Girl in climate change protest

We’re in a time where many are fighting to improve the current state of our society for a better future. Political affiliations, racial divides, virus health hazards--these are issues at the forefront of many minds. Youth leaders like Diana Fernandez are working to ensure we can continue to address these and other issues, housed on Earth.

“[Climate justice] is often a white-led movement—even though it should be the minorities and BIPOC folks on the frontline,” youth activist Diana Fernandez said. “They’re the ones impacted by the environment the most.”

Climate activism is growing as sustainability awareness spreads. Fracking is now a widely recognized issue, beyond first being brought to light by indigenous people. Green consumerism is on the rise and has an expensive price tag.

Greta Thunberg is a household name as a sustainability leader--but why not Mari Copeny, a youth activist who began raising awareness of the water issue in Flint, Michigan at eight-years-old? Or Autumn Peltier, a Canadian Indigenous youth named Chief Water Commissioner for the Anishinabek Nations in Ontario, Canada. Or, what about Xiye Bastida, a Mexican-Chilean climate activist who received the 2018 “Spirit of the UN” award. Environmental racism runs deep and Generation Z is working to bring BIPOC representation to the sustainability movement.

Environmental justice is a reaction to environmental racism. Zero Hour, is a youth-led climate justice organization where Fernandez works. The organization fights this form of racism through the People’s Platform, that calls for all to work together in retrofitting housing for sustainability needs to creating affordable mass transit systems to restorative work like trees on Indigenous land. Zero Hour works to diversify the voices in climate and environmental justice conversations to preserve a livable future.

Sustainability is about maintaining a balance between the economy, society, and the environment. However, it’s marketed exclusively to groups that can afford newly fabricated and/or up-cycled, environmentally-friendly products like organic foods and natural supplements.

“What can help make a difference is the inclusion of minorities and low-income communities that can’t afford those items, Fernandez said. “It’s about making a sustainable living available to the majority, not just the one percent.”

Fernandez feels sustainability is about taking action, not solely about consuming new sustainable items. She believes sustainability products shouldn’t come with a high price tag as these brands aren’t playing an appropriate role in the environmental movement.

“I can’t afford an electric car or these cute zero waste things that you have in your house,” vegan educator Destiny DeJesus said. “But [how BIPOC contribute to sustainability], is we turn lights off when we leave the house. We’re the ones taking public transportation. We’re saving plastic bags and reusing them.”

DeJesus is a coordinator with Veggie Mijas, a collective where the BIPOC community can gather, discuss, and learn about a plant-based lifestyle. It’s common for many to choose a plant-based diet due to the environmental impact of the meat industry. But DeJesus made this adjustment to live a healthier life. Growing up in a Puerto Rican household in New York, eating empanadas and pasteles she learned how to alter these meat-based dishes for her vegan diet. Replacing beef with mushrooms in her empanadas has been difficult for her elder relatives to understand.

“It’s hard to tell someone who has lived 60 or 70 years, ‘now we’re eating plants,’” DeJesus said. “They’re not very receptive to that because they think, ‘oh you need the Puerto Rican chicken soup.’”

DeJesus claims she can “veganize anything.” She’s been able to convince her Nana to eat vegan staples like quinoa, but veganism doesn’t interest half her family. Her vegan journey started after moving to Texas. Attending vegan events, she realized she was one of a few persons of color in attendance. So, she started the Veggie Mijas Dallas Chapter.

“Veganism, in general, is very white-washed,” says DeJesus. “When you [search online] ‘vegan,’ you’re going to see a bunch of pictures of white athletes and yoga people. Because the face of veganism is so white, I was like ‘we need to create our own space for vegans of color because we experience different things.’”

Fernandez’s family understands her climate activism as wanting to preserve their home. Through her work of fighting climate injustice, specifically in their community, her parents view this as a way of protecting the Latinx community. Fernandez’s parents grew up in Cuba in the ’90s, where she said the impacts of climate change weren’t the first things on their minds.

“There’s much more of a conversation about climate [in the United States],” Fernandez said. “But, there is a lack of understanding about sustainability and the climate movement because of language barriers.”

Many minority and low-income communities aren’t involved in the climate movement. Limited income makes it difficult to afford pricier green products like organic food. Minority communities often face a language barrier to receiving information and resources. Many climate organizations are failing to provide resources in Spanish or to outreach in Latinx communities.

Although these spaces are primarily occupied by white people, it doesn’t mean sustainable BIPOC leaders or businesses don’t exist. Fernandez mentions she was attracted to This is Zero Hour because their diverse representation includes Latinas.

DeJesus says there are a handful of Latina eco-businesses in the Dallas area, while her social media feed is full of young Latina climate activists.

“We’re doing the work, we're just not getting any credit for it,” says DeJesus. “We’re not the ones driving electric cars and living in fancy Pinterest looking eco-friendly houses that we can post on social media. We’re doing the hard, dirty work in our communities, but no one is seeing it.”

The “work” is by already living a sustainable lifestyle to save money. DeJesus mentions BIPOC communities perform daily acts of sustainability like not running the A/C when out or running the water for too long. She acknowledges that it’s a privilege to not be sustainable.

“Those little things are super important,” DeJesus said. “We don’t have the agenda of saving the environment because we’re just trying to survive…we’re doing it for economical reasons as opposed to environmental reasons and because of that we’re not being highlighted.”

In The Community


Conservative Wing of Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade

Safe + Legal Abortion = Pro-Life

After 50 years of precedent protecting the constitutional right to abortion, Roe v. Wade has now been overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States. This news comes after a leaked document made its way through the news cycle just this past May which showcased the SCOTUS’ potential to overturn the case, spurring the fear of abortion rights being lost entirely or heavily restricted in many states across the country.

