Thank you and thoughts from COP21 student Brittany Foley
Happy New Year everyone! Thank you soooo much for supporting Elvia and I while in Paris. I am extremely happy to be back home with my family, son, mentors, and peers. The #COP21 and Paris experience was one I will never forget and will always talk about.
When I first landed in Paris I felt overwhelmed because I couldn’t believe I was there, especially to be a voice to a cause that I am so passionate for. I wanted to attend COP21 because I am super passionate about climate change and environmental justice. Pushing world leaders about these 2 major issues in Paris is something that I feel like I was just made to do. As cheesy as it sounds, these issues keep me up at night. The reality of COP21 was very different than I imagined, it was much more relaxed in certain places. There were two buildings that make up the COP21 grounds: the main building (were the negotiations were held) and another building, “The Green Zone” where there were multiple rooms for discussion, keynotes, interactives, booths, and informal gatherings. Everyday there was something new and the people and their stories were so riveting that it brought me to tears at times.
The panel that I loved most was the keynotes that my peers from the HBCU Climate Change Consortium organized. About 5 students in the group I traveled to Paris with presented their research that they have conducted at their universities. I enjoyed it the most because you got to see first hand how young, black college students that are working on solutions to issues that plague frontline minority communists from climate change.
During week 2 in Paris I was able to be on a #BlackLivesMatter panel that focused on environmental justice. The talking point was blacks and asthma. Some important facts that everyone should know about asthma rates and minorities:
- The black asthma rate is 35% higher than the white rate.
- The hospitalization rate for African Americans and Latinos is 3 – 4x the rate for whites.
- African Americans and Puerto Ricans are 3x more likely to die from asthma-related causes than whites.
- African Americans account for 13% of the U.S. population, but 26% of asthma deaths.
Those numbers should make you furious because our air quality should not be killing us here in the United States.
Lastly, I got to witness the Under 2° MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) of Substantial Global Climate Leadership document signing with Austin Mayor Steve Adler at the US Ambassador’s Residence in Paris. It was an amazing atmosphere and something great to witness. It was powerful because so many regions and cities are willing to commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions for Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris and beyond the conference. Mayor Steve Adler announced that The City of Austin has set a target of net-zero community-wide greenhouse has emissions by 2050.
I would like to thank everyone who helped send me to Paris to experience this once in a lifetime event. I am forever in debt to you and will do everything to make you all proud. To my mentors, Ms. Dominique Bowman, Dr. Karen Magid, and Dr. Amanda Masino I love you guys and thank you for watching out for me, worrying about me, and pushing me.
And one big shot out to the president of my wonderful HBCU, Huston-Tillotson University, and Dr. Colette Pierce-Burnette. You were one the biggest supporters of Elvia and me. We felt your love and support from over the seas!
Stay ambitious & humble.
– Brittany D. Foley, 20
Green is the New Black is going to COP21!
Huston-Tillotson University (HT) in Austin, Texas, is pleased to announce that student sustainability group Green is the New Black (GITNB) has been invited to serve in a delegation to the United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21) convening in Paris this winter. HT is committed to serving its social justice mission by participating in this global forum. Underserved and low-income communities are often under-represented in environmental discussion even though they are the very communities that suffer disproportionately from climate impacts. HT’s GITNB will bring this critical message to COP21. The delegation is a project of the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Climate Change Initiative founded by environmental justice pioneers Dr. Beverly Wright and Dr. Robert Bullard. We are seeking your support to send our GITNB student and faculty representatives to this critical climate forum.
The honor of participating in COP21 grew from the work GITNB students have done to advance environmental awareness on our campus and in the community. This dynamic student group has enacted a variety of projects since their inception in October 2013, including creating a green study lounge/patio with a $10,000 Home Depot Retool your School grant, establishing a campus food/teaching garden, mentoring local K-12 students, partnering with community organizations for outreach and service events, and advancing campus sustainability through collaborations with the Dumpster Project and the Building Green Justice Forum. GITNB presented their work at the 3rd Annual HBCU Student Climate Conference in New Orleans this April. Participation in COP21 will advance HT’s commitment to environmental and social justice and develop GITNB students as climate justice leaders who will advance HT as a leading green HBCU.
HT intends to send a GITNB student/advisor delegation to attend the full 10-day COP21 conference. HT is also committed to pre-conference student development and post-conference community and campus engagement to maximize the benefits of participation. We need your help to do so. On the following page, please find an overview of our request. Your support is critical for these efforts. Please consider supporting our program with a donation.
Program Overview: HT’s Green is the New Black at COP21
Sustainability and GITNB at Huston-Tillotson
The mission of HT’s student group Green is the New Black is to foster new shades of green on campus and in the community. Green is the Black is a vital arm of a wider sustainability movement at Huston-Tillotson that reflects the University’s commitment to social justice, environmental equality, and training students to tackle real world global challenges. Sustainability at HT encompasses academic programs, student activities, campus projects, and community engagement. Highlights include:
- Outfitting a Green Study Patio through a $10,000 Home Depot Retool Your School Award
- Introduction of an interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Program enriched by internship opportunities with organizations such as the Sustainable Food Center and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
- GITNB student scholarships and funding for the Dumpster Project, an environmental education and outreach initiative, awarded through the Ford HBCU Community Challenge.
- Establishment of a campus food garden and community garden partnerships.
- Progress towards a 220kW rooftop solar installation to be installed in Fall 2015.
- Community and campus environmental awareness events, including Earth Day Austin 2104 and 2015, and the Building Green Justice Forum.
Green is the New Black Student Delegates
Brittany D. Foley is a Sophomore who hails from Taylor, Texas. Brittany is an Environmental Studies major at Huston-Tillotson. She is planning to pursue a career in international environmental law after college. Her goal in life is to aid minorities that live in areas where gentrification, food security, and environmental justice are problematic. Brittany is a key member of the Green is the New Black leadership team. In her free time, Brittany enjoys getting her nails done, spending time with her 18-month old son, King, and reading a plethora of books.
Elvia Hernandez is a Junior Business Management major at Huston-Tillotson. Elvia was born in Los Angeles, California but raised in Houston, Texas. She has a strong commitment to improving her community and promoting the value of education. She hopes to develop an organization that will mentor middle and high school students to inspire and guide them to pursue college degrees. She is a proud be a co-leader of Green is the New Black. Elvia’s interests include archery, painting, and boxing.
Our HT delegates will join students from 19 other HBCUs as part of the COP21 Delegation. They will give voice to the climate issues facing underserved communities and to bring transformative knowledge back to their campuses and communities.
The HBCU COP 21 Climate Delegation
The COP21 Delegation is a project of the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Climate Change Initiative. The Initiative was founded by Dr. Beverly Wright, Director of the Dillard University Deep South Center for Environmental Justice in New Orleans, LA, and Dr. Robert Bullard, Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston, TX. The Initiative was conceived to help raise awareness about the disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable and marginalized communities and to develop HBCU students as leaders and advocates on issues related to environmental and climate justice policies, community resilience, adaptation and other major climate change topics.