An Activist for Social, Criminal, & Ecological Justice
by Chelsea Blackmon ([email protected])
Reverend Mariama White-Hammond has been an activist for social, criminal, and ecological justice since high school. As a founder of New Roots AME Church in Dorchester, MA, she has incorporated her experience as an advocate into the faith community. She believes that the church has to have a response to the impending planetary crisis.
The community in which Rev. White-Hammond grew up was environmentally conscious. When she was in high school, she joined an organization concerned with climate change after learning about the hole in the ozone layer over the South Pole. She began to get more involved in the group; realizing that she was the only African American student in the club made her feel slightly uncomfortable. She shifted her focus to criminal justice education, the lack of a direct impact on her family and her community, and attended Stanford University, where she majored in international relations and was involved in campus politics and the arts.
Climate change regained its place at the forefront of her passions when she learned about Hurricane Katrina's impact on the gulf. After attending seminary at the Boston University School of Theology, she realized that there was a space for her to carry out her passions for justice in the faith community.
Rev. Mariama is active in secular and interfaith justice efforts. She uses an intersectional lens in her ecological work, challenging people to see the connections between immigration and climate change or the relationship between energy policy and economic justice. She is a fellow with the Green Justice Coalition, which brings together 8 social/environmental justice groups from around Massachusetts. She speaks throughout the country and was the MC for both the 2017 Boston Women’s March and Boston People’s Climate Mobilization.
Rev. White-Hammond’s dedication to her passion for justice has taken her all over the country. She particularly appreciates the work that farmers of color in the Minneapolis area do to alleviate food deserts and get organic produce to low-income communities. She was just recently named the Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space for the City of Boston. In this role, Rev. White-Hammond will be responsible for leading the Cabinet in achieving its mission of enhancing environmental justice and quality of life in Boston by protecting air, water, climate, and land resources, as well as preserving and improving the integrity of Boston's architectural and historic resources.
Rev. White-Hammond has been leaning more into food justice work to bring people back into relationship with the land. Currently, she is working on legislation that would support 50 people on urban and rural farms across the state of Massachusetts. She is also involved with a program that would allow people to use food stamps at farmer’s markets. Soon she will be hiring young people from urban and rural communities to work on social media campaigns to spread the word.
The justice advocate splits her time between her church and her community, sometimes combining both to get work done. She works to find solutions for food, energy, housing, transportation, and clean air and water for those that need it across all six states.
She is currently working on a bill that would put forward food justice legislation. She is also helping to coordinate the Green New Deal for her state. Also, she is working with a neighborhood in Boston to move the community’s choice of energy. That means that unless the Boston residents were to opt-out, a higher percentage of their electricity would be coming from renewable resources without seeing much of a change in their bill. The residents will also have the opportunity to opt for 100% renewable resources.
COVID-19 has impacted some of the projects that her church, New Roots AME, planned over the last year, but it has not ended the passion in the surrounding community. Though the church cannot meet in large crowds, they can still work in different groupings of four to six people, which gives members of the congregation a chance to get to know each other. The church also seeks to help with the pressure of the pandemic by offering meditation.
Rev. White-Hammond is devoted to seeking out every form of justice. She uses her education and experience to help wherever she is. It is clear that she is a jewel in her community.