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.
’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.