Roe v. Wade was passed on January 22nd, 1973, in a 7-2 decision by the Court. The ruling upheld the right to abortion within the first two trimesters of pregnancy. The case took place after “Jane Roe” (later identified as Norma McCorvey) didn’t have the means to travel outside of her native Texas to get an abortion. This led to her suing the state for the right to have access to safe, legal abortion.

Roe v. Wade has been challenged a number of times throughout the years, primarily by “pro-life” activist groups that maintain the narrative that abortion is neither healthcare nor a right. This ruling has already enabled “triggered laws” heavily restricting or banning abortion that have already passed in 13 states, with other states preparing for similar rulings to take place.

Conservative Republicans celebrated the reversal of the ruling via social media:

While prominent Democrats shared their opinions:

And the internet as a whole reacted:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi previously promised to pass legislation codifying Roe, making it protected under law.

The general consensus seems to indicate that there may be higher stakes at risk with the reversal of Roe, including additional concerns for other rulings to be overturned by the conservative-majority court are also being present:

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was previously cited as the main reason Roe v. Wade protected abortion rights, and, as evidenced by Justice Clarence Thomas’ comments where he opined “any substantive due process decision is 'demonstrably erroneous,” it doesn’t seem that due process will work anymore to protect these rights as well. Thomas has also gone on record after the ruling to state that previous due process precedents such as Obergefell (gay marriage), Lawrence (access to contraceptives), and Griswold (marital privacy) should all be reconsidered.

President Biden delivered his remarks on the ruling at 12:30pm EST today.

This story is evolving and the impact isn't fully known. Check back for more.

Woman writing sentences in Spanish on an ipad

If you’re anything like me, you consider yourself “byelingual” you speak English, you speak Spanish, but you occasionally fumble through anything from words and phrases to feminine/masculine terms in both languages. Normally this occurs simply because I’m constantly changing the language I speak on a daily basis. As someone born in Puerto Rico but raised primarily in the U.S., I was fortunate enough to have parents who steadily enforced the rule of speaking strictly Spanish at home since my mom reasoned that schools would teach me English anyways. Because of this, I was spared from being put in the “no sabo” camp. Fast forward to life now, I’m grateful mami always took the initiative to enable me to be bilingual, since having the ability to speak Spanish has made all the difference in my life.

This, however, isn’t true for many Latinos living in the United States. The number of children that speak another language at home has risen since the ‘90s and though that number was much lower than it is today, during the time that many families immigrated to the U.S. (the ‘80s to the late ‘90s), it wasn’t common to maintain your native language. In fact, bilingual numbers saw a drastic jump between 1995 and 2000, then we saw a steady increase that continues through today.

This period of migration that took place during the ‘80s and late ‘90s also normalized the pressure to assimilate into American culture at the time. With a conservative Republican president at the helm of immigration reform that resulted in the legalization of an estimated 3 million undocumented immigrants, the push to learn English and learn it well was alive and true.

The country was also just coming out of highly charged and overtly racist times having just gone through the Civil Rights era of the 60’s and 70’s.

Thus, the natural byproduct of these turbulent times was to not pass down Spanish language skills to your children. Some parents did this in order to spare their children from racism while also working to give them a leg up with improved English skills. First-generation immigrants at this time also justified the decision to not teach their kids Spanish-language skills based on their own lived experiences due to being judged for their accents and ridiculed for struggling academically, a direct result of dual language learning not yet being implemented into the education system.

Years later, we’re seeing the effects of this choice.

Though a selfless act from our parents in theory, many first and second-generation kids raised without learning Spanish are constantly mocked for not knowing the language. This is especially cruel knowing that most times it wasn’t their fault, yet they are looked down upon for a choice their parents made - a choice that was made with the best of intentions. It’s common to see these adult children trying to learn Spanish and often feeling rejected by their community for not speaking Spanish, leaving them alienated from their Latinx heritage.

In part, Urban Dictionary defines “no sabo,” as a term “used for people of Hispanic/Latino descent that don’t know, or barely speak Spanish.” From the way the term is used in social media, it’s clear that the label is meant to be derogatory. This begs the very simple question: why would any fellow Latino slam the door shut in spaces that we could instead be using to welcome and educate people who were ostracized from their heritage and culture?

The Latinx community requires a massive reckoning with the diversity that exists across U.S.-based Latinos who share many cultural practices but don’t have a unifying identity. As we grapple with the broad spectrum of “Latinidad,” just as white and white-presenting Latinos don’t appreciate being called “gringa,” or any Latino regardless of skin color appreciates being accused of “talking white,” we can’t declare non-Spanish or poorly-speaking Spanish-speakers as less than simply because they lack or haven’t mastered the Spanish language.

Given that many Latinx icons didn’t speak Spanish or barely spoke Spanish (Selena Quintanilla is just one example), this is a testament to how bilingual skills shouldn’t act as the sole unifying factor that many in the Latinx community use to define themselves. In fact, it’s refreshing to see how many in the Latinx community are leaning into their non-bilingual status while also confidently living in their Latinx identity.

Latino and Latinx identity is complicated, but instead of making it a point to exclude or criticize those who struggle with Spanish, we need to continue to reevaluate what we believe makes us Latinx. There are many other factors to consider including things like culture, lifestyle, traditions, race, and various languages (contrary to popular belief, many other languages are spoken in Latin America including Mayan, Portuguese, and Quechua), and all of these things will overlap to various degrees.

While we may still have plenty of work ahead to further define and understand what it means to be Latinx, what’s abundantly clear is that “no sabo” needs to be promptly retired from casual conversations and recategorized as the slur that it is.

two women posing

I grew up being told, “you can’t do that because you’re a girl” or “your brother can because he’s a boy” and I hated hearing that. It’s been something that has tormented me my entire life.

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