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Through the eyes of a young bipoc* activist

Activist Jada Lau­ren Kennedy talks about how she became first a cli­mate activist and lat­er an activist focus­ing on the inter­sec­tion­al­i­ty of the dif­fer­ent crises we face in our sys­te­my. She tells, what has led her to this pat­hand the iden­ti­ty cri­sis she faces as a young wom­xn of color.

Jada Kennedy (she/they)

’The world might not like you, because of your skin com­plex­ion’ or ‘You are black and it’s beau­ti­ful’ the words of my dad with the fol­low­ing reac­tion of me as a child say­ing that ’I’m not black, I’m brown!’

The past years I’ve seen myself grow by edu­cat­ing myself on cli­mate change,  inter­sec­tion­al­i­ty and many oth­er top­ics this sys­tem has been strug­gling with. For me it all start­ed with the cli­mate march­es in 2019, but along the way I came to the con­clu­sion that it’s all con­nect­ed. I quick­ly stepped off of my not eco friend­ly habits, ready to fight for change. Start­ing with envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice. This also made me want my voice to be heard. The result of that was that I evolved from being the qui­et kid in class to skip­ping school to demand cli­mate and social jus­tice. This also made me stand up for myself in front of my fam­i­ly who con­tin­u­ous­ly said that I was over­re­act­ing in every­thing I do with my activism.

Through these past years I’ve strug­gled with a lot of things. As a 19 year old POC wom­xn2 look­ing back on my child­hood one of the main strug­gles I’ve recent­ly gone through was the con­fronta­tion with myself on my inter­nalised anti-black­ness and accept­ing myself. I’d avoid walk­ing in the sun so I wouldn’t get a dark­er com­plex­ion. I hat­ed my black fea­tures. When some­one said I was black I cor­rect­ed them and said ‘I’m brown!’ And unfor­tu­nate­ly the list went on.

Com­bin­ing the fact that I didn’t know my own his­to­ry and I am strug­gling to find out who I real­ly am, where I belong or where I feel safe, as a wom­xn2 of colour in this soci­ety. It was def­i­nite­ly some­thing else deal­ing with that added on top of my activism. Let me remind you that this soci­ety doesn’t want BIPOC peo­ple to know their history. 

Lit­tle more than a year ago I called myself ‘bleached’ sim­ply because I was. How could you not? I was born in a mixed race fam­i­ly, but lived with my moth­er, who is white. I went to a white school. Adding up to that the fact that soci­ety crim­i­nalis­es BIPOC1 peo­ple is piled on top of this. We are not even speak­ing about this unspo­ken hier­ar­chy that shows up in soci­ety. So I walked and talked white. Every­thing besides my phys­i­cal appear­ance was white. Which caused iden­ti­ty prob­lems. Thoughts of I’m too black to be white and too white to be black or wher­ev­er I go I will be seen and treat­ed as a for­eign­er even in my coun­try of birth, the US. This all because we live in a cis-white male dom­i­nat­ed soci­ety and minor­i­ty groups are still being oppressed and marginalised. 

Lat­er on I dis­cov­ered the term inter­sec­tion­al­i­ty that quick­ly expand­ed my per­spec­tive in life. I have to admit that I didn’t like know­ing all this infor­ma­tion, as if the cli­mate cri­sis wasn’t enough to fight for or to even wrap your head around. The more you read or edu­cate your­self the more ques­tions you will have and the more con­cerned you will get. At least in my expe­ri­ence. At this point I want­ed to fight for every­one and every­thing. What then was affect­ing my men­tal health, but also added to that is that behind every activist is a per­son with respon­si­bil­i­ties in this soci­ety. Since join­ing the cli­mate move­ment I’ve hard­ly had a con­ver­sa­tion with­out bring­ing up top­ics con­nect­ed to ‘men­tal health’. This was before being an activist, def­i­nite­ly not the case. 

The iden­ti­ty strug­gles along­side my activism weight on my men­tal health, hap­pi­ly not on my activism. All these emo­tions made me shout and speech even loud­er. Every life expe­ri­ence I went through or have wit­nessed as a bystander, all of the injus­tices remind­ed me time after time what I was fight­ing for and for what I will be fight­ing for the upcom­ing years. I know that as long as there is any oppressed per­son on this plan­et my fight will nev­er end. Even though I have bad social anx­i­ety I will con­tin­u­ous­ly throw myself out there to fight against injus­tice. Believe me, I hate myself for it too, but i’m also proud of myself. I know that every lit­tle stut­ter in my future speech­es that I will make will be point­ed at my skin com­plex­ion, my eth­nic­i­ty, my appear­ance and all what this soci­ety calls ‘imper­fec­tions’ like it hap­pened in the past.

I def­i­nite­ly went from a cli­mate activists to using just the word activist as an umbrel­la term for fem­i­nist, human rights, cli­mate activist, …

At the end of the day, I sim­ply could not look myself in the eye know­ing that I could have done some­thing even though I did noth­ing. So one mes­sage for you: Lis­ten, Unlearn, Learn, Sup­port, ACT! Be selec­tive of the infor­ma­tion that is pro­vid­ed. Dare to crit­i­cise our government, 

our soci­ety and its ways. 

That’s at least what I will con­tin­u­ous­ly try to do.

I am Jada Lau­ren Kennedy, I don’t need to be tol­er­at­ed and I don’t need your allowance. I want to be val­ued, recog­nised and appre­ci­at­ed. That’s how it will be. 


*BIPoC is the acronym for Black, Indige­nous, Peo­ple of Color.

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