Houston, Texas were in Black neighborhoods. After decades of Environmental Justice work inspired by this research, Bullard helped to lay the groundwork for the creation of the government Office for Environmental Justice, as well as the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991. He continues to advocate on behalf of people who are experiencing environmental hazards in their community. He has also published a number of books that you can find on his website linked here.


2. Dr. Dorceta Taylor

Dr. Taylor is the current Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Michigan’s School of Environment and Sustainability. In 2020, the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) named her as one of the six people continuing Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy through her Environmental Justice work. Dr. Taylor is a leading expert in diversity and inclusion dynamics in Environmental and Sustainability institutions. In a quote from a podcast, Dr. Taylor speaks on the difficulties of being a Black woman in the Environmental field. She says, “I'm a full professor at University of Michigan with two PhDs. There is no other faculty member in this department that has two PhDs to their name... yet every September, I guarantee you a first-year student will see me thinking I'm the janitor.” Her much-needed work has led to many awards and publications. You can find one of her most popular works, “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations,” linked here. 


3. Amariyanna Copeny

   Also known as Little Miss Flint, Mari Copeny is a youth activist from Flint, MI. She first gained national attention when she wrote a letter to President Barack Obama when she was just 8 years old, calling for him to take action with the Flint water crisis. Copeny is known for her large scale charity work and unapologetic advocacy for her city. She continues to make history as one of the youngest activists in the world, and has expanded her advocacy efforts to Newark, east Chicago, and Pittsburgh, communities that are also facing extreme water contamination. Mari says, “There is so much you can do as a kid to really help your community and the world. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t change the world, because you can.” 


Anyone can be involved in Environmental Justice efforts. There are issues of Environmental Justice everywhere, from pollution down to the ingredients in your skincare products. There is no reason that people should disproportionately experience the hazardous effects of waste, climate change, and inequitable access.


Read more about Environmental Justice, Dr. Robert Bullard, Dr. Dorceta Taylor, and Amariyanna Copeny here:


The Challenge of Diversity in the Environmental Movement, with Dorceta Taylor (resourcesmag.org)

About | Mari Copeny



Environmental Justice | US EPA

 Environmental Justice - Greenpeace USA

Meet Robert Bullard, the father of environmental justice (grist.org)

Prominent Black Environmental Historians and Authors | University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability (umich.edu)

As Little Miss Flint, Amariyanna ‘Mari’ Copeny continues to shine a light on the water crisis | The People Issue | Detroit | Detroit Metro Times

Meet Smart Girl Mari Copeny aka ‘Little Miss Flint’ | by Heather Mason | Amy Poehler's Smart Girls (amysmartgirls.com)

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